The "American Bro" Is an International Embarrassment
What the insidious rise of online frat culture means for the modern man.
Over the last decade, a type of semi-ironic patriotism has crept into the zeitgeist—or at least your social media feed—and there's no escaping it. It comes if the form of a certain loud and obnoxious white dude.
You know, the guy at the Memorial Day barbecue who snatches the aux cord so he can blast Hulk Hogan's theme song. He's the Instagram bodybuilder with zero years of combat service but who has more military-themed tattoos than your grandfather. He's the reason Budweiser briefly renamed its flagship lager "America" last year—and, chances are, he even showed up with the 30-rack of the stuff at your daughter's graduation. He's Ryan Lochte.
Yes, he is the patriotic America Bro and he isn't going anywhere—especially not now. In fact, he's having an explosive cultural moment, which doesn't bode well for the rest of us.
As Donald Trump seized the Republican nomination last year, the patriotic American Bro (I'll call him "America Bro" for short) seemed momentarily empowered by the candidate's America-first rhetoric as well as his comments about Mexicans (rapists), Muslims (terrorists), and women (the hot ones are good, but otherwise … pass). But Trump was destined to lose, and the American Bro was supposed to recede back into the darker corners of the Internet, relegated to the r/pol sub-Reddit and 4chan message boards.
But here we are. Two weeks ago, the Adelphi University men's lacrosse team thought it was a good idea to come barreling out of the tunnel before a game waving an American flag and blasting a Trump speech laid over some generic EDM. Lambasted and snickered at by liberals and the left, the team's behavior was embraced by the right as perhaps 2017's version of a Jock Jam. Barstool Sports posted a video of the team's antics to Instragram, where it got more than 91,000 likes. Wherever you stand politically, you have to agree: it was a pretty terrible way to start a sporting event.
'Merica Means Business. Big Business.
Here's the cold, hard, sobering truth: the American Bro isn't going anywhere because the American Bro is a money machine. A recent article by Digiday on bro content creators The Chive found that 'merica memes translate into loads of cash. The Chive, which Bloomberg Businessweek once called "Smut with a Smile," is a $60 million business. (They recently began selling a breathalyzer keychain that racked up $200,000 in sales, and they've inked a deal with Bill Murray on a line of goofy golf wear.)
Similarly patriotic and alpha-male-focused websites are exploding. There's Classy Bro, Bro My God, Bro Bible. One site called Total Frat Move, founded in 2010, has emerged as an explosive force in American Bro land and now boasts 1.2 million Instagram followers and 8 million total monthly visits to its site. According to the Huffington Post, it's a multi-million dollar media empire. So if you think watching videos of wasted guys wearing stars-and-stripes bandannas slamming through walls is really funny, good news: you're about to get a whole lot more of it.
Take, for example, this recent post from Barstool Sports. It's got all of the hallmarks of a great American Bro post: there's "America" duct-taped to a guy's chest, some minor self-harm, and plenty of the requisite beer-cracking-on-the-head, chugging, and spraying. Watching it will not only drop your IQ by six points, but it will also make you pray for the return of Bruno.
It's unclear if the video is original content, or, as I suspect, sent in by a group of overzealous fans, but as I write this the video has been viewed more than 2.5 million times, and has more than 100,000 likes on Instagram. And judging by the comments below it—"I'll be doing this on Sunday!"—there's only more coming.
Yes, it's Embarrassing
Just in case this wasn't clear: the exploding American Bro trend—and the larger Bro phenomenon—reflects poorly on the average American man, regardless of race or station in life. "Angry about 'Lad Culture?'" asks the UK's The Telegraph. "Blame America."
"Like hipsterism, which is imported straight from Portland and Brooklyn, the new lad culture also comes from America, courtesy of its first cousin, Bro Culture," writes Ed Cumming. "The Bros are the proto-lads. Baseball caps, drinking games, pecs. Over there, the Bro concept transcends class… Bro culture is a natural shared ground for men from a vast continent who might have nothing but sports and beer in common."
In other words, if the larger Bro culture is cancerous, it can't be removed by surgery. It's literally everywhere: There are tech bros, finance bros, political bros, hipster bros. As Jezebel brilliantly detailed, bros have swept across America and can be defined by geography. (I personally prefer the "Provo Bro, also known as the 'Mormon All-Star.'") Right now, I could be mutating into a new form of writer bro and I don't even know it. Now that we're living the era of President Bro, the question remains: Have we hit peak Bro, or will things only get worse?
The Case for Patriotism—and Civility
OK, enough hand-wringing. We're all for patriotism. We're all for enjoying a cold beer, too.
However, if you absolutely need to express your love for the country, we'd recommend a tastefully placed front-porch flag or—since stylish patterned socks are in right now—a pair of screeching bald eagles hidden beneath your tailored suit pants or Levis 511s. You'll thank yourself later. If you're gearing up for a date or interviewing for a job, you don't want your future wife or future employer to see you funneling beer on the beach. Trust us: they always look.
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