Last night, I walked out of the movie theater genuinely sad for the real gay people that live like Billy Eichner’s characters in his new movie Bros.
Homosexuality operates as a depressing lifestyle choice in the movie because the characters’ gay identities never go beyond unfulfilling Grindr meetups and first-date orgies. Like the “Nothing” in The NeverEnding Story, anonymous and polyamorous gay sex in Bros is the all-consuming destiny for the most lost and unhappy souls.
The film does represent couples whose dispositions insist they’re happy. But one gay couple invites a third person into their relationship, and the lone heterosexual pair do a ‘bottom dance’ with their children after the kids overhear a conversation about awkward anal sex logistics.
People are not truly happy if they do not find fulfillment in one partner. Children do not grow up to be happy adults when they experience aborted childhoods. Bros mistakes perversion for contentment and in doing so allows the sadness of a hollow existence to triumph.
By being sad and concluding with an ending less uplifting than the one in Schindler’s List, Bros is by definition a failed romantic comedy.
Bros, which opened Sept. 30, features Bobby (Billy Eichner), a cantankerous LGBTQ history museum director in Manhattan who slowly falls into a relationship with Aaron (Luke MacFarlane), a vapid lawyer with a penchant for open same-sex relationships.
Bobby, whose name is likely a nod to Stephen Sondheim’s romantically unavailable Manhattanite protagonist in Company, shouts in the film’s first few minutes that the gay rights chant “love is love is love” is a lie. He insists that queer couples are different than heterosexual pairings; it is futile to compare them as equals, he argues.
It is from this vantage point on relationships that Bros fails spectacularly as a romantic-comedy. The movie is not a slice of the gay experience told from the perspective of one person who evolves emotionally during the plot. Instead, Bros makes being gay only about having gay sex and quashes any contradiction to that message.
Aaron sleeps around and pursues pleasure to compensate for his unsatisfying legal career. But Aaron also values his family and tries to maintain a sense of decency by asking Bobby to lay off sexual content at the dinner table with his parents.
Yet in the Bros universe, Aaron’s few redeeming qualities need redemption. In a pivotal scene, Aaron catches a reflection of himself at the museum and then contemplates his unremarkable life compared to history’s great homosexuals.
Aaron’s character arc starts to change after this point. Clearly, Eichner thinks that Aaron matures as he becomes more emotionally available.
Aaron spends the rest of the movie becoming more like Bobby. His lifestyle is sinful throughout the movie, but the few traits and moments where he shows some regard for traditional values are overpowered by Bobby’s pink aggression. At the movie’s climax, Aaron is just another jewelry-clad queer in the crowd at the museum’s opening gala.
With that immoral compass, Billy Eichner’s declaration that homophobia explains Bros’ lackluster box office performance is life imitating art.
When Eichner reasons that a movie cannot be bad because it is about gay people, he imitates Bobby’s logic that love is not love is not love is not love.
Plenty of romantic-comedies about heterosexual people are dreadful and that does not reflect on the morality of man-woman coupling. If gay people are truly equal to straight people, then their movies will sometimes be bad as well.
To insist that gay or queer content is beyond criticism removes those groups from the rest of the population. It does what Bros does to its characters – it makes the rest of the population unequal to the sparkly few.
Perhaps sexual identity is not substantive enough to make it someone’s entire identity. Perhaps people are more layered than Eichner allows. Perhaps faith, family, and morality give individuals the structures to pursue and obtain true happiness.
Perhaps Bros is just a really, really, really, awful movie.