Warning: Contains spoilers for Bros.
Bros has been marketed as a gay romantic comedy, however, the movie is so much more than that and it’s truly important. Bros was already breaking new ground by being the first LGBTQ+ romantic comedy from major studio as it clearly has Universal Studios’ strong support. The fact that the movie committed to not just representing LGBTQ+ romance, but also did so by giving Bros a cast and crew that is almost entirely LGBTQ+ themselves is a huge deal.
On the surface, Bros is a story about Bobby (Billy Eichner) and Aaron (Luke Macfarlane) slowly falling in love. Both open their stories as gay men who have committed to their single lives and casual hookups. However, in true romcom fashion by the ending of Bros, they have committed to trying a relationship with each other (at least for a while).
Reviews have praised Bros for breaking new ground, while also noting that it doesn’t necessarily feel fresh. However, Bros being a romcom that doesn’t feel completely detached from the genre is actually a good thing, and there’s a lot more depth to the movie in the stories that take place behind and around Bobby and Aaron. Here’s why Bros is a groundbreaking LGBTQ+ romcom, but also so much more than that.
For a long time, LGBTQ+ stories that make their way to mainstream media have tended to be historical pieces, biopics, or dramas. As noted in Bros queer stories have tended to be tragedies and portrayed by cishet actors in a bid to win an Oscar. Bobby notably calls out that even when telling stories of queer icons like Freddie Mercury, Bohemian Rhapsody focused on the one time he had a relationship with a woman.
There’s been a big shift in LGBTQ+ media in the last few years with it being less common for trans roles to be given to cis actors ever since the backlash over 2015’s The Danish Girl. In 2020, Happiest Season made news for being the first queer holiday romcom (coming from the smaller studio at Hulu), and while it wasn’t perfect it was an important step. If Bros is “just a romcom” with gay characters, then that’s great for the fact that queer people should be able to have awkward romantic comedies to enjoy just as much as anyone else.
Bros Highlights Forgotten LGBTQ+ History & Erasure
Although Bros is a romcom, there’s also a deeper and important essay hidden within the lighthearted film. Through the framing of the LGBTQ+ museum and Bobby attempting to represent the history of the community, there are plenty of nods and occasional rants about how LGBTQ+ history has been forgotten, lost, or deliberately erased. While some of this is highlighted in literal speeches that Billy Eichner’s Bobby gives about the evidence of LGBTQ+ relationships from thousands of years ago that are debated or just not common knowledge, other parts are simply contained in sad asides and are less explicit.
Throughout the movie there are comments about parts of the LGBTQ+ community that are not around anymore, occasionally acknowledging that this is a reference to the AIDS crisis. Two key moments for this come when Bobby and Aaron talk to the man in Provincetown who explains that of the seven people in a photo, four of them died not long after, and then again when Bobby acknowledges the people absent during his speech in the Bros ending scenes. While it might be a lighthearted gay romcom at times, Bros is working to quietly teach the audience about lost LGBTQ+ history, with several key figures highlighted in museum exhibits.
This is expanded on in Bros by adapting the awkward family dinner dynamic. While Aaron’s mother (Amanda Bearse) suggests that the children in her class are too young to learn about LGBTQ+ identities and history, Bobby challenges that. Highlighting how differently his life could have been had he known more about his identity at a younger age, he puts down the idea that LGBTQ+ history is something that needs to be hidden away until children are older, something particular important in the United States at a time when so many states are enacting laws that prohibit those discussions from taking place in schools.
Bros Challenges A Huge Number Of Relationship Assumptions
Throughout the movie, Bros challenges a huge number of assumptions that might be expected from a traditional romcom narrative. While there is some highlighting of differing trends between cishet and queer relationships and love lives, these differences are often just introduced without question. This takes a lot of forms throughout the movie as Bobby and Aaron don’t directly move towards monogamy as a default, engage with others in their community differently, and demonstrate the different ways that a relationship can be shown and mean without usually feeling the need to go “oh, it’s a queer thing.” It is, of course, worth noting that LGBTQ+ culture is not a monolith and that the depiction of Bobby and Aaron’s experiences is by no means a universal portrayal of all LGBTQ+ experience. As Bros is keen to highlight, everyone telling their own story is important.
Bros Progresses The Conversation Around LGBTQ+ Acceptance
Much of the conversation surrounding LGBTQ+ acceptance has been about how LGBTQ+ people are the same as cishet people and even more recent narratives like Happiest Season have focused on how queer people can come out to society. Bros manages to take the conversation a step further by saying that it’s not about being the same and fitting into previous expectations.
Bobby rejects Aaron over his request that he conceal parts of who he is for a family dinner because it reflects the larger request for the LGBTQ+ community to fit the mold created by mainstream culture. By pushing back against this sort of messaging, Bros highlights that acceptance isn’t about being allowed to exist because you’re not too different, but being accepted for who you are and being able to tell your own story. The former conversation was important for a long time, however, society might finally be moving past that point. While Bros is a gay romcom, it is also an important examination of LGBTQ+ culture and history that can be appreciated by the queer community that knows the details, LGBTQ+ people who are unfamiliar with the full history because it has been lost, and people who aren’t LGBTQ+ as well.