Culture: A golden age for young 'bromance'

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The Independent Culture

What distinguishes men in their twenties and thirties from men of my generation? For one thing, we were much less obsessed with personal grooming when we were their age. We didn't moisturise, we didn't exfoliate and we didn't make a "feature" of our hair. (I'm talking about straight men, obviously.) More importantly, we didn't engage in close physical contact with our male friends. Unless very drunk, we did not tell other men that we loved them.

That has all changed. These days, young men are more emotionally wrapped up in each other than they are with young women – a phenomenon neatly satirised in I Love You, Man (pictured), Hollywood's latest "bromantic comedy". The plot concerns the efforts of Paul Rudd to find someone willing to serve as Best Man at his forthcoming nuptials. Needless to say, he ends up forming such a close friendship with Jason Segel that his fiancée becomes jealous.

Various explanations have been put forward to account for the "bromance" phenomenon. One theory is that it's a rearguard action against the invasion of women into traditional male territory. Another is that it has emerged to fill the ever-widening gap between the end of male adolescence and the onset of maturity.

My own theory is that it's an indirect consequence of the destigmatisation of homosexuality. I'm not suggesting that the male stars of "bromantic comedies" are closeted homosexuals. On the contrary, Paul Rudd and Jason Segal are quite patently heterosexual. But because it is no longer taboo to be perceived as gay – and because so many homosexuals are now out of the closet – they are free to engage in the kind of male horseplay that, 10 or 15 years ago, would have made other men suspicious.

In other words, straight men are the unintended beneficiaries of the gay-rights movement. Because it is now publicly acceptable to be gay, it is equally acceptable for straight men to hug each other and say, "I love you, man."

When it comes to male friendship, the younger generation live in a golden age. Straight men in their twenties and thirties should organise a parade on Old Compton Street to give thanks to gay activists for liberating them, too.

'I Love You, Man' (15) is in cinemas now