RIP: The Bro, 1976–2015

"Entourage" director Doug Ellin, far left, at the film's premiere (from L-R) Adrian Grenier, Billy Bob Thornton and Kevin Dillon at the Regency Village theatre in Los Angeles, California June 1, 2015. Entourage hits theaters June 3, 2015. Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

The Bro, a staple of American culture for the past three decades, passed away this week from a combination of social inutility, creepy sexuality and cultural vapidity, not to mention the scorn of many of his fellow Americans. A lengthy decline was brought to an end by the movie version of Entourage, which sought to highlight the continuing primacy of the bro but instead underscored his obsolescence.

Critical reception of Entourage appeared to hasten the bro's descent into irrelevance. "Watching the movie is like finding an ancient back issue of a second-tier lad mag," said A.O. Scott of The New York Times. The Onion's A.V. Club site awarded the film a D rating, branding its protagonists "one-dimensional sitcom Neanderthals." The Wrap compared Entourage to Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, the cruelest cut of all.

The cause of death was determined to be metastatic shame. His final word was reportedly "Jeah."

The origins of the bro are as murky as the water in a fraternity basement wading pool, but he is believed to have been birthed in 1976, in an article by music writer Lester Bangs. More recently, the experimental 1992 film Encino Man, which boasts an impressively low 16 percent approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, introduced the term into popular culture, where it proliferated like a bad strain of the clap on the Duke campus. It is not clear whether Pauly Shore or Brendan Fraser, the comedic duo that powered that little-loved cinematic engine, were themselves bros, or whether they remain bros to this day. Their current whereabouts are unknown, and perhaps best kept that way.

The Clinton years proved especially auspicious for the bro, as he came to symbolize an unencumbered, blanched masculinity suspicious of high culture, political engagement, social awareness and just about any other activity that could not be conducted with a pony keg of Natty Ice to the mellow tunes of the Dave Matthews Band. He was deeply homophobic, but also subtly homoerotic. His clothes were expensively pedestrian, his collars always popped, his "Coed Naked Soccer" T-shirt forever sweet. Unlike his predecessors, who worked in factories and fought in wars, the bro eschewed both responsibility and ambition, seeking only to hang out, have a good time and chill with his buds. His motto came from the 1996 movie Swingers: "You're so money, and you don't even know it." Shorn of its inherent sarcasm, this became the spiritual protein powder on which the bro nurtured himself. The world was his lacrosse field.

After 9/11, the bro became a curious symbol of a nation wounded yet proud, even if the denizens of that nation looked less and less like the archetypal bro with each passing year—an early symptom of ill health that, in retrospect, the bro should have heeded. Staring out from the catalogues of Abercrombie & Fitch, adorned in tribal tattoos and South Carolina Cocks baseball hats, the bro came to stand for the resilience of our collective ignorance, or as the bro called it, "freedom." He didn't know the capital of Pakistan but could name the last seven starting quarterbacks for the Pats.

It was into this bro-friendly milieu that Entourage auspiciously entered in 2004, celebrating insatiable sexuality, crass consumption and shallow celebrity. It was a sign of the times that the show was widely celebrated by respectable culture critics. "Let's hug it out, bitch" became the rallying cry of a newly unified nation, its missions accomplished, its greatness reaffirmed.

However, the bro has seen his stature diminish, thanks to a variety of factors that converged like Penn State tailgaters on a Saturday morning. The election of Barack Obama, a law scholar of African heritage, to the presidency of the United States was a stunning blow to the bro. So was the unraveling of Adam Sandler's career, along with the revelation that football is not an especially healthful enterprise. The digital economy, the rise of China and India: These proved unforeseen challenges to a creature best suited to pounding brews at Paddy Duggan's and arguing about whether Megan Fox is hotter than Olivia Munn (one of the more divisive conversations within the bro community).

Leonardo DiCaprio's paunch has not helped matters.


With sexual assault on college campuses now the concern of Capitol Hill, many have noticed that the bro has often been associated with an uncomfortably rapey affectation. Campuses from the Big Ten to the Ivy League have started cracking down on fraternities, leading to a widespread destruction of the bro's natural habitat. Some even fear that he may one day have to attend class.

And in the wake of the nascent national awareness of police brutality against young men of color, the bro has become a symbol of a recalcitrant white America that seemingly cannot be forced to think about any concerns other than its own. For example, at a Baltimore Orioles game following the protests over Baltimore resident Freddie Gray's death in police custody, bros could be seen holding signs proclaiming, "No Baseball, No Peace" and "Our Birds Matter." The bro thought this was a totally hilarious play on #BlackLivesMatter. Most people, inexplicably, did not agree. Perhaps the humor was too nuanced.

Recent campaigns against "manspreading" on public transit have only added insult to injury, keeping the bro from displaying his elephantine junk to all his fellow subway and bus riders and forcing them to read books or think thoughts instead. The big city, the scene of so many Fireball-fueled triumphs, told the bro it had once embraced to close his legs and pack his suitcases.

The bro returned to his native Huntington Beach, California, where he had lately developed a dad bod and male-pattern baldness. As late as last month, he was still hoping to coach high school lacrosse. Or at least assistant coach. He could even do the laundry. Whatever.

Entourage was supposed to help matters, to reboot his career in the manner of Tony Bennett, clean of coke, crooning alongside K.D. Lang. It has not. To say the film is awful is to give awful things a bad name. To say that it is crude, misogynistic and materialistic is to only say what has been said many times before. Entourage is an affront to the notion of human betterment, to any vision of history, Hegelian or otherwise, that holds civilizational progress probable or merely possible.

Entourage is a film where grown men have exchanges such as:

"I woulda banged her."

"Yeah, me too."

And say things like:

"Warren Buffett is gonna be blowing us for investment advice."

That seems unlikely, but the Oracle of Omaha does make a brief cameo in the film, so anything is possible. Also appearing in Entourage are Pharrell Williams, Jessica Alba and a depressing procession of slumming A-listers who must owe Entourage creator Doug Ellin a vital organ or 11. Yet not even the considerable thespian talents of David Faustino, that diminutive scion of the Bundy clan, can save this flaming airship.

The star is Adrian Grenier, who looks like a wax version of Adrian Grenier. Jerry Ferrara, as Turtle, appears stunned, for the duration of the film, to simply still have work in Hollywood, a problem that should soon enough be rectified. Kevin Connolly's lecherous "E" attends a Lamaze class, a scene meant to indicate that he is not a sex-crazed sociopath, at least not always. Johnny Drama, played by a bloated Kevin Dillon, was funny for the first 10 minutes—that is, the first 10 minutes of HBO's pilot of the show.

This, folks, is why they hate us.

Ellin, the paramecium behind the Entourage "brand," has in essence created the world's longest beer commercial. Worst of all, he appears to have done so in earnest, fully confident in his talents, whatever those may be. Watching this film alone, in a theater about seven-eighths empty, made me ponder the Nietzschean injunction against gazing too long into an abyss.

When I wasn't contemplating the pointlessness of human existence, I was hoping that someone would buy Jeremy Piven a suit that fits, as well as a shirt that doesn't have a spread collar with the wingspan of a pterodactyl. But that's what sequels are for, right?

The bro is predeceased by his younger brother, the hipster. He is survived by his sister, the basic bitch, and his older brother, the d-bag. His headstone will bear a simple message: "It's all good, brah."

Evidence suggests otherwise.