The algorithm knows I’m a man and gay, so I’m often served news about Britney, bodybuilding videos, and, more recently, nonstop ads for the Universal movie Bros, written by Billy Eichner.
The film’s poster features two men groping each other’s jeans-ed butts. At this year’s VMAs, Eichner took the stage to urge audiences to see his movie, gushing that the film “is making history as the first gay romcom ever made by a major studio and the first where every role is played by an openly LGBTQ actor.” Headlines called Bros “hilarious,” “history-making” and “groundbreaking.”
So when I settled into the theater last Sunday evening with a friend (and a bag of heavily buttered popcorn) as the trailer for the Whitney Houston biopic, I Wanna Dance with Somebody, played, I was ready to be wowed.
The film follows Eichner’s character, Bobby, a mouthy podcaster opening up an LGBTQ museum (cringe) and his relationship with Aaron, a chiseled lawyer with a penchant for group sex portrayed by Luke Macfarlane. (I won’t complain.) The two meet-cute in a nightclub and then must navigate the complex world of gay relationships, commitment issues and insecurities.
There are moments when Bros is funny—a self-deprecating lampoon of gay life. But mostly it’s a preachy, self-indulgent dumpster fire. At one point, Bobby harangues Aaron’s mother about the need to teach her second-grade students about queer history. The two long hours are replete with partisan finger-wagging, lamentations about erasure, and performative apologies from Bobby for being a “cis white guy.” Half of this alleged comedy is devoted to Bobby’s cranky monologues.
Turns out, I’m not the only one who felt this way: the romcom flopped opening weekend, earning $4.8 million, “about 40 percent less than the low end of prerelease analyst expectations,” according to the New York Times. Alas, Eichner blamed dismal box-office sales, in a now-deleted Twitter tirade, on “homophobic weirdo” audiences “in certain parts of the country”—which is exactly what we’d expect from the movie’s perennially whiney Bobby.
Here’s the truth: bigotry is not to blame for the failure of Bros. In fact, most Americans don't care whom you sleep with (or marry!) and have seen complex, three-dimensional gay characters on their screens for years, from Milk to Moonlight.
So what explains Eichner’s meltdown?