I have a brother but he’s not my bro, at least by the contemporary definition. My sibling and I are biologically brothers but neither of us fall into what the NPR Codeswitch blog described as the four rudimentary characteristics of “bro-iness”— jockish, dudely, stoner-ish and preppy.
There are as many ways to define bros and brahs as there are bros and brahs at your local frat house. Oxford Dictionary writer Katherine Connor Martin sums it up simply as “a conventional guy’s guy who spends a lot of time partying with other young men like himself.” The urban dictionary isn’t quite as elegant, describing bros as ”obnoxious partying males who are often seen at college parties… [standing] around holding a red plastic cup waiting for something exciting to happen so they can scream something that demonstrates how much they enjoy partying”
This weekend Zac Efron and Adam DeVine play brothers who are also bros in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Based on the real-life exploits of Mike and Dave Stangle, the guys get out-broed at their sister’s Hawaiian wedding by broettes Tatiana and Alice (Aubrey Plaza and Anna Kendrick).
In real life Mike, Dave, Tatiana and Alice are the kind of people it might be fun to hang out with before ten o’clock at night, before the tequila shots and samplings from the mystery medicine cabinet have taken effect. After that, all bets are off. Luckily in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, like so many bro movies before it, the screen separates us and we can sit back and observe them like cultural anthropologists, as if we’re studying animals in a zoo.
Hollywood has long had a bromance with bros. Lately in movies like Neighbors and Dirty Grandpa Efron has made a career of playing dim witted frat boys but to find the proto bros you have to go back to 1940. Starting with Road to Singapore Bob Hope and Bing Crosby cocktailed and adlibbed their way through seven Road movies playing two slightly skeezy men with boatloads of bravado and an unbreakable bond—at least until love interest Dorothy Lamour showed up.
National Lampoon’s Animal House was the next landmark of bro-cinema. From toga parties to food fights and doing The Worm on the dance floor, it’s a politically incorrect classic that celebrates the best and worst of bro culture.
A 1996 movie gave us the bro with a million catchphrases like “Vegas, baby,” “wingman,” “beautiful babies” and “you’re so money.” As Trent in Swingers Vince Vaughn gave a voice and brocabulary to a generation of bros. Jon Favreau wrote the script but many of the sayings came directly from the lips of his best friends and co-stars Vaughn and Ron Livingston.
No look at bro-cinema would be complete without a nod toward Will Ferrell. The comedian has broed out on screen many times but Old School’s Frank the Tank, a character who unravels after his wife leaves him, is King Bro. When he’s not doing beer bong hits (“Once it hits your lips, it’s so good!”) or streaking he lets his freak flag fly as one of the most over-the-top bros ever seen on screen.
Dean Wormer’s classic scolding from Animal House, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son,” doesn’t seem to apply, at least at the movies.