Ah, bromance: an idea so mainstream that by the time you read this, the first episode of MTV's Bromance will have aired. The concept? Paris Hilton's My New BFF, but for dudes, as erstwhile Hills himbo Brody Jenner seeks what the homeboys of Pineapple Express would call his new BFFF "best fuckin' friend forever." According to MTV, "a bromance is an intense brotherly bond that makes two buddies become virtually inseparable." The prize? "The chance of a lifetime to become best buds with Brody Jenner and live a life right out of the pages of Maxim magazine."
See how they did that? The Bromance description also dangles the possibility that contenders will get to mingle with Playboy babes. So, you know, all that male bonding is carefully balanced out with some seriously hetero skirt-chasing. Bros before hos, always but hos are still in the equation, and are indeed a key component of any bromantic relationship. Returning to Pineapple Express: the subplot about Seth Rogen's high school girlfriend was the film's weakest link, in kind of the same way Step Brothers was only funny when Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly were together onscreen, and it was pretty clear that no chick at the end of any road trip could match the BFFF bond in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. (Also key: a fair amount of overly homoerotic and/or ever-so-homophobic humor, a factor in the Bromance TV show, where contestant eliminations take place in Jenner's hot tub.)
Before you accuse me of hating on the bromance, though, I'll admit that I enjoyed all of the above films, along with 2007's Superbad and various other outputs of Judd Apatow's brainpan (even 2007's Knocked Up, which star Katherine Heigl famously branded "a little sexist.") And I'm a chick! Pineapple Express, in particular, delivered some of 2008's funniest moments, in scenes between average-Joe type Dale (Rogen) and his pot dealer, Saul (James Franco). Just two dudes, talkin' 'bout cross-shaped joints and weed so rare and dazzling it's like smoking a unicorn.
Of course, the bromance has kinda been around forever. Throwback Western Appaloosa served as a reminder that oaters, along with sports films, war movies (see: Tropic Thunder), and other XY-centric genres, are crucially dependent on the concept of male bonding. The new-millennium idea is more like dude-bonding, though, and it seems to appear only in a comedic framework. The year's big comic-book movies The Dark Knight, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk were macho, and straightforwardly so; ain't nobody trying to feminize Tony Stark's emotions, or be Batman's BFFF.
In the bromance, masculinity is tied into the fact that men are sensitive. Totally sensitive. But their sensitivity either goes to obnoxious extremes (see: Ferrell and Reilly's stunted-emotional-growth manchildren weeping at the dinner table when their parents announce their impending divorce) or manifests only when the situation itself is extreme you think Dale and Saul would've gotten so tight were they not on the run from that angry drug kingpin? The taboos the bromance exposes, mocks, and embraces are extremely straight-male in nature yeah, problematic, but kind of necessary to make the films as funny as they are. Everything's amped up to ridiculous highs, allowing heartfelt connections to occur among dudes under cover of goofy desperation.
This trend appears likely to flop down on your couch, put up its dirty feet, and hog your remote awhile Apatow can basically print his own money at this point, and he's got the Adam Sandler-Seth Rogen bro-down Funny People set to roll out in 2009.