Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mike's Musings: Down with the Bro Code

Human interaction is complicated.  I don't think anyone can dispute that.  What we say isn't always what we mean, and particularly when you're getting to know someone, a lot of guesswork and risk is involved.  You never know if you're going to say the wrong thing, or if they're going to misinterpret what you say.  With the rise of technology, face to face interaction has become less relevant, and with less practice, people are less likely to reach out and meet new people (yes, there are studies that show this).  This is also probably what has made political correctness such a hot topic, but that's for another argument.

The "Bro Code," or any sort of bonding between male (or female) friends, is not a new phenomenon.  Shakespeare's "Love's Labors Lost" is a bro-comedy.  Hell, you could even say that Jesus Christ and his disciples were "bros."  It's not a new thing to film either.  Movies like "Porky's" and "Animal House" are built on it.  But now it's in like never before due in no small part to the influence of Judd Apatow, and in particular, Seth Rogen.

It's not the idea of stories set around male bonding that I have a problem with.  I mean, what's wrong with hanging out with your friends celebrating immaturity and debauchery? Particularly on the movie screen, almost nothing.  But what started out as immature and decidedly anti-PC fun has evolved into something much more pathetic.  And in this critic's opinion, a little disturbing.

What makes these movies is so insidious is that they are built on fear.  Fear of growing up, I get.  Growing up sucks, and a lot of people aren't ready to settle down and be "boring" adults.  But with movies like "This is the End," "Neighbors 2," "Bridesmaids," and "The Night Before," that fear has become about anything except your best bros.

Think about it.  All these movies revolve around a group of friends who are dealing with some aspect of growing up.  Marriage is predominant, but calming down from your 20's and early 30's is also a part of it.  That's the real unspoken antagonist.  What's sick about these movies is that the characters, who are all of the same sex, rely on each other because of fear.

Have you noticed how everyone not in these little insular groups is some sort of freak or weirdo?  Or in romantic comedies, the main group reacts to them in a boorish, immature way?  Have you seen any of them be, you know, nice?  Take for instance "Bridesmaids." Because Rose Byrne's character is also close with the bride, Wiig perceives her as a threat, until the end of the movie where they recognize the error of their ways and save the day.

The ones starring males are even worse.  "The Interview," "The Night Before," "Superbad," and "This is the End" all revolve around a duo or group of guys who are so insular that anyone else is "the other."  They're some sort of colorful weirdo or aggressive, powerful female that the audience is supposed to laugh at when the "heroes" make some sort of boorish joke at her expense.  In "The Interview," the CIA agent is immediately the subject of riffs on her cleavage and who is (or is not) going to sleep with her.  LGBT characters, if they exist at all, are even worse off.  They're all stereotypes: masculine lesbians or feminine gays.  Apparently, it's considered "okay" if they're not one of these cliché, demeaning images, but even in "Neighbors 2," Zac Efron initially reacts with anger.

Don't tell me that this was a subtle accident.  No, it was intentional.  To Hollywood's target audience, LGBT people, strong women, and mature adults are perceived of as threatening.  But by catering to this attitude, they've legitimized this sort of behavior towards women, LGBT people.  Basically, everyone that isn't a part of their "bro" group.  Don't believe me?  Next time you're out with your bros, try saying hello to someone new.  Chances are that, at best, they're going to be stiff and awkward, or feel threatened and angry.

Now, don't start with how movies don't influence people.  I agree.  It's bullshit.  But saying that watching "Deadpool" is going to make people in the audience want to shoot everyone they dislike is far different than making people think that it's okay to fear everyone who isn't your "bro."  One is the mark of a psychopath, the other legitimizes immaturity and discrimination.

If you think this is another attack on Seth Rogen, well, you're half right.  Anyone familiar with my reviews will know how much I dislike that film personality (I will not degrade the words "actor" or "comedian" by calling him as such).  But it's not just him.  Those stupid "Man Law" beer ads from Miller Lite, the TV show "How I Met Your Mother" (just about any TV show marketed to 20-30 year old guys).  And as much as I like Tucker Max, I have to include him here too.  He more or less defined the term for the Millennial generation, although to be fair, he fully admits that what he does to anyone within striking distance is what not to do when it comes to human interaction.

Let me be clear.  I'm not against hanging with your best guy friends watching football or going out and trying to get lucky.  That sort of thing is essentially what it means to be a guy when you're my age.  What I'm talking about is how this sort of idea has become warped into an insular, misogynist and homophobic panic.  The Bro Code is no longer about male bonding.  It's about protecting yourself from anyone who is not a macho, hyper-sexual living embodiment of testosterone.

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