"Hey 'brother', You Can Count on Me": Misogynistic Masculinity and Bromance Genre in South Korean Action Cinema

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Journal of Popular Culture

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The term “bromance,” a close relationship between two or more men, is a popular, global media narrative strategy. Early incarnations of these motifs cropped up in Hong Kong gangster films and Hollywood buddy cop films; however, since the 1990s, the bromance has become a popular culture phenomenon, complete with a subculture in which fans revel in re-imagining same-sex relationships between media characters or between real-life celebrities (Kwon, “Queering Star” 95–96). At times, showrunners and screenwriters respond directly either by referring to the slash culture in which fans queer existing literature characters or intentionally detailing more intimate relationships between the characters to gratify and stimulate fans' imaginations (Larsen and Zubernis 140). In South Korea (hereafter Korea), since the mid-2000s, a strong fan community comprised of mostly straight women authoring and/or reading fan-written gay romance literature has triggered strong industrial reactions. Films depicting bromantic narratives featuring A-listers fare well commercially, and audiences—especially younger women—have responded positively to the homosocial bonding. Based on the favorable fan reaction, a trend has emerged across the films. Bromance films feature narratives that “straighten out” close relationships between two or more men in the attempt to ensure that conservative Korean moviegoers merely find them brotherly. However, the films still include intimate moments that allow viewers with queer sensibilities to imagine a gay coupling.


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