Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Sad Scarcity of good Bromances

This blog post was prompted because of the popularity of the new release, 'Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.' A big focus in this play is the heartwarming friendship between the sons of two traditional enemies, Harry Potter's son Albus, and Draco Malfoy's son Scorpius. 

Several fan groups across the internet believe that the boys' friendship is rich with gay subtext. They've expressed crushing disappointment that JKR and her fellow authors decided not to take Albus and Scorpius that way. A couple of crushes on females have been included for each of them, but several people call this a cop-out. Fan art and fiction to change this is no doubt being produced as we speak. This is just what I've noticed rife on the internet at the moment.

I can't help wondering if it highlights a bit of a problem in our culture. Why are so many people trying to read romance into Albus and Scorpius' friendship, just because of of its depth and sensitivity? Can't a pair of teenage boys enjoy a strong, affectionate friendship without being gay? Could it be because we see so few intense male friendships of this nature presented in literature and the media that so many people instantly assume what was never intended to be there? Even when I searched through images of friends for this blog post, I found an abundance of close girl friendships (hugging, arms around each other, foreheads together, smiling etc) but barely any for males. I'm thinking it must be high time to resurrect the 'bromance', which is defined as a close, non-sexual relationship between guys.

These thoughts prompted me to start searching through my mind for good examples of literary bromances. Although I came up with quite a few, I felt as if I was scraping the barrel. Some of them aren't quite perfect, and others are really, really old. But here they are. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 (Harry Potter, #8)1) Albus and Scorpius
It seems right to begin with the hot-off-the-press bromance that prompted this post. These two boys are a perfect friendship match on many different levels. First, they turn established patterns on their heads. A dark, resentful Potter hits it off with a sunny, optimistic Malfoy. Their fathers' history of mutual antagonism means nothing to them, because they take people on face value. They discuss sensitive, emotional issues with honesty and are both willing to admit that their life at Hogwarts would be unbearable without each other. When forced apart they are entirely miserable, and aren't afraid to acknowledge that they intend to always be there for each other.

This bromance even helps their families bridge their gap after more than twenty years. Imagine Harry and Draco having a polite discussion about mutual parenting challenges, and Draco offering Harry a piece of sound parenting advice which he decides to accept. This comes across realistically all because of their sons' bromance. 

2) Harry and Ron
You can't start with Scorpius and Albus without mentioning the Hogwarts generation that came before. Although they were often part of a trio rather than a pair, Harry and Ron shared a close, best friend relationship. They had their ups and downs, but proved many times over that their manly affection for each other extended to death if necessary. A lovable duo. 

3) R2D2 and C3PO
It's pretty sad when you have to rely on droids to provide a decent bromance. But these two are firm friends who travel together, look out for each other, translate for each other, understand each other and hate the thought of being separated.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer4) Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn
I admit I've never read these American classics. Being an Aussie, they weren't set on our school curriculum. But from reports I've heard all my life, I assume these two lads are inseparable friends on the same wavelength.

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)5) Frodo and Sam
I wasn't sure whether to include this one, wondering if their relationship is on quite the right footing to be considered a bromance. There is always a bit of servitude in Sam's attitude toward his beloved Master Frodo, but hey, I wanted to grab something.

6) Holmes and Watson
They are both intelligent, professional gentlemen who at least give lip service to a relationship of equality. Watson is always keen to tag along on Holmes' detective escapades to see what his friend will come up with next, and so he can say, 'You're incredible, Holmes!' And he never seems to find that smug, 'Elementary, my dear Watson,' at all condescending. Maybe not a perfect bromance either, but once again, I grab them where I find them.

Pride and Prejudice7) Darcy and Bingley 
These two seemed to be unlikely friends because of their different temperaments, but I guess they tick the bromance boxes. They enjoy hanging out with each other, they travel together and make sure to synchronise the plans in their calendars. And they've been friends for long enough that they make allowances for each others' foibles in a good-natured, eye rolling sort of way.

8) Hamlet and Horatio
The moody Prince of Denmark always had his best buddy to try to make things easier for him. Sadly Horatio's best efforts didn't make a whole lot of difference in the end, but at least he was always there for his friend, and Hamlet appreciated him. 
Great Expectations
9) Pip and Herbert 
These two are getting closer to my bromance ideal, yet Charles Dickens lived long before the term was ever conceived. These young men became best friends and housemates with mutual concern for each other. They looked out for each others' interests, and were totally trustworthy and comfortable together. But do we really have to go back to Victorian England to find a good bromance? A bit sad if that's the case.

A Design of Gold10) Michael and Jerome
I'm referring to one of my own published novels here, A Design of Gold. I worked really hard on this bromance between two young men who had nothing in common on the surface, yet felt thrown together in several different ways, until they realised they were more alike than either of them would have imagined. And it takes a life or death sort of situation for them to come to this point.

11) David and Jonathan
 I think the ancient biblical bromance nails it, and sets the bar high for all future bromances. These two were devoted to each other to such an extent that David declared Jonathan's love superior to that of a woman, and we all know David was definitely a red-hot male who loved his women. Jonathan's actions proved that David's opinion was justified. He was the Crown Prince at the time of the friendship. Even though David's rising popularity jeopardised his own chances of someday becoming King of Israel, that didn't matter to Jonathan. He remained devoted to David and his cause all his life.

If you can think of any more good bromances, please let me know. It's high time boys were free to celebrate their BFFs, as girls do. My son has a number of fairly close male friendships, so they are out there in reality. We just need to see them reflected in stories and art. Please bring them back into our stories and folklore.

To read my review of 'The Cursed Child', click here.


  1. Great post Paula :) The recent adaptation Merlin has a bromance between Arthur and Merlin, would TV shows like The Odd Couple (Oscar and Felix), Three Men and a baby and the movies Ted and Bill's Most Excellent Adventure count? Maybe Blaine and Jet in Adele Jones Integrate and Replicate? Or Phil and Oliver in L D Taylor's Motive Games & sequel. Also, Nick Hawkes' books have bromances, I think. And my (yet to be published) novels have bromances between Garvin and Mannok - and also Rokkan and Lukarn.

    1. Thanks Jenny, I love how you members of CWD are all working faithfully to re-introduce the bromance :) I've enjoyed the books in question too. (Most recently, Blaine and Jett made me sad.)
      And it's good to see them come forth on the screen, if not specifically in books. May it continue to keep on.

  2. My current favourite bromance is from a TV show: Hawaii Five-0. Okay, so it has the added advantage of a Hawaiian backdrop, but McGarrett and Danno have a great relationship.

    I've also recently read an excellent novel where the main (male) character has a close relationship with another man - two, actually. On that basis, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer qualifies as a bromance. But it's the only novel I can think of which does, apart from those which have already been mentioned.

    1. Hi Iola, from a prolific reader of novels like yourself, that makes me think even more I was on the right track. Thanks :)

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  4. I remember when the Lord of the Rings movies came out, there was so much fan fiction that created gay relationships between the members of the Fellowship, and it broke my heart to think that we can't accept close male friendships without trying to insinuate more to them (i.e., the gay thing). Legolas and Gimli became close friends, as did Legolas and Aragorn. And of course Sam and Frodo. There was a nobility to the friendships that I though was great for modeling healthy guy-to-guy relationships (this was before the term "bromance" had been thought up).

    1. Hi Stacy,
      What you've said really reinforces to me that these trends are repeated time and again. It seems those fan fiction authors will never change.
      I like the term 'bromance' and the way it combines 'brother' and 'romance'. It was clever of whoever originally thought it up. And you're right, they are honest and noble relationships. I think now I'll be on the lookout for them.

  5. You're so right, Paula. I find it frustrating that young men can't just be good mates without innuendo being cast upon their relationship, yet female characters can hug and 'mwah mwah' without an eyelid being batted. I loved writing the Blaine and Jett 'bromance' in 'Integrate'/'Replicate'. It was fun - THEY were fun! (And sad, too. Sorry about that. :( ) Good on you for raising this point and providing some great examples in your blog.

    1. Hi Adele,
      I love how you put that! When you google "friendships" and look at the images, the thing you've mentioned here is exactly what you find. Good on you, for doing your part to change all that. I love Blaine and Jett, and your fun in writing them shone through. I might challenge myself to write some bromances in future too. Thanks for setting the bar :)

  6. There isn't much... but this is all i know of
    Troy and Chad- High School Musical
    Captain America and Bucky- Avengers
    Batman and Robin
    Finn and puckerman- glee
    It's frustrating how people put color into close friendships because platonic frienships can still exist. I get the fact that they want to see that kind of representation but nowadays they seem to force it into stories just to stay relevant. People, whatever gender, can be bestfriends. Boys can hug and show emotion. We can't label them gay just because.

    1. Those are good ones. It's quite true, people ought to let male protagonists have their best friends and show emotion without reading anything more into it.