Bro

Somewhere at the back of the Bro mind is the desire for the necessary but alas still virtual girlfriend. Unlike guys, though, girls his age often seem so damn serious and thoughtful … which comes off as too premeditated for the free-range Bro-ster on the hoof.

Forethought is not what he’s about; even foreplay stretches his patience. It’s more convenient to think in broad, generic strokes. To think, in short, pornographically:

Boinkable girls (that is, ones who are passably cute) are just so many stuffed toys in a libidinal shooting gallery. The capacity for a rich, stirring human connection is still somewhat beyond the boy in him. Like the fox with the forever-out-of-reach grapes, the Bro, somewhat pouting, always puerile, sours on women, all of whom he objectifies — especially for the sake of the other Bros — as ho’s and freaks.

Still, in the safe, liberal world of Academia where there are real gay men on campus, completely out and at times romantically linked, holding hands in the quad, waking up in each other’s dorm beds, the Bro Meister must adapt — though, of course, never adopt. He knows it’s uncool to be homophobic but worse to be homosexual. Thus, Bros engage in a mild, pointedly homo-averse form of joshing. A lame idea, for instance, will be called gay (“Man, these seats are so gay, I can’t see a thing!”) while a really great notion will be declared sick. (“That MILF is so sick, Bro! Ouch!”)

Sick is the great term du jour, overarching all the others. In its way, it is much more than simply the Bro update on cool. Newer, looser, it is the full equivalent to the unrestrained gay enthusiasm conveyed by “fabulous.” And as such, it’s a sort of post-Stonewall superlative for straight kids, owing its inverted, dizzy intensity to a gay revolution that these speakers never experienced except as distant thunder from a foreign horizon.

It’s important to note here the exaggerated sense of playacting that characterizes the Bro’s homophobic joshing. He does this knowingly: to telegraph to the listener that, homosexuality aside, he’s not a bigot either, just marking the territory in an increasingly orientation-neutral world.

True bigotry, be it racial or sexual, is seen as decidedly lower class, typical of the hostile Townies that surround the university, rating the ultimate put-down, the antonym of all things cool: Bigotry is assholery; its epithets, assholisms.

Outbreaks of bigotry rate the Bro’s favorite exclamation of befuddlement: WTF, the boy version of the more girlish pajama-party squeal, OMG. Recently bro befuddlement was taken to the max in a song by college-radio favorite, Amy Winehouse. Betrayed, misused and at the end of her rope, a warbling Miss Winehouse asks, “what kind of fuckery is this?”

 

Now the observant reader may have noticed that this is a piece principally about language — more accurately, slanguage. Language is one of the three principle ways a subculture or “status-sphere” (another felicitous phrase from the ingenious Tom Wolfe) creates itself. (The others are dress and rituals.)

Video games, comic book conventions, porncreep — these are the wellsprings of Bro Speak

Bro Speak, unlike traditional American hipster speech, borrows only minimally from the usual wellsprings of Americana — rock and roll drug culture, say, or urban gansta rap. Its main imagery comes from technology: particularly social networking, phone txt slang (a.k.a netspeak) and video gaming.

Rock music, as a shaper of identity, is a relic of the 20th Centruy. It has been eclipsed by nerdier, boy-specific special interests such as comic book conventions, porncreep (that is, the mainstreaming of certain elements of porn), and the sort of reality TV that deals heavily in humiliation and the swallowing of insects.