Breaking Through The Bro Code

Author Michael DeAngelis: Just How Gay Is A 'Bromance'?

By Emell Derra Adolphus

Stronger than a "man crush," and somewhere between a love affair and fist bump, is a "bromance," explains author Michael DeAngelis. The term is meant to describe a bond between two men that transcends the usual boundaries of friendship to become an almost romantic infatuation. And from his findings, DeAngelis feels the straight bros kind of like it.

In his book "Reading the Bromance: Homosocial Relationships in Film and Television," released in June under Wayne State University Press, DeAngelis, with a team of contributors, analyzes the complex bond between heterosexual male duos. Studying TV shows like "Seinfeld" and "The Wire," along with films like "The Hangover" and "I Love You, Man," DeAngelis gives readers special insight into the homoerotic undertones found in the public portrayal of the bro code.

"In the introduction to the book I talk about how (homosocial relationships) are a lot wider than just film and television," says DeAngelis, an associate professor at DePaul University in Chicago. "There is a lot of activity in sports but also in sports fandom. We have some cases of people like Dustin Hoffman and Jason Bateman kissing in the stands of a Los Angeles Laker's Game, which is kind of interesting for them."

DeAngelis explains part of the bromance guidelines is an intimacy with an often unacknowledged sexual component.

"It started with the idea that 'bromance' is an intense bond between supposedly straight guys that is very, very intimate, but they would probably not acknowledge a type of sexual intimacy," he says. "That's where it gets its lore too - that even though it's not supposed to be sexual, it's kind of sexual at the same time, or it has that sexual component to it."

The book is a collection of essays highlighting bromance through a myriad of cultures in entertainment mediums, from Bollywood to Spanish Hollywood. But one community that stood out, according to DeAngelis, is the African-American community.

"When we are talking about the representations of black characters in bromance, what's so strange is that I haven't been able to find too many instances in bromances in which both of the men are black," he says. "The really glaring exception is 'The Wire.'"

There are a number of characters in "The Wire" who are openly gay and share a "close, but no cigar" relationship with other heterosexual characters, says DeAngelis. "There is a lot of discourse about the family. They bump fists and say 'us,' and yet the show doesn't particular affirm them as gay."

Upon examining the characters further, DeAngelis says he sees a traditional pattern of gender roles playing out in most bromance relationships. "I think in many cases, what happened in movies like 'Lethal Weapon,' the black character was usually the one who was more domesticated. He was usually the one who was less erratic. He was usually the one who was more grounded," DeAngelis explains. "And, in many ways, I think he can be read as more of the feminine side, or he's feminized."

But why?

"One theory is that the black male is perceived culturally as a threat in some ways. One way of controlling such a threat is to feminize it," says DeAngelis. "I think, for the white bromances, there is a little bit of a play with gender relationships. There is a little more willingness to flirt with those roles. It starts replicating the heterosexual logic of gender relationships - the passive one and the main active one. And it doesn't seem to me that mainstream filmmakers have figured out a way to negotiate that relationship between two black characters so that it doesn't replay that feminine dynamic."

DeAngelis predicts a slow change in not only the portrayal of the bromance but all romance, at least once filmmakers figure out how to make it marketable to not upset conservative groups.

"(A bromance) is a beautiful thing that doesn't have to be at the expense of a close relationship with a woman, but in addition to it. It's a reflection of our culture's priorities at a particular moment in time."

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