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Why “I Love You, Man” is Probably the Most Important Movie Ever Made

I’d like to write a bit today about a very, very serious topic. It is one that I’ve been contemplating for a very long time. It is a topic that keeps popping up around the internet. I was going to save it for a different project, but I keep seeing it pop up all over the place, and I need to say my bit about it. I’m going to apologize in advance if my words offend you. It is never my intention to offend anyone when I’m writing, but there are times when it seems inevitable. Consider it a lack of talent, wit, and creativity on my part. I just simply do not think I can write about this without stepping on someone’s toes. It just hits way too close to home for me.

I reiterate: I am not trying to offend anyone. These are the opinions of a single, straight man, and as such come with the slant and perspective. It is a limited viewpoint. I don’t claim to speak with the wisdom of all knowledge.

Let’s Talk About “Bromance”

IloveyoumandoodleOne of my favorite movies is I Love You, Man, a comedy about the close, heart-wrenching love between two heterosexual men. It is the story of a guy with no friends, Peter (Played by almost universally underrated Paul Rudd), who finds himself desperately in search of male companionship. He has a fully stable romantic relationship with his fiancé Zooey (Rashida Jones), and seems to get along well with her friends. He isn’t concerned with his lack of guy friends until he realizes that everyone else thinks he’s a freak. This sets him on a group of whacky adventures until him meets the Manic Pixie Dream Girl Dude in the form of Sydney Fife (the Brilliantly Talented Jason Segel). Sydney breaks Peter out of his shell of well-meaning but boring Realtor and boyfriend and helps him discover his own passions again. They hang out doing stupid guy stuff like screaming at strangers and listening to a ridiculous amount of Rush. Eventually, because this movie does follow the traditional Rom-Com Formula, they have a misunderstanding that separates them, finally culminating in their reunion and declarations of love for one another.

Analytically, the movie is pretty funny, Paul Rudd and Jason Segel are great in their roles. Rashida Jones does an amazing job of playing the supporting part that would normally be the slacker best friend in a more traditional Rom-Com. It does a lovely job of turning the ideas of romance on their side, switching out some of the more traditional roles to fit a clever and ironic view of human relationships.

I’m not saying that this movie is an Oscar winner, but it should have been. I Love You, Man did something that I have never seen in any other film.

It told the story of the exceptional closeness that two men can feel without trying to imply that there was anything inherently effeminate or homoerotic in the subtext. It let two men love each other without feeling the need to make an excuse.

Like Brothers

Many of you know that I have a best friend. He is a giant prick most of the time, but I put up with him because I love him. It is a completely plutonic love. If I were gay, I’d like to think I’d have better taste than to date him, and I’m pretty sure I’m way too fat and hairy to ever be in his sex radar. None of that means that I wouldn’t take a bullet for him, or for that mater, stab someone with a #2 lead pencil for him. I have no hesitation when telling him my darkest secrets, and I only judge him the littlest bit when he tells me his. The fact that he might be moving away soon is actually terrifying to me. Losing him would feel very similar to when my wife left me years ago. A part of me would die. As I write this, I realize that I’ve been avoiding hanging out with him because I’m unwilling to admit that he’s leaving…

I love my friend. He is a part of who I am, and I like to think that I am at least a passing voice inside his head at times. Our relationship is very complicated.

That’s why it bothers me when close male relationships are portrayed as jokes in movies and television. That’s why I am bothered by slash fic and rants about “queer baiting.” I’m not going to say that there aren’t shows out there that are purposefully using innuendo of homosexual relationships to draw in a broader audience, I’m not naïve. I’m not saying that there aren’t shows out there that the writers strongly imply a gay relationship but don’t have the balls, or the network permission to just come out and say it. I’m not saying it is wrong for fandom to fantasize about homosexual relationships between characters, or at least not any worse than it is for fandom to fantasize about heterosexual relationships between characters. I have to admit, I get a little nervous around any zealous One-True-Pairing shippers. As I try to become a writer, I get timid about the idea that one day the story will be bigger than what I control. I guess I’m okay with that in general. It implies that I think I’m capable of writing something that might one day be worthy of fandom.

What bothers me is when devotion to a friend is used as justification for a relationship that doesn’t make any sense. I see it a lot in the geek community, and I normally keep quiet about it because one of the wonderful things about fandom is the fact that it is simultaneously a shared community experience and at the same time very personal. Who am I to tell you how to enjoy your personal fantasies and fandoms?

I’m not making a plea for you to stop enjoying things the way you wan to enjoy them. I’m asking you to understand why I am offended by your outrage.

Imagine this Scenario:

You have a pair of monster hunting adventurers. They are desperately devoted to one another, but always in a plutonic way. They occasionally have a romantic interlude on the side, but if ever forced to chose between their lover and their partner, they travel on together to the next monster to slay. They share everything with each other. They have an emotional bond that couldn’t be broken by a million screaming wyverns. They trust each so completely that they instinctively know when the other is only pretending to betray them, no matter how much evidence to the contrary. The devotion they have is so complete that one of them can be brought back from demon reaches of hell by the sheer love of the other.

Fan fiction writers are going to ship them. It’s inevitable. Fans want them to develop a romantic connection and break all the sexual tension!

This is where it becomes offensive to me.

More often than not, fandom creates the sexual tension with their own desires. They read into the characters what they want to read into them. I’m guilty, too. If this couple was played by Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day, I’d probably be like, “They should bang!” If those characters were played by Channing Tatum and Lou Ferrigno, a differently inclined geek would probably be like, “They should bang!”

But… why?

If their characters have no reason to be sexually attracted to each other, isn’t it offensive to imply otherwise? For example, wouldn’t it bother you if it was a man and a woman, and one of them was gay. If you put them together as a pairing, you’d be saying that it isn’t okay for the one to be gay. That would be offensive to the gay community, wouldn’t it?

We need, as a society, to accept that sexuality is not a inherently an ingredient in love. We need to realize that love is love.

When I see people getting upset because two straight male characters are emotionally close to each other, it is almost always referred to as queer baiting. To me, this is offensive. It seems like something that should be offensive to all of us. It implies that there is something inherently homosexual about emotional connections. It implies that you can’t have emotions and be straight. By contrast it says that being emotionally distant is inherently straight. Worse, even, is that I almost exclusively see it applied to two men, never two women. This to me screams that our society judges emotional connection as inherently feminine.

Am I wrong to be upset by this?

Am I wrong to be bothered by the idea that we’ve taken something and judged it to only be appropriate behavior for one set of people?

That’s what offends me.

Final Thoughts

I’m going to apologize again if I offended anyone. These words are just my mind trying to understand my own confusion and frustration about an issue that seems complicated. I feel like it is inherently wrong for society to tie personality to sexuality, just as I dislike when society ties character to gender. I feel like we spend too much time judging each other. In this situation, I think the obvious solution is to have more and better written characters of a wider and more diverse sexuality spectrum. I want there to be more art and fiction exploring all of the angles. I want there to be a wider view on society and culture.

I, personally, do not feel comfortable writing from the perspective of a gay character. I am simply ill equipped to deal with the realities of gay life. I don’t avoid having gay characters in my writing. I draw characters from the people around me and I have too many interesting friends that happen to be gay for them not to show up in my work on occasion. I have a similar fear about writing from the perspective of a woman. I’m always afraid that someone will chastise me for writing her as too masculine. I know I shouldn’t worry about that, who cares if a woman is masculine or a man is feminine. It shouldn’t be an issue. I just don’t have the experiences or tools to understand that perspective well, and I worry about it.

I do, however, have experience with a devoted bromance. That is a subject I can help readers explore when I write, just as gay authors can help me explore life as a homosexual.

I hope that one day, our media is full of these stories. Stories that bring understanding, not confusion.

 

 

In the end, I have to say, put I Love You, Man, in your instant que. It’s a funny movie that explores a truly important topic.

 

It is okay to have plutonic love.

Regardless of the genders involved.

 

Peace,

MB

 

PS: If you’d like to read a better written article on the subject of male affection in western culture, I’d suggest this piece by Clementine Ford.

Published by M.A. Brotherton

M.A. Brotherton is a writer, blogger, artist, and fat-kid from the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. He’s tasted a little bit of everything the Midwest has to offer, ranging from meth-tweaking rednecks in massive underground cave complexes to those legendary amber waves of grain. When he’s not writing, he spends most of his time screwing around on the internet.

4 thoughts on “Why “I Love You, Man” is Probably the Most Important Movie Ever Made”

  1. Aaron C. Meadows says:

    I’ll have to check out that movie. I do like Paul Rudd!

    One thing the world could certainly use is less judging.

    Sorry your friend is moving away, but you can keep that friendship going in the modern world of phone and Skype. I felt similar when Quinton moved to California, but I have a reminder in my phone and call him every Monday night at 9:15 to chat. In some ways, I feel closer to him now than I did before. We used to mainly just hang out and game, but now we chat about all sorts of things.

    Distance doesn’t keep friends apart, it nearly changes the way the communicate.

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      I should set up a reminder just to talk to anyone that doesn’t seek me out first. I’m a notoriously bad hermit.

      The modern age is a great for keeping in touch with people, and I’m glad you and Quinton were able to grow your friendship because of it. I have dozens of friends that I only know online, and some of those friendships mean more to me than the locals. There is just something about being able to sit on the hood of a car on a summer night and bitch about life, though, that would be sad to lose.

      But, yes, if it came down to it, I could sit on a computer on or my phone on a summer night and drink the wine for both of us.

  2. Tracy Mangold says:

    I’m really sorry about your friend moving away and I totally get the “staying away” from him thing. I do the same when people are leaving or getting ready to go away. I push them away first because it hurts too much to face the fact that they are leaving and then, I might lose it. It’s a wall. A protective blanket. I miss our friends from college. Where we live now, Jess does not have any close guy friends. Our friends are all the same and I feel bad that he doesn’t have a close pal. We had that in Montana. But here – it’s all about bars and beer and that sort of thing and that is not us. And we like to do things together. I have to watch “I love you, man” again as I didn’t care for it the first time. Probably because the person who recommended it – drove me bonkers. But because of you, I shall give it another chance. I did like the cast though. In this day and age we want to put labels on things. Two friends can’t be close without there being the suggestion of – are they or aren’t they? Why can’t they just be close friends? Why must there be labels on everything? I could go on and on. I’m sorry – very sorry I’ve been away from commenting on your blog. I’m floating around it seems and trying to find my way back to “being online” and socializing. I’m always here though. Hugs, friend.

    1. M.A. Brotherton says:

      Please do! I hope that you enjoy it!

      It turns out my friend probably isn’t moving away afterall. I’m very relieved.

      The idea of a One True Pairing has been bothering me lately. I used to believe in true love, and for a while, I didn’t believe in any love. Now, I think I’m starting to believe that lvoe is not a state of being, but a state of doing. Love is a thing you work at. It doesn’t just happen.

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