Column: Bromance

(Photo by theogeo/Flickr)

Bromance is in the air. You can smell the “Dude!” on the petunias. You can feel the “Bro!” whip through your hair. On calm spring nights the “What up?!?” winks at passersby like fireflies. In the streets, in the city, breaking through the cacophony, the echo of “Nice!” lilts in your ears. If you stand long enough in the right place, at the right time, (usually outside a bar at night), you can actually hear the love that dare not speak its name speak its name.

“I love you, man.”

Men love other men, and we love the men who love their men. We love Butch and Sundance. Piccolo and Sayers. Red and Andy. McNulty and Bunk. Stan and Kyle. Rocky and Apollo. Luke and Han. Simon and Garfunkel. We love, er, we looked the other way with Lincoln and Speed. We called it friendship. We want bromance in our lives. We want men to love other men and never more so than right now.

I Love You, Man has grossed more than $49.3 million at the box office. Brody chose Luke over Femi (yes, Femi) on the MTV reality show Bromance. Kobe and Shaq made us believe again when they shared MVP at the All-Star game. The Pickup Artist’s Matt and Simeon came THIS close to picking each other up. Metallica’s Lars Ulrich and Jason Newsted did the unthinkable and got the band back together. Jimmy Kimmel was nobody until his girlfriend fucked Matt Damon and Kimmel retaliated by fucking Ben Affleck.

A friend recently asked me, “What is bromance?” I told him, “Bromance is when a man treats his friendship with another man like a relationship with a woman.” Later I thought of a better answer. There is a quote that goes, “Friendship isn’t a big thing. It’s a million little things.” That’s bromance. When men are friends, they get one thing right. They like each other. Bromance is about the million little things – the daily phone calls, the inside jokes and the shirt-optional McConaughey-Armstrong Saturdays.

(Above: There is no better source than Neil Patrick Harris when it comes to bro-ing out with another guy. Photo by adam.laiacano/Flickr.)
When historians trace the arc of bromantic love 100 years from now, they will find its apex in the movie I Love You, Man, which I have seen twice. The movie, which is hilarious, is completely unrealistic. No modern man arrives at his wedding day without a best friend. Any woman as together as Rashida Jones’s Zooey character would have noticed that her boyfriend was friendless. It would have set off red flags. Is he incapable of friendship? Did he sleep with all of his friends’ women? What gives?

(I’m glad I saw the movie twice. It helped me figure it out. I Love You, Man completely satirizes the ridiculousness of modern relationships. It dawned on me the second time I watched the Peter-Sydney “breakup” scene. This is the reason the film works. Also, the dialogue is spectacular.)

In pre-Butch and Sundance America, a man stood alone. The archetype was Rick from Casablanca. He didn’t need another man. He would never “slap da bass” all day with a friend. He flew solo. The only company he wanted was that of a good woman (Ilsa) and competent men (Sam and Carl). It was demeaning to rely on a dude for comfort and friendship. It wasn’t manly. A BFF relationship with another guy was a waste of time. Why? Because the Ricks of the world considered bromance a waste of intimacy.

When you bare your soul to your best friend, what is left for your woman? What does she get? Where’s the special sauce on your burger of love? (Forgive me. I have been reading a lot of Diablo Cody in Entertainment Weekly lately.) Love is a currency. When you print love out of thin air and give it away to anyone, like some governments that shall remain nameless, doesn’t love lose its value? This is what the Ricks knew. Save something special for someone special. That something is intimacy. That’s why you never saw Rick turn to Carl and say, “Here’s looking at you, dude.”

When men are friends they share their time. When men are bromantic they share their feelings. Male friends tell war stories. Bromantics tell inside jokes. Friends drink beer and hit on women. Bromantic types taste wine and talk about their sex lives. A friend does not care when you don’t call for three weeks. A bro feels hurt when he hasn’t heard from you in two days. A friend stands up at your wedding no questions asked. A bro always wonders, “Is she good enough?”

He wonders because he is eyeing his replacement.

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles
  • Heather McGahee

    This was SOOOO funny, thank you! I didn’t get all the tv jokes because I don’t have tv. The whole “Rick” thing had my stomach aching, in a good way. Sorry you’re way out there, otherwise I would come see you at one of your gigs. Bromance – awesome!

  • Joe Donatelli

    Thanks, Heather. If we ever come to Cleveland, you are getting an invite.


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