Off-Topic: Ain’t Saying He’s A Gold Digger: Looking At Bromance & I Love You, Man

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García

Editor’s Note – While checking out tips from readers, evaluating episodes of Daddy’s Little Girls, and checking up on The Real World, something kept grating on my nerves. The heavily promoted Bromance dances into decidedly homo-erotic territory – but the wink and nudge protestations from the cast members (complete with “Dude, that’s so gay” remarks to keep people in check) I started to wonder what was up. I asked Arturo to take a quick peek at the show. – LDP

The question of male friendship and how “gay” it may or may not be is getting a little extra scrutiny these days, with new projects from Brody Jenner and Paul Rudd.

In the wake of Prop. 8′s passage in California, Jenner’s Bromance is taking MTV’s new approach to dating shows: same-sex humiliation. Produced by Momma’s Boy’s mastermind Ryan “I was Metro when that was still another word for subway” Seacrest, the show is Entourage by way of The Bachelor, with several dim-witted if sort-of-well-intentioned young men competing for a spot at Brody’s side. And really, who wouldn’t want to hang out with a professional do-nothing and his friend Sleazy T and Frankie Delgado — especially after their “initiation” involved getting dragged out of their beds wearing nothing but their boxers (or less) and a black bag over their head? My buddies and I play Gitmo Gotcha all the time!

The show’s challenges answer that question: money, and random women. Each of the show’s skill challenges features two or three random white female ornaments. The lone exception, of course, was the “Dating Game”-style game which cross-promoted Lauren Conrad – she’s random enough on her own. The contestants’ first task, in fact, was to bring “hot chicks” to a lingerie party. (It also should be noted that seemingly 75 percent of the women who were convinced to go were Caucasian blondes.)

Interestingly enough, one self-identified gay man, Michael, was selected to compete on the show. But though he’s treated (surprisingly?) well, based on the footage we were allowed to see, Michael bows out on his own, saying, “I thought it was gonna be like an episode of The Hills.” Man, seeing the boys pal around with LC later in the season had to have hurt.

As the show continues, we’re treated to disturbing images of several of the young men crying during conversations with Jenner, or after various blow-ups around the house. These instances aren’t weird because it’s “unmanly” or whatever, but because it just doesn’t make sense for people who seemingly barely know each other to be reduced to tears at the first hint of crisis. Then again, this is “reality” television.

The show’s not over as of this writing, but it’s already become clear that the posh apartment the winner receives will be worth more than any “friendship” he receives with Jenner. Whichever one wins is almost going certainly going to be low-man in Jenner’s “posse,” Turtle to Brody’s Vinnie Chase. Judging by Jenner’s other friends, it’s clear that Brody, who appeared on the national radar by riding on LC’s own coattails, is looking for his own band of sycophants. That transcends sexuality – it’s just sad.

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Whereas Bromance is cloying about the question about male sexuality vis-a-vis friendships, scheduling group talks in hot tubs and such, the trailer for the upcoming I Love You, Man goes the rom-com route. Paul Rudd and Jason Segel have a meet-cute. Rudd’s character, Peter, is immediately coded as being “not as manly” as Segel’s character, Sydney; Peter has no male friends (named on Bromance as a gay characteristic) and “loved” The Devil Wears Prada. He has a white-collar job and dresses well, though not “Metro”-well. In fact, after dinner with similarly clean-cut Doug (Thomas Lennon), Doug kisses Peter – after all, since they dress “alike,” it’s only right for Doug to assume Pete’s gay. Hilar! Meanwhile, Sydney dresses down and is kind of a dolt, reassuring the viewer that he’s “a bro.” One can only presume that hilarity will ensue.

It’s all rather innocuous, but the mention of the term “man-date” by Rashida Jones’ character, Zooey, threw me, in its’ teasing manner, as did the pressure for Sydney to immediately ascend to the rank of best man at Peter and Zooey’s wedding. If Peter’s best friend were a woman, or a gay man, would that “cheapen” the nuptials? Couldn’t Peter’s father or brother perform the same function? One can only presume such questions will be glossed over, if addressed at all.

In a post-Brokeback world, it seems the latest addition to the Battle of the Sexes tropes is the need to reassure audiences that depth in male friendships is strictly accidental – unless, of course, it’s forged while pursuing interests like military action or athletic competition. Then you can use phrases like “trust your life to another man” and not worry about, as the Ghostbusters might have put it, “crossing the streams.”