A Certain Bromance

Curator's Note

What is the key to a perfect bromance? And what, exactly, is a bromance?
Buddy comedies have been around for a long time, but it hasn’t been until recently that “bromance” has come into our vocabulary and movie theaters. A Google trends search of “bromance” shows the term peaked in the United States January 2009, coinciding with a reality show of the same name running in 2008-2009. It was announced that “bromance” was added to the Merriam Webster dictionary in August 2011; however, the term was coined in the 1990s by the editor of the skateboard magazine Big Brother to describe the relationship between two men who spend a lot of time together skating.
While buddy comedies might have focused on more action and manly tendencies, the term “bromance” seems to allow more intimate relationships to form between characters, sometimes even incorporating aspects of a romantic comedy.
Bromances seem to be rising in popularity and there are some famous bromance couples that tend to revisit their relationships in multiple films due to their strong chemistry. Take, for example, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. The two have paired up in a television series, a movie trilogy, and have acted as friends in other movies not directed by their longtime friend, Edgar Wright. In many of their movies, characters poke fun at how close they are, even asking if they are a couple, which usually results in them laughing it off and then doing something that a couple in a romantic relationship would do. Their physical and emotional closeness in their movies pushes the boundaries of what was once acceptable masculine behavior, and seems to be creating a new norm – it’s acceptable for men to act in this way, and it has nothing to do with sexuality.

Slightly more mainstream, a recent popular bromance has formed between Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. The two have starred in two 21 Jump Street movies together, and also had a cameo role as bromance characters in The Lego Movie. They even played “The Bromance Game” on a YouTube interview, similar to “The Newlywed Game,” further establishing the intimate relationship that should be present in a bromance.
So, will these bromances make intimate, platonic relationships between men more acceptable off-screen? It seems that society is going this way, but only time will tell if this creates long-term change.


Sammi, thanks for this post. Bromances are central to my dissertation on male friendship in American narrative culture, and the basic position I take therein is that, yes, the bromance as a genre is part of an evolving discourse and performance of homosociality in a "post-closet" culture. As I argue in my dissertation, ‘bromance’ (along with other recently coined terms, such as 'the man date') suggest that male friendship is borrowing from romantic heterosexual discourse as a way to rearticulate male friendship. Likewise, Ron Becker, in his article “Becoming Bromosexual: Straight Men, Gay Men, and Male Bonding on US TV,” writes that "bromance discourse appropriates cultural codes connected to homosexual bonding as a means of acknowledging the possibilities of homosocial bonding." A notable early use of 'bromance' was the 2005 article in The Guardian by Nirpal Dhaliwal entitled “A Fine Bromance.” Dhaliwal writes that bromance refers to “gay-straight friendship,” friendships between gay men and straight men. However you look at it, the genre and the discourse of bromance provides a queered framework for understanding male friendship, which in the twentieth century were closely policed against any signification of queerness. Pegg & Forst are a great example for this topic. I'm particularly fond of this clip from Hot Fuzz, which demonstrates how Edgar Wright quotes from romantic comedies in developing the bromance between Pegg and Forst's characters. Sammi, I wonder, however, what you make of the explicit disavowal of queerness in the clip you chose? I tend to think the bromance might demonstrate how contemporary culture is evolving past Michael Kimmel’s “masculinity as homophobia” thesis; but the clip demonstrates how straight male homosociality still depends, to a certain extent, on the repeated disavowal of queer desire and the reaffirmation of heterosexuality through sexual conquest. Do you have any thoughts on this?

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