Bromance Gets the A-List Treatment
BY Ben Walters
March 18 2009 12:00 AM ET
In the '80s, the male-relationship picture took center stage via the buddy movie. The likes of Midnight Run , Running Scared , and, of course, the Lethal Weapon cycle were all constructed around odd couples whose death-defying, seat-of-the-pants brushes with explosive violence only partly obscured the affection and even emotional vulnerability on which their partnerships were based.
By the '90s, such twosomes were edging out of the closet -- if not in terms of sexual identity then in the sense that generic or contingent excuses for such intimacy were no longer considered vitally important. On-screen, the bond between Joey and Chandler was by some way the most convincing pairing of the whole run of Friends , while off-screen the Matt Damon-Ben Affleck double-act opened the door to a kind of overtly expressed emotionality that would have been anathema to earlier boys' clubs such as Sinatra's Rat Pack. A straight line -- no pun intended -- can be drawn from their joint media persona to the coverage of Lance Armstrong's cycling idyll with Matthew McConaughey and Jake Gyllenhaal. Meanwhile, the bromance has steadily become arguably the dominant strain of mainstream comedy, and secured footholds across the cultural spectrum, from video games to novels .
Traditionally, bromantic movies have deployed a degree of low-level homophobia in a plain attempt to deflect the notion that such intimacy might be, you know, kinda faggy. Midnight Cowboy , directed by the gay filmmaker John Schlesinger, pitched Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman's relationship in opposition to an array of unsympathetic homosexual characters. This tendency continued through the buddy-movie era, to find its peak in the grotesque gay panic of 2007's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry , and was arguably evident in MTV's reality show Bromance , in which, having constructively ejected the only openly gay contestant in the first episode, the others felt free to get up close and personal without worrying too much aboutâ€¦you know.