I’m on a lit kick lately, so you’ll have to roll with me here.
My junior year of college, I took an absolutely fantastic Victorian Lit class. I made some amazing friends and one ridiculously fabulous Dorian Gray video (there was singing). One of the subjects we studied was male homosociality – that is, the relationships that existed between men and how they are in comparison to the eras both before and after Victorian times.
Homosociality is a great love of mine — particularly with men — because true male friendships are really interesting, and the way men were/are expected to act in society is, as a whole, a multi-layered concept.
What has been really getting to me as of late is this idea in sub-pop culture (of which I am an avid fan) that no two close men in a given television or book series are really just friends. There’s a strange need to write fan fiction and create gif sets and just generally go on about an imagined relationship between these two men that is more than just friendship.
It’s not that it bothers me on any sort of homophobic level – I’m a strong ally, marcher in parades, and loud advocate for equality. It bothers me because there are so very few examples of quality male friendship in our culture right now, and it’s like that just isn’t good enough. Homosocial friendships have great and wonderful value. Two men can be incredibly close and not be gay. I do not understand why this is a difficult concept to grasp, or why it is one that must be constantly challenged. Instead of embracing it, the cultural move seems to be instead to transform it into something romantic, which really only serves to further show men “No, you can’t have close friendships. If you do people will think you’re gay. Two men cannot be that close.”
Take Holmes and Watson for example. They have pretty much the best friendship imaginable, and it’s a really beautiful relationship. They do not have to be in love with each other to make it a good story. They do not have to be fighting tumultuous forbidden feelings for us to appreciate how deeply they care for one another. Honestly, sometimes friendships are a hell of a lot more interesting than romantic relationships.
The bottom line is simply that friendship does not always have to be something ‘more’. Generally, writers have a reason for writing characters and relationships the way they do, and those relationships should be appreciated for the beautiful, complicated things they are.
Because men can be besties, too.