“You can be affectionate with each other, you can love each other and it doesn’t have to be some – you know, and even if it does turn into something, which it didn’t, then it’s okay… We always sort of flinch at this “bromance” buzzword that’s come up – there’s no equivalent for women, because it’s not weird if women are friends… because of this homosexual terror that straight guys have, it’s ridiculous. Now there has to be this word for it, and it’s crazy. It’s totally sad.”
—Simon Pegg on WTF with Marc Maron, speaking about his relationship with Nick Frost and his feelings on “bromance.” [x]
The concept of ‘bromance’ has been infiltrating pop culture for years now, and like Simon Pegg, I find myself increasingly annoyed with the idea, and well, with most terms that start with ‘bro-‘. They glorify a hypermasculine performance of gender and reinforce the gender binary and they’re just pretty awful. When you think of the word ‘bro’, it conjures up the worst sort of college-age insensitive douchebag, am I right? That sort of linguistic callback is only necessary when you really need to quickly distance yourself from any potential feminine or queer implications.
So, ‘bromance’. It’s gendered and it’s homophobic and hey, it’s also redundant, because we already have a word for platonic guy love between two guys: it’s called friendship. The word ‘bromance’ seems to be trotted out most often in pop culture to act as a code for ‘stop thinking they’re gay’—the amount of times the term has been used to describe, for example, the relationships between Castiel and Dean Winchester, John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, or Kirk and Spock is potentially uncountable.
I have a love/hate relationship with brotp, because on one hand, until Luce and I get moirail to take off as a non-gendered alternative, there’s no other easy one-word method to specify that you ship two characters platonically rather than romantically. On the other hand, any term that adds a heteronormatively masculine implication to a friendship which may not even include a man is just frustrating. Only one half of pairs that are often designated brotps, like Carol Danvers and Steve Rogers, Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson, or Dean Winchester and Charlie Bradbury, just to name a few, are male; some brotps like Elphaba and Glinda don’t even include a dude.
And then of course we have ‘brony’, my absolute least favorite bro-word. I’ve slowly been falling out with and out of the My Little Pony fandom as time has gone on, and bronies are a large part of why. It’s a testament to how our society works that when men invade a fandom with a female-focused audience, they’re given a masculine-sounding nickname, welcomed into the ‘herd’, and gifted with Easter eggs and references throughout the show. Compare this to when women try to get into a fandom that’s considered to be for dudes: we’re denigrated as ‘fake geek girls’, slut-shamed, and ostracized. Furthermore, because of the unintentional adult audience, it’s made it impossible for the target audience of the show—little girls—to search for their favorite characters without finding NSFW material. I’m not even talking about shipping—even just a Google search for Twilight Sparkle brings up sexualized depictions of the character. Plus, male bronies have an inexplicable need to equate the negative reactions they get from society for being bronies with the problems of real marginalized populations.
Bromance and brotp just don’t work in our language (and brony isn’t a linguistically unnecessary term, but it’s still right out). In fact, I say that there is no need to have them. We have enough trouble with gender essentialism in our culture without introducing terms that basically have “dude, no homo” coded into the prefix. Close friendship is a non-gendered concept, and doesn’t need heteronormative qualifiers.
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“When you think of the word ‘bro’, it conjures up the worst sort of college-age insensitive douchebag, am I right?”
Well, of course. But, by the same logic, these people… college-aged insensitive douchebags… are hindered enough by their inability to communicate. If you remove the word “bromance” from the parlance, they will be rendered speechless by the lack. Better to leave the word in the lexicon by which they may then self-identify as college-age insensitive douchebags, and by the repeated use of the word they can come to realize their own, inherent bi-sexuality, and thereby grow to be less insensitive and less douchebaggy.
And should not the word “douchbag” itself be subject to some scrutiny? It does tend to denigrate the feminine use (not actually as necessary as some may protest) of the subject noun from which the adjective is derived.
A douchbag is a horrible, sexist thing that should never actually come close to a vagina, so to be honest I find it quite fitting.
This mirrors my thoughts for the past few months so exactly it’s almost weird. Thank you so much for writing this article, this is exactly what I think but I wouldn’t have been able to express it so well.
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