The New Bromanticism

Just over half of British and American men are cur­rently in or have had a ‘bromance’ in the past accord­ing to a sur­vey, not by Dr Kinsey, but by Badoo (‘the world’s largest social net­work for meet­ing new people’).

The Badoo press release – issued on Valentine’s Day last week – claims that the sur­vey of 2000 men ‘reveals the extent to which British men have embraced the “bromance” phe­nomenon’. We’ll get to that bit later.

What’s imme­di­ately and grat­i­fy­ingly clear is that the Badoo sur­vey doesn’t insist, as many would and have done, very loudly, that a bromance is a close friend­ship between two STRAIGHT men – no gay­ers or gay­ness allowed, thank you very much.

Instead, Badoo defines bromance as ‘a close pla­tonic rela­tion­ship with someone of the same sex’. And we all know about that Plato guy and those Greeks.…

Badoo’s British respond­ents lis­ted these fam­ous male friend­ships in their ‘top ten’:

1. Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson

2. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

3. Ant and Dec

4. Buzz and Woody (Toy Story)

5. Harry Potter and Ron Weasley

6. George Clooney and Brad Pitt (Ocean’s Eleven)

7. Gavin and Smithy (Gavin and Stacey)

8. Joey and Chandler (Friends)

9. Frodo and Sam (Lord of the Rings)

10. Simon and Will (The Inbetweeners)

Some of these male friend­ships are more pla­tonic than oth­ers. You don’t have to be a slash fic­tion writer to see some­thing slightly erotic in, for example, Frodo and Sam’s smoul­der­ing on-screen rela­tion­ship – or Newman and Redford’s. I have to say I was pleased but a little sur­prised that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid made it into second place (that movie was released 43 years ago) — I sup­pose there must have been a lot of respond­ents as middle-aged as me.

It’s a cry­ing shame that Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin didn’t make the list – but then the era that they reigned supreme as the world’s favour­ite ‘pla­tonic’ male lov­ers was well over half a cen­tury ago. And they were prob­ably too expli­cit for today’s tastes.

It’s also a shame also that the great, pas­sion­ate early twen­ti­eth cen­tury psy­cho­logy male double act of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung was ignored. But I sup­pose that the recently-released A Dangerous Method didn’t pull in quite as many punters as Sherlock Holmes 2. And besides, it has a unhappy end­ing: Freud and Jung have a very messy divorce.

But Freud and Jung per­son­ify in an oddly neur­otic fash­ion the way no ‘bromance’ is ever quite ‘pure’ of libid­inal impulses: Freud fam­ously fain­ted more than once in the pres­ence of his anoin­ted suc­cessor the young Jung, blam­ing it on some ‘unre­solved homo­sexual attach­ment’ – the cigar afi­cion­ado con­sidered homo­erotic attrac­tion the basis of all male bond­ing. And although the split occurred because Jung rejec­ted Freud’s all-embracing libido-theory, emphas­ising instead ‘spir­itu­al­ity’, it was Jung who had the major nervous break­down after they parted.

It was the non-Freudian Michel Foucault who, as I recall, attrib­uted the emer­gence of ‘the homo­sexual’ to the decline in the insti­tu­tion of male friend­ship. Foucault was immensely inter­ested in friendship:

As far back as I remem­ber, to want guys was to want rela­tions with guys. That has always been import­ant for me. Not neces­sar­ily in the form of a couple but as a mat­ter of exist­ence: how is it pos­sible for men to be together? To live together, to share their time, their meals, their room, their leis­ure, their grief, their know­ledge, their con­fid­ences? What is it to be “naked” among men, out­side of insti­tu­tional rela­tions, fam­ily, pro­fes­sion, and oblig­at­ory camaraderie?’

(Michel Foucault, ‘Friendship as a Way of Life’)

For Foucault, exper­i­mental friend­ship and ‘new rela­tions’ was what male homo­sexu­al­ity was for. Or at least the bit of it that he was inter­ested in that wasn’t about leather and whips.

The arrival of com­pan­ion­ate mar­riage in the early twen­ti­eth cen­tury left increas­ingly little room for close male friend­ships – friend­ships which, along with greater phys­ical affec­tion such as kiss­ing and hold­ing hands, occas­sional pas­sion­ate declar­a­tions of love, and also the cus­tom of chums shar­ing bed (see Abe Lincoln), had meant that the dif­fer­ence between a sexual rela­tion­ship and a non sexual one was largely invis­ible to the world. Close male friend­ships cover the pre-gay past with a blanket of discretion.

Perhaps the pop­ular­ity of ‘bromance’ even just as a buzzword rep­res­ents a resur­gence of interest in close male friend­ship, as the med­ical, legal and social force of ‘the homo­sexual’ and for that mat­ter ‘the het­ero­sexual’ declines. A quarter of the Badoo respond­ents admit to hav­ing ‘the most fun they have with any­one’ with their bromance part­ner, and ‘just like Holmes and Watson’ over one in ten are ‘often mis­taken to be more than friends’, while 10% of them claim to get stick from their part­ner for it.

Marriage is also now in steep decline, of course. Fewer and fewer people are get­ting hitched and if and when they do it’s usu­ally much later than their par­ents or grand­par­ents. (According to Badoo, 28% of single British men are cur­rently in a bromance, with this fig­ure drop­ping to 10% for mar­rieds and 15% for co-habiters.)

Before the Second World War, when work­ing class men ten­ded to get mar­ried in their late twen­ties and early thirties, the now-defunct insti­tu­tion of ‘trade’ glor­i­ously filled the gap between adoles­cence and domest­icity. And des­pite the name, the traffic between ‘nor­mal’ work­ing class lads and queer gen­tle­men was not always com­mer­cial or hedon­istic – sur­pris­ingly often it developed into a long term and emo­tion­ally close friendship.

After being ini­tially rather scep­tical, I’ve begun to re-evaluate my atti­tude towards ‘bromance’. Over time it seems that the ‘romance’ part of ‘bromance’ is becom­ing less irrit­at­ingly ironic – and the ‘bro’ part less annoy­ingly fratty. And also less insist­ently hetty. In this Badoo sur­vey at least, ‘bromance’ cuts right across ‘sexuality’.

Like that other annoy­ing word ‘met­ro­sexual’, ‘bromance’ seems to be poten­tially act­ing as a solvent of gay/straight bound­ar­ies, giv­ing men whatever their sexu­al­ity per­mis­sion to express stuff that they oth­er­wise might not. Facilitating and encour­aging close, emo­tional friend­ships between two straight men. Or between gay and straight men. Or straight and bi men. Or maybe even between – one day, in the far dis­tant Utopian future – gay men.

The recently launched ‘Bromance’ app, a location-based net­work ‘that helps you organ­ize activ­it­ies with friends and nearby people with shared interests’ was mocked by many (includ­ing me until I found out more about it). The people behind the app, like Badoo, don’t insist on the het­ero­sexu­al­ity of their ‘bros’ – and go one step fur­ther in sug­gest­ing that ‘bros’ don’t have to be male, either.

Many com­menters on gay blogs seemed to think the Bromance app would be only used by ‘closeted gay men’ seek­ing sex on the ‘down­low’ – while the Brobible agreed, ‘aggress­ively oppos­ing’ this ‘men seek­ing men’ app for pol­lut­ing the het­ero­sexual pur­ity of their bro-ness.

I’ve no idea whether it will be pop­u­lar or not, but the gay­ist and bro-ist scorn which greeted the Bromance app seems to be pre­cisely down to the way it might facil­it­ate new kinds of pla­tonic friend­ships. And new kinds of sexual rela­tion­ships. Under a blanket of smart-phone dis­cre­tion. And we won’t know which is which.

Despite all the name-calling, it’s pre­cisely the inab­il­ity to define what’s going on or the people tak­ing part that is the ‘prob­lem’. I sus­pect Foucault would have been one of the first to down­load the Bromance app, in his  fer­vid search for ‘exper­i­mental friend­ships’. I get the feel­ing Michel was quite a lonely guy. (Or ‘FUCKING LOSER’ as the Brobible would put it.)

The new tech­no­logy of inform­a­tion and com­mu­nic­a­tion and the new social net­works it has spawned seem to be enabling new kinds of rela­tions and exper­i­ment­a­tion away from judging eyes – and exploit­ing it, of course. At the same time as per­haps mak­ing us all lone­lier.

A Badoo spokes­per­son explained why they com­mis­sioned their survey:

Everyone always talks about rela­tion­ships and dat­ing – but actu­ally a bromance buddy is also really import­ant to men. For the 44% of British men that have never had a bromance – Badoo.com offers them the chance to meet someone that’s like minded – whether that’s for bromance or romance.’

It’s not clear where Badoo found their respond­ents from, and I’m not sure their find­ings are ter­ribly sci­entific. I’m not even sure what Badoo is, to be hon­est. But some­thing is def­in­itely afoot with male friendship.

Another sur­vey pub­lished this week should cer­tainly be taken very ser­i­ously indeed for what it says about the yearn­ing of British men for close, intim­ate friend­ship. According to Travelodge, half of the men they asked admit­ted they still have a teddy bear from their child­hood. A quarter admit­ted to sleep­ing with their teddy bear when ‘on busi­ness trips’. While 15% con­fessed they ‘treat their teddy as their best friend’ and ‘share their intim­ate secrets with their bear’.

Does bearmance stand in for bromance with British men? Or t’other way round?

 Tip: Lee Kynaston & Topak

Why ‘Warrior’ Isn’t That Kind of Girl

Middlesbrough, Teeside, one of the last steel-making towns in the UK or in fact one of the last places in the UK where they still make any­thing, is prob­ably the right place to go and see, as I did last week, Warrior, the recently-released, much-hyped MMA Rocky remake set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Warrior Tom Hardy

Warrior is essen­tially a bromantic MMA Rocky. This time there are two Rockies: Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy, play­ing actual broth­ers (rather than ‘bros’) forced to fight one another. Both Rockies are con­sid­er­ably easier on the eye and ear than Sylvester Stallone ever was.

The cinema in ‘Boro was (half) full of groups of young, mostly work­ing class men, sev­eral of them even more worked-out than the stars of the movie – but in con­trast to the res­ol­utely ‘time­less’ grainy Hollywood faux butchery of Warrior that often looked as if it were set in an MMA ver­sion of the 1970s, they were fake-baked, shaven-chested, sex­ily dressed and very much Twenty First Century tarty. (The North East of England is after all home to Geordie Shore the UK ver­sion of Jersey Shore)

Of course, not everything about the film is try­ing to be time­less. I assume the young men had been drawn, like me, by the poster and trailer for the movie fea­tur­ing naked, hulk­ing Hardy and a ripped Edgerton eye­balling each other, and the prom­ise of a very sweaty, if inces­tu­ous porno cli­max. (Or, as the pro­mo­tional copy has it: ‘…the two broth­ers must finally con­front each other and the forces that pulled them apart, facing off in the most soar­ing, soul stir­ring, and unfor­get­table cli­max that must be seen to be believed.’)

Like all trail­ers, of course, it lied. Unlike Captain America the deceit wasn’t that the trailer provided you with the only tits in the movie – for free. There were oodles of shots of Hardy and Edgerton’s tits and abs. In fact, top­less­ness was the default set­ting of Warrior, and for much of the movie Hardy’s intric­ate tat­toos were the nearest thing he had to a shirt. No, it lied about the spor­no­graphic cli­max. But more of that whinge later.

There were though plenty of homo­erot­ics. It’s a movie about brawny male love – because they’re beat­ing the crap out of one another it can afford to be sen­ti­mental and tender, not to men­tion phys­ical in a way that most ‘bromances’ (essen­tially a middle-class ver­sion of the buddy movie) can’t. It’s about two blue-collar broth­ers’ twis­ted, jilted love for one another. About an alco­holic, abus­ive father’s love for his angry, bit­ter sons (who of course, love him really). About the love between a coach and his eager charge. And the love between comrades/warriors.

And also about the hero-erotic love that so many straight men have for MMA fighters.

The MMA winner-takes-all tour­na­ment both broth­ers enter (and end up fight­ing one another) is called ‘Sparta’ – the Ancient Greek City State so fam­ously war­like that accord­ing to legend, women had to dress as boys on their wed­ding night to lure their hus­bands to bed. Hardy is an ex-Marine who is the sub­ject of a YouTube trib­ute from another young (cute) jar­head whose life was saved by Hardy. The Theban/Spartan band that is the US Marine Corps turns up en masse and in uni­form at Sparta to pro­fess their love and sing the Marine Corps Hymn to Hardy. If this sounds a bit camp, that’s prob­ably because it is.

There are really no women in the movie (and there were very few in the cinema). Edgerton’s equally pretty wife (Jennifer Morrison) is some­times glimpsed in the back­ground wor­ry­ing about his fate. But it’s almost as if she’s there as proof of his domest­ic­ated good­ness – and to make the wise­crack about his flam­boy­ant, hand­some ‘unortho­dox’ trainer (played by Frank Grillo) who uses clas­sical music to ‘con­di­tion’ his fight­ers being his ‘boyfriend’.

(The coach chooses Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ as Edgerton’s swishy entrance music, remind­ing me of the Allegretto from B’s Seventh Symphony in The King’s Speech which then made me think: a) The King’s Speech is some­thing of a bromance, and b) It’s also some­thing of a box­ing movie — voice coach.)

The on-screen rela­tion­ship with his trainer is clearly coded as a romance. The moment Edgerton per­suades him to take him on again is a clas­sic seduc­tion scene. In fact, Edgerton is all come-hither smiles and giggles around his coach and when Edgerton pro­fesses later ‘I LOVE MY COACH!!’ it’s quite clear what he means.

Hardy has noth­ing to do with and doesn’t talk about women, except his dead mother. At one point he calls a woman with kids and reas­sures her he will live up to his prom­ise – and then you real­ise he means his prom­ise to his deceased USMC buddy, who we learn described Hardy as his ‘brother in arms’. So it’s about male love again. Male love with big kiss­able titty lips.

Hardy takes on his father as his coach to train for the tour­na­ment, but abuses him in revenge for the treat­ment meted out as a kid. But after a drunken con­front­a­tion finally for­gives him and lit­er­ally takes him to bed, hold­ing his old wreck of a dad between his legs and arms and pet­ting him to sleep. He loves his coach too.

After a long, exhaust­ing, slightly tedi­ous and very clichéd final reel, Edgerton gets Hardy where he wants him in the ring, hold­ing him tight in a ‘rear naked choke’ echo of Hardy’s tender moment with his dad – and whis­pers “I love you” in Hardy’s ear. They stag­ger out of the ring and out of the arena, cling­ing to one another. Brothers in arms, finally.

Essentially Warrior is one of those movies about ‘broth­ers’ that isn’t really about broth­ers at all. It’s a movie about how ‘real’ broth­ers are usu­ally no match for those that men call broth­ers. The way that “I love you like a brother, man” is some­thing of a lie, because most boys and men don’t love their broth­ers that way. As in this movie, sib­ling rivalry, age dif­fer­ences and fam­ily stuff tends to get in the way. It’s the ‘broth­ers’ you choose to love that you really love. At least for a while. The phrase men use, and the strap­line for this movie, should really be: ‘I love you like I don’t love my brother – that asshole! – man’.

But in one way Warrior is true to the sen­ti­ment of ‘I love you like a brother, man’ – the sen­ti­ment of ‘not in a gay way’. For all the pas­sion­ate homo­erot­ics it’s chan­nel­ling – and des­pite the very norty, very arous­ing trailer – it man­ages to clean-up MMA. A feature-length movie, Warrior is con­sid­er­ably less por­no­graphic than almost any UFC match, which usu­ally last just a few minutes. The fight scenes were mostly a headache-inducing blur of shaky, grainy, poorly lit cam­era move­ment. None of the vul­gar, com­prom­ising and down­right lewd pos­i­tions that char­ac­ter­ise the sport and none of the shad­ow­less, multi-angle, expli­cit, zoomed, over­head voyeur­ism of pay-per-view UFC (that I wrote about breath­lessly here) were permitted.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audi­ence dis­ap­poin­ted not to see Hardy and Edgerton going at it in HD. Any red-blooded UFC fan – and there are loads of them in the UK, as it fast over­hauls box­ing in pop­ular­ity – would be.

Perhaps the chaste­ness of Warrior’s MMA down to the fact that the two act­ors are just that – act­ors, not actual MMA fight­ers, let alone top-level fight­ers. So the dir­ector couldn’t afford to show too much. Or maybe it was because the gritty, obscene mech­an­ics of MMA were too much – for the bromantic storyline. In the end, des­pite the trailer, Warrior didn’t want you to think it was that kind of girl of course, and offered an emo­tional cli­max rather than a phys­ical or even visual one.

Though admit­tedly, any film star­ring Hardy’s lips can hardly be called clean fun.



In Defence of Jerry Lewis

Martin and Lewis were the hot­test male com­edy double-act of all time — who make today’s ‘bromance’ look like brom­ide.

lewis-martin-2

By Mark Simpson (Originally appeared in Out, May 2009 — but has fallen off their website)

Forget hair whorls, gen­omes, amni­otic fluid, older broth­ers, dom­in­eer­ing moth­ers or disco. I can reveal with abso­lute, religio-scientific cer­tainty that the cause of my homo­sexu­al­ity was just two words. Jerry. Lewis.

As a kid in the 1970s I watched re-runs of his movies, espe­cially the ones from the early fifties with his on-screen boy­friend Dean Martin, with a level of breath­less excite­ment that noth­ing came close to – until I dis­covered actual bug­gery in the 1980s.

Films like Money From Home where he pins Martin to the bed wear­ing a pair of polka dot shorts camper than Christmas in West Hollywood (1953), andSailor Beware (1951), where he is pricked by sev­eral burly USN med­ics wield­ing ever-bigger needles until he squirts liquid in all dir­ec­tions and faints made me the man I am today.

Earlier this year, after a life­time of being ignored by a cross-armed Academy Awards that never gave him so much as a nom­in­a­tion when he was mak­ing movies, Lewis is finally get­ting an Oscar. But not for his cute films with Dean Martin or his solo clas­sics such as The BellboyThe Errand BoyThe Nutty Professor, and The Disorderly Orderly – in which, mem­or­ably, he hap­pily hoovers with the appli­ance plugged in up his own ass – but for his fun­drais­ing for Muscular Dystrophy. It’s a char­ity Oscar – in every sense. Lewis is 82 and has had ser­i­ous health prob­lems for some time.

The Hollywood gays though were reportedly Not Happy. They had a hoover up their ass about Lewis.  Apparently some tried to block his Oscar because this ill, old man born in 1926 almost used the word ‘fag­got’ last year after host­ing a twelve hour telethon. In effect, the gays are run­ning down the street scream­ing Maaaaaaa!!

Likewise, because he isn’t him­self gay, and because his early nerdy, ‘retarded’ sissy per­sona has been deemed ‘exploit­at­ive’, Lewis has been almost com­pletely spurned by gay stud­ies, when really he should have his own depart­ment. If noth­ing else, Lewis Studies would be a damn sight more fun than Queer Studies (as long as they didn’t include the Telethons).

Certainly his films should be set texts.

But it was his anarchic early 1950s TV shows with Martin when a twenty-something Lewis was at his queerest and gid­di­est. Their heads so close together in those tiny 50s cath­ode ray tubes, gaz­ing into each other’s eyes, rub­bing noses, occa­sion­ally steal­ing kisses from one another or lick­ing each other’s necks to shrieks of scan­dal­ized pleas­ure from the audi­ence. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And were adored for it – lit­er­ally chased down the street by crowds of scream­ing young women and not a few men (espe­cially pop­u­lar with sail­ors and sol­diers they were the Forces sweethearts).

This half-century old double act from the homo-hating 50s is much more alive, much more flir­ta­tious, than today’s sup­posedly lib­eral and lib­er­ated ‘bromantic’ com­edy, which goes  out of its way to purge the pos­sib­il­ity of any­thing phys­ical. Next to Dean and Jerry’s sim­mer­ing screen-love, bromance just looks like brom­ide.

Whatever the nature of his off-screen sexu­al­ity, Lewis’ com­edy part­ner­ship with Martin, the most suc­cess­ful of all time, along with most of their best gags, was based around the matter-of-fact, unspoken assump­tion that they were a couple.

Their very first TV show opens with our boys arriv­ing at a posh ball full of Waspy straight couples being announced: ‘Mr & Mrs Charles Cordney!’, ‘Mr and Mrs Walter Christiandom!’.  And then: ‘Mr Martin and Mr Lewis!’.  The dago and the jew. Setting the tone for their series, Lewis promptly trashes the place with his nervey-nerdy slapstick.

The Martin and Lewis part­ner­ship was queer punk rock before even rock and roll had been inven­ted, trash­ing nor­mal­ity right in the liv­ing rooms of 1950s America, cour­tesy of Colgate. No won­der they’ve been almost forgotten.

They should never have exis­ted.  True, the expli­cit­ness of their pair­ing depended on the offi­cial ‘inno­cence’ of the times, and the nos­tal­gia for buddy­dom in post-war America, allow­ing the audi­ence to enjoy the out­rageous queer­ness of what was going on without hav­ing to think too much about it. Literally laugh­ing it off.

But offi­cial inno­cence is a mis­chiev­ous comedian’s gift-horse. A skit depict­ing (fic­tion­ally) how Martin and Lewis (or ‘Ethel’ and ‘Shirley’ as they called one another) met cli­maxes with them being trapped in the closet together – pushed together mouth to mouth, crotch to crotch, by Martin’s vast, vain col­lec­tion of pad­ded jack­ets. In another skit our boys end up shar­ing a bed with Burt Lancaster play­ing an escaped hom­icidal maniac: Jerry: ‘Boy, Dean, these one night stands are moider!’

Moider was exactly what they got away with.  In a skit set in prison, Jerry’s bunk col­lapses on Martin below. ‘What are you doing?’ asks Martin. ‘I felt loinesome,’ replies Lewis.

Lewis’ on-screen queer­ness may have been just a phase – but what a phase! It was so unruly, so indefin­able, so crazy, so tick­lish, so exhil­ar­at­ing that gays – and prob­ably most people today – don’t know what to do with it.  Or where to put it.  It’s a bit scary, frankly.

But that – in addi­tion to still being piss your pants funny – is pre­cisely what is so great about it. And why I still think clas­sic Lewis is as much fun as sodomy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An exploi­sion of D&J kisses in this cheeky and charm­ing clip painstak­ing com­piled by a YouTube fan.


The noise made by the audi­ence when Dean falls on top of Jerry in the bath wouldn’t be heard again until Elvis shook his pelvis.

 

Jerry joins the Navy, gets some big pricks, and then sprays everywhere.

 

Dean and Jerry join the Army as para­troop­ers. Watch Dean’s eyes dur­ing the blanket scene.

‘I was loinesome.’

 

A slightly fic­tion­lised account of how our boys met, com­plete with closet clinch climax.

 

Never been kissed… Yeah, right.


Special thanks to Elise Moore and Hannah for shar­ing their pash­ern­ate love of Dean & Jerry — and remind­ing me of mine.

It’s Humpday For Masculinity

The trouble with very smart dames who ‘get’ what’s happened to the male of the spe­cies is that they threaten to put this par­tic­u­lar one out of work.

Over at the HuffPo Caroline Hagood has writ­ten an annoy­ingly good piece about Lynn Shelton’s bromance-dissecting movie Humpday, about two straight male bud­dies who decide to make a gay porno together as a kind of dude dare.  I’ve yet to see Humpday, but sort of feel that I don’t need to as I appeared in it — hav­ing notori­ously allowed myself to be dared into join­ing in the action by some mil­it­ary dudes when when research­ing a piece about (mostly straight) US para­troop­ers mak­ing gay porn.

Unusually for a journ­al­ist, Hagood under­stands exactly where mas­culin­ity is today:

Hovering some­where between the het­ero­sexual and the homo­sexual is mod­ern male sexu­al­ity — with its met­ro­sexu­al­ity and bromances — in all its ambigu­ous splendor.

Just as unusu­ally, she also under­stands metrosexuality.

.… the word describes the man whose sexu­al­ity is more linked to urb­an­ism and con­sumer­ism than it is to either gender or sexual pro­cliv­ity. A post-sexual, he is no longer homo or hetero, but just metro.

Most use­fully of all though she artic­u­lates very well the essen­tial anxi­ety of ‘bromance’, and how it is in effect set against the very thing it appears to be cel­eb­rat­ing:

…there are two oppos­ing forces that are power­ing films of late: an intense desire to pay trib­ute to the unique rela­tion­ship that exists between men and an equally intense fear that this rela­tion­ship may con­tain homo­sexual under­tones. The res­ult of these war­ring impulses are films like Humpday that blow open the dread and dis­gust sur­round­ing homo­philia that Hollywood strives to keeps under wraps in its aver­age bromance flick. In the end, Shelton’s movie just may func­tion as a mass ther­apy ses­sion for all the Judd Apatows of the world who live in ter­ror of their bro-love.

I’d like to find some­thing to dis­agree with, if only so as not to become com­pletely irrel­ev­ant, but aside from per­haps some aca­demic quib­bling about the con­tinu­ity between the dandy and the met­ro­sexual, I can’t really think of anything.

Lewis & Martin’s 50’s Love Makes Today’s Bromance Look Like Bromide

lewis-martin-2

This month’s Outfeatures a column by yours truly, called ‘In Defense of Jerry Lewis’, explain­ing how my child­hood love for early Lewis made me the man I am today — and why his anarchic com­edy part­ner­ship with Dean Martin in the ‘repressed’ 1950s was a kind of queer punk rock before even rock and roll had been invented:

Their heads were so close together in those tiny ‘50s cathode-ray tubes — gaz­ing into each other’s eyes, rub­bing noses, occa­sion­ally steal­ing kisses or lick­ing each other’s neck to shrieks of scan­dal­ized pleas­ure from the audi­ence. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And they were adored for it — lit­er­ally chased down the street by crowds of scream­ing women and not a few men…’.      (‘In Defense of Jerry Lewis’)

Though these clips below prob­ably explain it all rather better.

They also show how com­pared to Martin and Lewis, today’s much vaunted ‘bromance’ com­ed­ies are more akin to brom­ide. Lesbian bed death without the hon­ey­moon. Instead of going out of their way to purge their stage romance of any hint of pas­sion or any­thing phys­ical in the way that annoy­ingly self-conscious, college-educated 21st Century buddy com­ed­ies do (the word ‘bromance’ itself sug­gests that any hint of erot­ics would be akin to incest), Martin and Lewis’ blue-collar, mid-century love-affair con­stantly injects it. Flags it up. And slaps your face with it. Theirs is lit­er­ally a much more tick­lish affair. And a shit­load fun­nier for it.

What’s more, it looks very con­vin­cing.

(Oh, and yes, it may be that I still feel fond of Jerry Lewis because his telethons never made it to the UK.…)

An exploi­sion of D&J kisses in this cheeky and charm­ing clip painstak­ing com­piled by a YouTube fan.

‘It’s phys­ical attraction.’


The noise made by the audi­ence when Dean falls on top of Jerry in the bath wouldn’t be heard again until Elvis shook his pel­vis.


Jerry gets some big pricks in the Navy and then sprays every­where.


Dean and Jerry join the Army as para­troop­ers. Watch Dean’s eyes dur­ing the blanket scene.

‘I was loinesome.‘



Spot a (very tiny-looking) James Dean giv­ing a boxer a rub-down while scop­ing the com­pet­i­tion.


A slightly fic­tion­lised account of how our boys met, com­plete with closet clinch cli­max.


Never been kissed… Yeah, right.



Special thanks to the Canadian play­wright Elise Moore and Hannah for re-kindling my unhealthy Lewisian love-affair, offer­ing insight­ful obser­va­tion — and send­ing me some really great YouTube Martin & Lewis love.


Male Bisexuality: Is it Cool?

Rachel Kramer Bussel at The Daily Beast thinks that male bisexu­al­ity has become ‘cool’.

…whereas bisexual women had their fling with pop cul­ture in the 1990s-when every­one from Drew Barrymore to Madonna messed around with women, not to men­tion the fam­ous Vanity Fair cover show­ing Cindy Crawford shav­ing k.d. lang-“bromances” are now the driv­ing force behind Hollywood com­ed­ies and Style sec­tion fea­tures, as men find more ways to play for both teams, or at least act like they do.

Examples are every­where. In John Hamburg’s recent movie, I Love You, Man, the gay guy who unwit­tingly goes on a date with Paul Rudd isn’t just played for laughs, but to some degree, sym­pathy. This sum­mer will also see Lynn Shelton’s buzzed-about Humpday, in which two straight male friends decide to make a homemade porn video. And Brody Jenner’s real­ity show Bromance blurs the line sep­ar­at­ing friend­ship and attrac­tion in what Videogum’s Gabe Delahaye calls “basic­ally the gay­est thing ever, made more gay by everyone’s des­per­ate attempts to provide chest-bumping proof of their heterosexuality.“‘

For my part how­ever, I’m not entirely con­vinced that male bisexu­al­ity has become ‘cool’, not least because most of the bisexual guys I meet are still ter­ri­fied any­one will find out — and I still can’t name off the top of my head a single out male bisexual celeb in the UK (aside from my friend the nov­el­ist Jake Arnott — but as a self-described ‘gay bisexual’ he is rather excep­tional). Whereas almost any female star under the age of 40 has to pre­tend to be bi–crazed or else risk that Nuts/FHM cover.

And the recent trend for ‘bromance,’ far from prov­ing the hip­ness of male swinging is, as the name sug­gests, almost defined by its incest-taboo-driven need to purge the male love affair of the pos­sib­il­ity of any­thing phys­ical, any trace of erot­ics what­so­ever, to a degree which male buddy flicks in the past didn’t, and in fact often went out of their way to inject: e.g. Top Gun, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Thunder & Lightfoot, Midnight Cowboy. By con­trast these mod­ern buddy flicks make me think ‘bromance’ is just another word for ‘brom­ide’.  Or les­bian bed-death for straight men without the hon­ey­moon. (The art­house movie ‘Humpday’ seems to be another story — and pre­cisely because it is another story, it is highly unlikely to be a hit.)

But we are cer­tainly liv­ing in inter­est­ing times, and the cul­ture is slowly — and frantic­ally — try­ing to nego­ti­ate, how­ever ineptly, how­ever decept­ively, the thing star­ing them in the face like the out­size erec­tions in the mandigo gang-bang porn so pop­u­lar with straight guys these days: male bi-responsiveness is prob­ably very com­mon, rather than the devi­ant, bizarre, incred­u­lous excep­tion (it cer­tainly was at my board­ing school).

The met­ro­sexual is also, of course, part of this jour­ney — and also some­times per­haps part of the attempt to deflect it.

But there’s a long, long way to go before male bisexu­al­ity is even approach­ing the same level of accept­ab­il­ity let alone cool­ness as female bisexu­al­ity.  A recent study pub­lished in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality found that the fam­ous ‘sexual double stand­ard’ has now reversed polar­ity and shif­ted in the dir­ec­tion of inhib­it­ing men’s sexual adven­tur­ous­ness while encour­aging women’s.  According to The National Post men are:

…more lim­ited by what is con­sidered taboo in the bed­room; hit by a new double stand­ard that expects men to be highly sexual, and yet expects them to be less exper­i­mental — while the oppos­ite is true for women.

The study, pub­lished in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, found that soci­ety accords men less “sexual lat­it­ude” than women, deem­ing it abnor­mal for a man to be dis­in­ter­ested in sex, to engage in homo­sexual fantasy, and to engage in sub­missive sexual acts.

The double stand­ard used to give men more sexual free­dom than women, but these find­ings indic­ate that the dynamic is chan­ging” said Alex McKay, research coördin­ator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada. “Men are forced to abide by a cer­tain gender role, while women are today more free to be them­selves. In this sense, the stand­ard actu­ally works against the man.“‘

I came to the same con­clu­sion three years ago in a piece pos­ted on here called ‘Curiouser and curi­ouser’ — based on my own very private ‘research’:

That women are being encour­aged to talk about their bisexu­al­ity as an enhance­ment of their fem­in­in­ity and sexu­al­ity is rather mar­vel­lous — but it also height­ens the double stand­ard about male bisexu­al­ity, one as pro­nounced than the double stand­ard about promis­cu­ity used to be (men were ‘studs’ and women were ‘slags’), and makes it more inev­it­able that male bisexu­al­ity — by which I simply mean ‘straight’ male sexu­al­ity that doesn’t fit into het­ero­sexu­al­ity, and boy, there’s a lot of that — will have to be addressed can­didly sooner or later.

The tidy-minded inhib­i­tions which keep male bi-curiousness under wraps are still power­ful, but have largely lost their social value, their attach­ment to any­thing real; they are mostly rem­nants from a Judeo-Christian (re)productive, world that doesn’t exist any more, except per­haps in Utah, every other Sunday.… When enough young men real­ise this — or maybe just the des­per­ate pre­pos­ter­ous­ness of the pre­ju­dice and ‘sci­ence’ deployed against male bi-curiousness — the change in atti­tudes will occur very quickly and dra­mat­ic­ally indeed.’

As the Canadian report sug­gests — and Canada is about as lib­eral and relaxed a coun­try as you could con­ceive — that day is not yet here.  However, the fact that such a study exists at all is per­haps a sign that that it’s com­ing closer.

Either way, more research is needed.  And I need a grant to con­duct some more ‘interviews’.…