Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Now is not a bad time to be a straight guy. While most markets are disintegrating faster than Dick Cheney, the heterosexual dude market has exploded with successful diversification. You can be constipated by your own masculinity like Don Draper or an effeminate Apatowian weeping into a maxipad and still have throes of female admirers. In the forthcoming comedy Hang Over, Bradley Cooper, whose abs are more contoured than an upscale dildo, pals around with comedy schlub Zach Galifianakis in Vegas. Fifteen years ago, the same pairing would have Cooper tying Galifianakis naked to a flagpole and smearing his balls with mayo. But in a world where chicks are writing fan fiction about nailing Michael Cera, Animal House-era masculinity rules don’t really apply anymore.


As Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall proves, emasculation is comedy gold, but no longer a disqualifier for heterosexuality, or even unattractive to the opposite sex. When Segel’s bawling in his Hawaiian suite over his recent breakup, Mila Kunis, the cute hotel receptionist, calls his room to check in after getting guest complaints about a “weeping woman”. As he frightfully deliberates jumping off a cliff into the turquoise water Kunis yells up at him, “I can see your vagina from here.” Later that night they bone. Regardless of his figurative genitalia and what Mahnola Dargis describes as his “suggestion of an A cup”, Kunis still wants his pee in her vee.

It's acceptable to be a wimp and a heartthrob, especially in comedy. The jokes in these movies are formulaic, but funny, mostly because we have not yet reached the event horizon after which the idea of a mangina ceases to be funny. A dude does something traditionally feminine, his friends balk, he defends his actions with masculine authority, his friends make some sort i-see-your-vagina joke. If Jonah Hill played a guy going to Weight Watchers meetings, the setup would go something like this:

Hill blots the cheese on his slice with a napkin, then on second thought just peels the cheese layer off entirely. He pulls out a small black book and calorie calculator.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Um, it’s called ‘Bite it and Write it’, asshole. Journaling what you eat is the first step to discovering your triggers.”
“Maybe you’re not fat, dude, maybe you’re pregnant.”

The greatest victory of neo-masculinity is the Bromance. To bastardize the feminist idiom, bromance is the radical notion that men are people. They have emotions and the desire for close relationships, even when it comes to their same-sex friendships. It’s kind of about time. I'm serious!

The main problem with Bromance movies is that they typically marginalize the female characters. In Superbad, the bromosocial bond between Jonah Hill and Michael Cera was so strong that girls were pretty much an obligatory pursuit, one that was directed entirely by the penis. The girls are boring or underdeveloped, so there’s a trade-off: Give up fun for sex. In I Love You, Man Paul Rudd at the very least really wants Rashida Jones, but we're unsure of why. The two split up for a brief second after Rudd asks her, “Why are we even getting married?” and then get back together based on Rudd assuring her, “There are so many reasons I want to marry you,” without actually listing even one of them.

But I do think Bromances are generally good for straight male sociality, if only because they self-consciously carve a place for openly compassionate male-male friendship. Over on the televisual funbox, the first season of MTV’s Bromance had Brody Jenner repeatedly using the line, “You’re just not being real” to kick off potential brofriends. The dudes who he couldn’t connect with on a personal level, mostly the dudes who didn’t tearfully confess some family trauma during the one-on-one sessions and subsequently binge-drank were the ones eliminated first. Oh and the elimination round was always in a hot tub. Because seriously, nothing proves you’re straight like being comfortable enough to jokingly insinuate you’re not.


Molly Lambert said...

yes but isn't being competitively feminine just as performative as being competitively macho? I'm waiting for movies where the male characters are marginalized and the chicks get all the "LOOK AT ME" jokes. sigh...

Lauren Bans said...

It may be performative, but it's still not machismo. Which is good.

ME TOO. Maybe Crossroads 2: The Drive Back will turn out to be a rollicking girlmance.

Molly Lambert said...

that pic of jonah hill with the babes continue to make me so madddddddd. did u c ilu m yet?