It’s a crisp yet sunny day in late September, but really it could be any day this summer. I’ve just found a prime place on lower campus field to enjoy my Super Sandwich and maybe pretend to read while catching up with friends passing by, when my eye is drawn to an intriguing display on the field. Right below me, a group of three or four shirtless guys have begun boisterously embracing each other, pounding each other on the back, and generally whooping with carefree abandon. Has a game been won? I see a Frisbee lying carelessly to the side, but there has been no ultimate battle that I can see. No hacky sacks in sight, either. And then it dawns on me: these distractingly bare-chested dudes just really love each other. I have witnessed the not-so-rare ritual exchange of Homo Sapiens Bromanticus – the Bromance – in its natural habitat: anywhere on campus. I want to know more.
I have always had a comfortable relationship with my girlfriends and have been well conditioned to share tears, hugs, and back rub chains with my gal pals ever since my first slumber party. Having affectionate Best Female Friends – BFFs – has been a matter of course in most young girls’ lives since before we could pick up a copy of the Babysitter’s Club.
Yet this trend of open man-love is something new. And after seeing bromance actively displayed in movies, on television, and in front of my eyes every day this year, I wanted to see if I could get the bros’ perspective on this newly-labeled cultural phenomenon that has been percolating since the days of Wayne’s World, A Night at the Roxbury, Dumb and Dumber – and perhaps even earlier.
So I sat down to chat with some bros. (Names have not been changed, as there is definitely nothing to hide and everything to declare, loudly.)
Much like the heart-warming sleepover scene in Superbad – where Jonah Hill’s character Seth proclaims to Evan (Michael Cera), “I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream, ‘I love my best friend!’” – expressing bromantic love for your best dude comes naturally to guys these days.
U3 Arts Student John Mitchell explains, “For many eons, bromance was like Carrot Top: we all knew he was around, but we made sure to never, ever discuss it. But over time the concept of bromance has started to appear in popular culture, allowing men to come out of the woodwork and proudly proclaim, ‘I LOVE this dude, but not like that.’” “Hugging it out” in the barroom and in broad day light, guys now feel like it’s time to show the world that they have strong platonic feelings for their best buddies. In terms of pop culture, the precedent has been set not just by fictional characters, but by a whole lot of bromantic famous men, as well.
“When we witness our favourite celebrities proudly telling each other just how rad they are,” Mitchell continues, “we realize that bromance is a beautiful and delicate thing that should be shared like a delicious Twix bar.” Matthew McConaughey and Lance Armstrong, Brad Pitt and George Clooney, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (and Jimmy Kimmel) have all shown the world their mutual man crushes. But these men are not just leaders – they are part of something changing in how men view their own masculinity.
Sociologists have noted increasing public displays of manly affection, and explain that this trend is due to men becoming less afraid of being perceived as gay. This isn’t hard to figure out: men have been enjoying metrosexual perks for a long time now. The fact that bromance tends to come with manly pursuits like beer drinking and Fantasy sports drafts, however, keeps it even more comfortably within heterosexual norms than man-icures and man-purses.
But for the fellows I talked to, bromance is based in something less easy to express, tied to loyalty and mutual support in tough situations. Mitchell explains that the passion of true bromance stems from not only enjoying your best friend’s camaraderie, but also from “a willingness to jump into a bout of fisticuffs if your pal gets involved in a scrap with some bad seeds.” And they are willing to stand by their man in a bout between bromance versus romance.
When asked what was most important to him right now, U3 Management student Jameel Keshavjee was quick to answer. “Bromance for sure. Unless your girlfriend plays video games and can spot you when you’re bench-pressing.” Mitchell agrees. “The bromantic bond is a powerful magic, and it provides an amount of support that no traditional romance can. Furthermore, bromance can – and should – exist between yourself and multiple friends.” That’s cool, as long as us females don’t get completely cut.
But what if the bromance runs sour? We’ve seen the ups and downs of establishing a trusting bromance in recent films like Pineapple Express and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Just as romantic relationships run their course, strains on the bromantic relationship can be just as painful.
“A relationship with a girl can strain a bromantic attachment, often resulting in the dreaded ‘unrequited bromance’ (or Man Crush),” Mitchell explains. This usually leads to sentences like “Ah man, Reggie [was] the coolest dude ever…before he got tied down.” Yet, Mitchell attests, the bond of a bromance is strong enough to lay dormant and reappear.
The general prevalence of the bromance does not look like something that will fade, either. Realizing that romantic comedies like Knocked Up were more about the bond between dudes than between romantic partners, Hollywood is skipping the middle woman and coming out with films like the soon to be released I Love You, Man, and the Brody Jenner reality series aptly named Bromance.
It may be getting a lot of hype right now, but the manifestation of man-affection has its heart in the right place. As those original bromancers, the Beatles, put it, all you need is love – and when it comes to bro love, it seems that everything else, including a shirt, is optional.