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"Gender: To Be Determined" is collaborative, interactive blog brought to you by University of Denver students in Lindsey Feitz's "Introduction to Gender and Women's Studies" class.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Beauty of Bromance



Bromance. I’m sure many of you have heard of it, hell I’m sure many of you have it. Bromance is the concept that has to do with homosocial behavior. Don Romesburg defines homosociality as “a window opened within mainstream popular culture that shines light on male emotional relationships that place neither sexuality nor-more crucially-its disapproval at their center.” In other words, men can “act” homosexual or girly but not be perceived as gay, or looked down upon. As long as the guy has a girl to go home to at the end of the day, they can act as gay as they want.

There are many examples of bromance in the media. For instance, in the film Superbad, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera play two best friends who have absolutely no boundaries, and they aren’t afraid to show it. They have sleepovers together, go shopping together, and even hold hands when they’re scared:




But as all bromances are, they both have girls at the end of the movie. Seth, played by Jonah Hill, has sexy Jules to go shopping with, and Evan, played by Michael Cera, gets to be with the cutie Becca.

As another example, reality star Brody Jenner started a reality show called Bromance where he is in search of a new best friend to roll with his crew. Nine men compete to become Jenner’s ultimate bro. In episode 4, ‘Bros in the Wild’, Jenner takes the remaining five guys out camping.The first hint of bromance seen is when Jenner tells his two best friends, who he has been friends with for years, that they won’t be allowed to come on the trip. Instead of “being a dude”, and shrugging it off, they get incredibly upset. They complain about him missing their “Tuesday night shows” and how he doesn’t spend enough time with them. This is a classic stereotypical woman thing to do, and is definitely not considered masculine.

The second hint of bromance comes into play when Jenner gets a life coach to talk to all the contestants while they are camping. Every one of them needed to share with the group the thing they are most scared of in life. They really open up, and almost every one of the contestants ends up crying and really revealing their emotions. And at the end of the talk, they all hug it out. This whole situation is once again the opposite of what masculinity is considered.

But of course, you can’t have too many bromantic moments without women, or else that would be gay, right? So when it’s time to give one of the contestants the boot, there are five women in bathing suits, waiting to hop into a bubble bath, each waiting for one of the bros (including Jenner) to join them:




As explained in “Holy Fratrimony” Romesburg talks about how women are pushed to the side: “An effect to this New Homosociality seems to be that women, pushed to the margins of these apparently progressive male relationships, find themselves represented in predictably boring ways-nag, supporter, sexy sidekick, mother, wife.” Jenner’s Bromance solidifies this notion.

If you want to see this episode, click here:http://www.mtv.com/shows/bromance/episode.jhtml?episodeID=148316

In Sex, Power, and Intimacy Dr. Shaw and Dr. Lee say social scripts “reflect social norms, practices, and workings of power, and they provide frameworks and guidelines for sexual feelings and behaviors.” I would say that bromances defy these guidelines because they are acting the opposite of the generalization of masculinity. Despite growing up in a heteronormative society, these men seem to not be afraid of acting slightly on the gay or girly side, and for that I commend them. However I do have a question: If one of the contestants on the Bromance show were gay, would he be accepted? Or would he automatically be sent home because he can’t share the same experiences as the other men in the show? If a bro were gay, would Jenner assign a sexy man to be standing in a speedo, waiting to jump in a bubble bath with a successful contestant? I would lean toward no.



Sources:

1) Sex, Power, and Intimacy by Susan M. Shaw and Janet Lee

2)Holy Fratrimony by Don Romesburg

3)mTV's Bromance episode 4: http://www.mtv.com/shows/bromance/episode.jhtml?episodeID=148316

4)Time Entertainment: Superbad: A Fine Bromance http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1653918,00.html


12 comments:

  1. Very well-written and articulated! While I agree with many of your points, I would contend that the bromance serves as an even stronger reinforcement of heteronormative ideals because despite the obvious "gay" or "girly" behaviors, it is just as you said: at the end of the day, these men have their women to go home to. Basically, they're saying "oh, we're basically having an intimate relationship but here's my girlfriend/wife! Look; I'm straight as an arrow!" I would argue that many men would quickly deny the fact that a bromance is an intimate relationship because of the deep-seated connection between relationships and sex and the idea that intimacy always equals sex. Also, the fact that you addressed the idea of a gay Bromance contestant and notion that he probably would not be accepted is spot-on: our heteronormative society is simply not ready for this level of inclusion, nor is it ready for the acknowledgment of the fact that many, many men have homosocial relationships.

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  2. The point you made about reinforcing heteronormative ideals is a really good point, I never thought about that! The reason, I think at least, I thought they wouldn't deny admitting it was an intimate relationship is because of my experiences with bromance. I have a lot of friends who have the typical bromance relationship, and they are always talking about how close and connected they are. Some have even used the word intimate. However I guess I just assumed all bromances were the same even though they definitely are. From an outside perspective, I wonder how men who don't have bromances perceive such relationships. Would they call them gay, or do they have a common understanding?

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  3. I've wondered this myself! It's interesting to think if men in bromances are the only ones open enough to admit that they're close, connected, and intimate. I'm leaning toward the idea that some men would refer to them as "gay" simply because of a lack of understanding. After all, that's what stereotypes are often borne out of.

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  4. I assumed the same reaction for the same reasons. But who knows, maybe we should ask around! I also think it definitely depends on location, because maybe where I'm from (Seattle) guys are more accepting of bromances and homosexuality in general than other places around the US, like Denver.

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  5. I agree very much with your blog and your comment about the acceptance of bromances in different regions. I would definitely say that the more intimate form of bromance is more accepted in areas like seattle, denver, or other progressive places. I can't imagine that bromances in the deep south would be labeled as "intimate" by the guys in the bromances, though they are probably very similar in closeness and level of intimacy.

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  6. I agree with you Connor, I doubt they would admit their intimacies even though they are probably just as intimate as any other bromance from somewhere else. Although now that I think about it, do you think bromances could actually be different in different locations? I know they could vary anywhere, but do you think there is a "standard" of bromance from location to location?

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  7. The concept seems to be focused on the media. The so-called "bromances", in my opinion, are more about how acting gaily is usually perceived as humorous, like when two guys in a show accidentally kiss each other because of outside forces beyond their control. Although the idea of bromance appears on the idiot box rather frequently, it is best to think about that concept rationally and consider that most, if not all, reality TV shows are actually staged. From the episode that you linked, that is exactly what it looks like: it's faked, and the only reason the people are there is because of the money involved from being on TV. The activities they engage in during the show seem more like stuff you do at a summer camp. All in all, I am not seeing the point you are trying to make here. The bromance on TV being accompanied by stereotypical "human sex toys" is just for extra ratings. As far as I am concerned, bromance does not exist. Guys hang out with whoever they choose, and if they decide to give a hug rather than a handshake when they say their goodbyes, then that shouldn't be considered a gay act. And if it IS a gay act, then nobody should be on their case about it. There are people out there who think being homosexual is a terrible crime, but gay people are not inhibited by some ludicrous law that does not allow them to be gay. We have to keep in mind that those who discriminate against these people were either living during the time that gays and women and colored people were still discriminated against heavily, or the people who WERE alive during that time taught their children who are alive NOW and using (perhaps even abusing) that "knowledge" they gained. If you ask me, it is way too soon to expect discrimination to pop out of existence, but if we keep moving towards equality by exposing children to different kinds of people and teaching them about acceptance, then over time the discriminatory populace will slowly lessen in both strength and numbers to the point where it can be handled easily rather than feared.

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  8. I liked this blog because it brought it light bromance, which is great thing because it gets our society out of our mindset that only a man and woman can achieve this close connection of a love for each other. Yet, what I wish you had spent more time on is your claim in the last few sentences of your blog. I think you statement on how bromance is not socially acceptable among homosexuals is a very important factor within this idea of “bromance.” I think bromance is actually making our society more close-minded because it reinforces a hetero-normative society where it is only acceptable for two straight men to have this bromance, and if two gay men have a bromance it is immediately viewed as sexual or erotic. So, thank you for bringing up that last point, because I think that the definition of bromance should be altered so that it does not necessarily have to entail “coming home to a women.” It should be socially acceptable for homosexuals to have a “bromance” with another man in a completely non-sexual and friendly manner, and then still come home to a man.

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  9. LittleGreen, I get what you're saying, however I still feel like bromances themselves exist. It's just a term for a certain form of male-to-male friendship. And though you may be right about these people trying to get publicity and money by participating in a reality tv show, and the show itself is dramatized a bit, I wouldn't say it's completely fake. These shows do represent some real lives in the real world. Camping and eating and hanging out together are ways of forming relationships, even if they do seem like a summer camp.

    Natalie, you make a good point, and I think you may be right about how bromances might reinforce a hetero-normative society. It could go both ways, I guess, depending how you look at it.

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  10. @Madeline Wogstad: If the "bromance" scenarios are the same as regular relationships, couldn't that just be simplified down to a high level of "friendship" and not even include the romance pun?

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  11. @LittleGreen: You're right, it could be changed, however what's wrong with a little pun? The title exists because people say it all the time. If people have a problem with it, then eventually the term "bromance" will start turning into a derogatory word. However, right now it doesn't seem to be a problem with mainstream society.

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  12. I never thought of how a group of guys such as the ones on Bromance would react to a gay man competing. That is a really good point. Bromances seem to be popping up everywhere and especially in movies but they are still a somewhat touchy subject amongst straight men. They are willing to have close friendships but they always have to have to women to go home to or have the woman be the ultimate goal. I really liked your blog!

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