Reel Women: What’s the Opposite of a “Bromance”?
Most films that feature female friendship are more about the men in the lives of the women and how those ladies take solace in each other, but their conversations always revolve around men. We've had our "bromance" comedies, like 'I Love You, Man,' but what's the opposite of that? What's the term for a friendly romance between two ladies, as featured in 'For a Good Time, Call'?
It's hard to make friends as we get older, and movies rarely explore that concept. In 'I Love You, Man,' Paul Rudd is getting married and, at his fiancee's urging, seeks out a male friend to be his best man at the wedding. That's when he encounters Jason Segel and the two of them hit it off, embarking on a "bromance" that finds them bonding over everything from music to masturbation and building a real, honest to goodness friendship. But where is the lady version of this?
It's just as hard for women to make friends as we get older, and with the way the media often tries to pit us against each other by tapping into our innate insecurities and exploiting them, I often hear complaints from women that they just don't trust each other. That doesn't have to be the case, and a friendship blossoming between two women as they fall in platonic love with each other is just as plausible as it is with two men. We find it hilarious to watch two grown fellas explore this love because it seems so... well, girly, by societal standards.
Most films featuring lady friends revolve around their respective love lives. They go to each other to complain about the men in their lives and seek advice, and when we see them doing anything friendly together it's usually bonding over chocolate, PMS, or shopping. Women talk about other things! We have interests that are gender-blind! We have real goals and dreams and ideas about our career. We have feelings about getting older or dealing with late bills and figuring out how to make ends meet. We worry about our future and whether we're living meaningful lives. We aren't just tampon commercials and cosmetics and irrational feelings.
Enter 'For a Good Time, Call,' which seeks to redefine female friendships in film with its story of Type-A Lauren (Lauren Anne Miller, who also co-wrote) and free-spirited Katie (Ari Graynor) -- two women who hate each other based on one fateful college night when Katie drunkenly peed in a fast food cup in Lauren's car and managed to spill it all over her face. But the two of them are desperate for a roommate, so with the help of their shared gay friend (Justin Long), they move in together, and it's not long (at all) before they realize they actually have a lot in common. One of the many jobs Katie has is working for a phone sex hotline, and the business-minded Lauren suggests she start her own line so she can make more money. Lauren, who has always felt boring and plain, soon starts working on the hotline too, and the pair of them become inseparable.
It's a ridiculously cute concept with the potential to skew too saccharine or precious, but the film's clever dialogue and honest portrayal of two normal ladies just trying to make a living works. Over the course of the film the two of them begin to learn more about one another, exploring the way in which we use snap judgments to mold our long term feelings about another person. Katie seems sexually promiscuous and wild, but she's actually more reserved. Lauren's mousy demeanor makes her seem like the type to be woefully insecure and unsure of herself, but it's actually Katie who has this problem. It is, however, still saddled with the old female-on-female crime trope wherein the characters must slight each other in some way, but the film takes the typical catty behavior and throws some meaning behind it. We understand why these women are acting out at each other the way they are, and the conflict is thankfully deflated rather quickly.
'For a Good Time, Call' is an absolutely charming film from start to finish that captures the beauty of friendship in a way that feels full and meaningful, while still managing to be fun and pretty darn cute. Is it girly? Sure. But it's relatable and the characters feel tangible. Men can -- and are, according to several film critics and friends of mine -- enjoying the film as well. It's not just a new kind of romantic comedy -- it's also a great example of how we should ditch the term "chick flick" and stop telling women how they can convince their boyfriends to go see certain movies.
It's basically a bromance, but for women... What would we even call that? My friend and fellow film critic William Goss of Film.com suggested "ho-mance" -- and although "ho" can be a pejorative, it is a term strictly for women. It belongs to us. We can use it in ways that are harmless and don't seek to exploit or perpetuate negative associations. "Ho" originated as a slang term for "whore," and we all know what a whore is. In this modern day and age, terms like "slut" and "whore" are used to describe promiscuous women, or, more aptly, women we personally perceive as promiscuous -- just like Lauren and everyone else perceives Katie in the film. What's wrong with healthy promiscuity? These words are only bad when we accentuate them with venom.
So here it is: I, a woman, fully endorse the term "ho-mance." That is all.