On bromantic cinema
Every generation has to itself a pantheon of movies that define it—that speak directly to that generation in a language only it can understand. No matter how bad it may be, a generational movie transcends its own quality to grab awkward, acne-covered teenagers by the collar, shake them vigorously, and yell “I SPEAK FOR YOU!”
Take the ’80s: the generation where most of our cool uncles came of age, did lots of drugs and sat around in basements. Everybody who grew up in this decade remembers “The Breakfast Club.” Why? Because it represents the angst Generation X felt at the time. As the cultural revolution of the ’60s was long gone and replaced by the stuffy conservatism of Ronald Reagan and the Moral Majority, kids had nothing to fight for anymore. I mean, they wore jean jackets. Dude.
Here is the plot, for those who grew up under a rock: Five kids—representing five high school stereotypes—come to detention on a Saturday morning and forge unexpected friendships. But the part that the youth of America held up and revered came when Badass (Judd Nelson) tells his principal to “Eat. My. Shorts,” to which Principal Vernon replied “You just bought yourself another Saturday.” Finally! Something for the disaffected youth of the ’80s to fight against, even if it was just the principal. Yet times and tastes change, and while today’s viewers can enjoy “The Breakfast Club,” they must see it as totally dated. Such is the cycle of generational movies—from relevant to relic.
In our time, a new type of movie has emerged, widely referred to as the Bromance. I know the word is a worn-out cliché in our social lexicon, but it perfectly describes these films in best friend-love often overshadows man-woman love. I know, your mind just took you the scene in “Superbad” when Jonah Hill proclaims to his best friend “I just love you. I just wanna go to the rooftops and scream: ‘I love my best friend, Evan.” He then proceeds to lovingly poke him on the nose and famously coo “boop!”
This is the essence of the Bromance: two dudes realizing their inexorable bonds with one another in hilarious fashion. These movies—such as “Old School,” “Wedding Crashers,” “The Forty Year-Old Virgin,” “Anchorman,” “The Hangover” and even older ones like “American Pie” and “Top Gun”—all depict journeys of friendship and the notion of some collective achievement, even if it’s just getting your buddy laid. And yes, ladies, I acknowledge that these films are complete boys’ clubs and possibly proffer an anti-feminist agenda, but that’s another column. I am more interested in why people love these movies so much. What feature of today’s society makes us enjoy Bromance so much that we watch these movies repeatedly and quote them incessantly?
In some ways, the ease of communication in our world makes us less self-sufficient and more reliant on our friends. As a college student, contact with friends from home isn’t a monthly, 12-minute conversation on the dorm pay phone—it’s a casual text or the ever-random g-chat. Or even more weird—but completely status quo—a cursory glance at his Facebook pictures to make sure he’s chillin’ just as much as you are. When all people had were snail mail and landlines, it was much less hard to generate human contact. Without literal Rolodexes at their fingertips like we have today in our cell phones, people were inherently more self-sufficient because they had to be.
Today, we are much more invested in our friends’ lives because we have more windows through which to observe them; you can “bro out” through six or seven different forms of communication. I do not mean to say that technology has improved friendships; rather, I believe technology has given us more of a reason to affirm our friendships. Case in point: It’s much easier to tell a friend you love him or miss him (or anything else girly-men say) in a text than in person. But in these movies, it’s cool to love your bro—and society has followed suit.