The Lame Bro Archetype We’re Tired Of Seeing In Movies

Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
Here’s a movie I’ve seen too many times: A collection of men — always white, funny, and charmingly scruffy — need a weekend away. These are guys who live utterly comfortable lives but are also somehow suffocating; their girlfriends are too shrill, their office jobs too arduous. Under the guise of a graduation or a bachelor party, a bacchanal is penciled into their iCals. All they need is a 72-hour hall pass to restore equilibrium in their lives, three days to swap kids for cocaine or wives for weed.

Joshy follows this familiar archetype. Thomas Middleditch plays a guy whose fiancée kills herself on his birthday, shortly before their wedding. He’s mourning her death, but the deposit on the bachelor weekend has already been paid, and it’d be a shame to let a good hang go. A group of five dudes end up in Ojai for hot tubs and bong hits, with brief interludes of playing board games and visiting dingy bars.

The movie’s traumatic premise is its longest-running gag. Everyone asks about the special occasion that must have necessitated this retreat. Bachelor party? “We’re not even really using that word,” says Joshy’s friend Ari (Adam Pally). Seeing as the weekend has been set aside for smoking weed and hanging out, it’s surprising that the movie tries to push an emotional core: All of these men are, in some way, working out their internalized ambivalence on screen. Joshy is mourning his fiancée; Ari is flirting with a woman (Jenny Slate) who’s not his wife; Adam (Alex Ross Perry) has a girlfriend who dumps him by Saturday morning; and it’s suggested that Eric and Greg (Nick Kroll and Brett Gelman, respectively) have normal home lives, making their energetic weirdness especially random.
Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
And still, something about Joshy isn’t working. It’s funny but it’s boring, mostly because it’s like The Hangover, but cast with several versions of the same character. Where Bridesmaids presents a collection of female stereotypes, Joshy casts five guys as the same two types of characters: the reasonable, bedraggled “straight man” in sensible pants and a zip-up hoodie, and the best friend whose job it is to make sure zany hedonism ensues. With multiple iterations of the same two character types, we hear a lot of same jokes repeated over and over — and it gets old, fast. Joshy's main characters cry, but they're the tears of man-children. All five characters are more or less exaggerated versions of one another: They have mediocre ideas about good hip-hop and jazz; they aren’t materialistic; and every time they behave badly, they mutter something about “not usually doing this.”

Nothing about this conceit — a bro weekend away — is particularly bad. But there have been enough movies about guys who need a few days of coke and booze to somehow “realize what matters” or decide they have it pretty good after all. It’s a dude version of Eat, Pray, Love: Eat, Flirt, Booze. Joshy trades in a zip-up hoodie masculinity that's a close descendent of the kind perpetuated by Woody Allen. Most of the main characters embody an “aw shucks” demeanor that falsely posits itself as anti-bro. Joshy, Ari, and company live this lifestyle for a weekend, not a decade, so — Joshy's logic goes — it ought to go unnoticed that they never use their humor to check their own privilege.

So, enough with movies that continue to rehash these tired characters. Enough with white guys whose boredom is slyly self-aggrandizing. Enough with this masculinity that pretends to be a well-read, progressive alternative to the labor of macho method acting and fratty, college humor. Enough of the boys club built on the idea that there's some kind of nuance to a man who wears slip-on shoes and needs to jumpstart his life with a few days off from his own weary ambivalence. Instead of producing another story about "meh" masculinity — another Hangover, another Drinking Buddies, another psuedo-Apatow dramedy — Hollywood should make movies about people other than the guys we're avoiding on Tinder.

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