Bromance Gets the A-List Treatment

The formula is the same: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Only in the case of bromance movies like the Paul Rudd/Jason Segel pairing I Love You, Man , it's two straight men competing for each other's affections.

BY Ben Walters

March 18 2009 12:00 AM ET

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As well as sympathetically coding Peter as non-macho -- he can't play poker, gets on with the office girls, fights by slapping -- the movie offers the hyper-macho but equally sympathetic presence of Lou Ferrigno, as one of Peter's clients, and an amusingly WASPish gay architect whom Peter inadvertently leads on.

Most intriguing, however, is Peter's brother, Robbie (Andy Samberg), who is both openly gay and a role model of masculinity. A man's man without being macho, he's a personal trainer who only has sex with straight guys and is the apple of their gruff father's eye, but is also unimpeachably friendly and supportive, and Peter's main source of advice and encouragement. Sure, you could read Robbie as an assimilationist's wet dream, an implicit rejection of effeminacy and otherness, but to me, the character played more like a case study in unruffled post-homophobia. And this is where the true value of the bromance form lies -- not only in its fostering of the notion that emotional expressiveness between men is a valuable thing, but in its growing acknowledgment that the association of this expressiveness with the gay experience can be something not to defy but to embrace.

Another reality TV show, The Principal's Office , recently featured two ostensibly straight high school seniors dirty dancing with one another for comic effect. The butt of their joke was not gayness but the prudery of their principal, and they were happy to bump, grind, and hold hands without seeming to fear for their schoolyard credibility. Whether Midnight Cowboy , Lethal Weapon, or Pineapple Express hold a special place in their hearts is tough to say, but it's hard to watch their antics without feeling a warm, bromantic glow.

Tags: film

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