Straight people can be funny. They’ve proven it, time and time again. From the criminally underrated Penis Song in The Sweetest Thing to the diarrhoea takeover in Bridesmaids and Meg Ryan’s vibrating panties in When Harry Met Sally, people within that… community have offered the rom-com genre some of its most gut-busting and iconic moments. Well, they’ve offered the rom-com genre all of its most gut-busting and iconic moments because queer characters and narratives have historically been devoid. Not anymore!
The gay rom-com is officially on the rise – Love, Simon, Happiest Season and Fire Island are a few recent examples, all of which received heaps of acclaim. This month, however, marks the first-ever gay romantic comedy from a major studio with Billy Eichner’s Bros. Starring the Billy on the Street alum as Bobby Lieber, the host of a New York podcast and radio show called The Eleventh Brick at Stonewall, the film follows the character as he accepts a position as a curator for Manhattan’s upcoming National LGBTQ+ History Museum and falls for Aaron Shepard (Luke Macfarlane), a handsome “Tom Brady”-esque gay.
Directed by Nicholas Stoller, Bros is notable for featuring a principal LGBTQ+ cast with supporting performances from Ts Madison, Monica Raymund, Guillermo Díaz, Amanda Bearse, Jim Rash, Bowen Yang, Miss Lawrence, Harvey Fierstein, Eve Lindley, Symone and Dot-Marie Jones (check out our official guide to the aforementioned stars here). This alone is enough reason to check out Bros, but it has a lot of factors going for it besides its historic feats.
It’s hilarious, so it easily accomplishes the ‘com’ of ‘rom-com’, while the chemistry between the two leads – Eichner and Macfarlane – is magnetic. The characters couldn’t be more mismatched, however: Bobby uses his wit and humour as a defence mechanism to disguise the fact that he is, like most rom-com protagonists, a mess, while Aaron is a confident and ripped estate lawyer with a passion for hetero musicians such as Garth Brooks and Maroon 5. While the latter is comfortable with his sexuality, he isn’t as loud-and-proud as Bobby, who uses any available opportunity to highlight cis-het privilege and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. A lot of the humour comes from their mutual antagonism – Bobby’s sarcasm stems from his fear of being rejected for ‘masc4masc’ gay with a Barry’s membership (relatable) and Aaron isn’t accustomed to being with someone with such an outspoken nature. That’s the beauty of their romance; it shouldn’t work, but it somehow does.
Marketed as the “first” gay rom-com from a major studio, it’s a relief that Bros has not been straightwashed to appeal to cis-het audiences. From Bobby snapping a pic of his butt to send to a potential hook-up on Grindr to characters bringing the foot fetish industry to the big-screen, and – as you witnessed in the trailer – orgies, Bros is gay as hell. The supporting cast is also excellent, from Jim Rash’s unhinged performance as bisexual advocate Robert to Eve Lindley’s deadpan portrayal of Tamara, who may or may not have a hand in the rollout of Beyoncé’s Lemonade and, of course, Ts Madison, who steals every scene she’s in. What makes Bros so special is how it subverts and conforms to rom-com tropes. It’s gay, so there’s the subversion. And while conforming has always been deemed as a negative, in this case, it’s necessary and the entire point of Bros. Straights have long dominated the genre and those under the LGBTQ+ umbrella have failed to see themselves recognised as a result. If we did relate to a character, they were either being discriminated against for their sexuality, a one-dimensional caricature supporting the straight protagonist or, well, dying.
In an interview with GAY TIMES earlier this year, Eichner said “we are just so hungry as LGBTQ+ people, as gay men, to see accurate, multi-dimensional and genuinely funny and genuinely smart depictions of ourselves that we don’t get.” He also explained that it was crucial for the dialogue in Bros to reflect how he and his queer circle interact in everyday life by depicting gay people as “funny, sad, lonely, extremely confident, messy, brave, horny and hypocritical adult human beings.” While this film won’t resonate with all queer people – that would be impossible – Eichner fulfilled his promise: Bros wears its queerness like a badge of honour and shows that LGBTQ+ people can lead a rom-com. Our main character era: incoming.
GAY TIMES gives Bros 5/5
Bros hits UK cinemas 28 October.