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Why do we use the term, bromance?

5 minutes read

- Written by Yubo Team

Yubo - Bo's Bromance

The bromance. A term used to describe two men in a close friendship. It’s a beloved and popular word, used frequently in our society. But, why do we feel such a need to use such a word to describe a male friendship? Why can’t male friendships just be friendships? The assumed need of a unique term to describe the male friendship phenomenon is in itself something to consider. 

What is a bromance?

You’re probably familiar with the “bromance.” If not, it’s defined (by actual dictionary publishers) as “a close nonsexual friendship between men.” It’s also a mixture of “brother” and “romance,” despite having no romantic intent. Bromance would be used to describe the friendship between those like Joey Tribbiani and Chandler Bing (Friends), Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of The Rings), and of course, Lloyd Christmas and Harry Dunne (Dumb and Dumber). It’s that ultimate friendship between men other people might strive to have, or, just love watching unfold. 

While you may hear bromance used more frequently while discussing famous actor pairings or fictional characters, these definitions of what a male friendship should look like affects real life as well. Boys and men alike feel as if they can’t form those close friendships due to what others may think of them. In a 2021 poll by The Survey Center on American Life, it was revealed that American men who deem themselves to have “no close friends” have gone from 3% in 1990 to 15% in 2021. While that may seem like a small percentage, a quintuple increase is a significant indication of the issues that might be plaguing male friendship. 

Who coined bromance?

Bromance had its first national appearance in the 1990s thanks to Dave Carnie, editor of the defunct American skateboarding magazine, Big Brother. He used this word to describe skateboarding friends who would have to spend a lot of time traveling and boarding together. Since then, the idea of needing to describe a male friendship as a Bromance grew in popularity thanks to movies like Superbad (2007) and I love You, Man (2009). Both these movies focused on extremely close male friendships who eventually both said, (unsurprisingly) “I love you” to each other. While connecting emotionally to each other should have been a heralded breakthrough, it instead was the punchline of a comedy movie. As displayed by Hollywood, men can’t just share their emotions freely. It always needs to be something to laugh at, and that’s a key problem of the term, bromance. 

But, why is bromance even used in the first place?

Why do we use the term, bromance?

Simply put, we use the term “bromance” because of the societal pressures on men when it comes to emotions and relationships. There is no such thing as a “sismance” – or when two girls are close friends – that’s just called friendship. When a girl and a boy are friends, it’s still just friendship. But, when two boys are friends, that’s when it’s no longer a friendship and instead becomes referred to as a bromance. While it seems like just a comedic title for a friendship, there’s a lot more going on behind the scenes. Referring to male friendships as “bromances” has an impact. 

How does using “bromance” limit male friendships?

If men were to share their emotions with fellow friends, they’d be seen as unmasculine. If men were to hug or show physical signs of affection for each other, they’d be referred to as a couple. It was so outlandish in the early 2000s media that two men could be affectionately physical with each other that Friends dedicated an entire episode to men napping together and the connotations involved with that. 

As children, boys can freely experience the emotions they encounter. But, as they get older, they’re discouraged from sharing those feelings with one another. They are conditioned to connect with each other over stereotypically “masculine” activities like watching or playing sports instead of actually talking to each other about their days, how they feel, issues they’re facing or what the latest is in their lives. In 2019, Movember polled over 4,000 men across the world about the pressures to “man up.” The study found that 77% of men polled believe talking is an effective way to deal with problems, while 76% of those polled believed that talking openly can provide a positive impact on their mental health. Despite those answers, 38% of men said they avoided discussing their feelings with one another so as to not appear unmasculine. And 21% said they just do not have anyone to talk about their problems with or would rather avoid doing so.

Friendship is an essential part of life, regardless of gender, and we should all be encouraging friendships no matter who they’re with or what they look like.

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