Love takes many different shapes across the landscape of a culture, whether it be romantic, familial, heterosexual, or homosexual. Lately within American culture, a ‘new’ kind of love has been appearing that has been coined ‘bromance’ — a heterosexual sort of love shared between two male friends who care deeply about each other, enjoy each other’s company, and share similar interests. By definition, bromance is little more than what has commonly been described as a memorable friendship in modern American society; you share a bromance with what would have classically been called your best friend. Bromance can be understood in numerous different ways though, when viewed from the perspective of different schools of cultural anthropology.
From a Functionalist standpoint, bromance might be considered a device used to quell social anxiety in light of the growing openness of homosexuality in American culture. Bromance then, is a social construction invented to redefine the nature of a heterosexual friendship. A functionalist would suggest that cultural or societal traditions are “integrated and interrelated,” so if one custom changes (i.e., a culture’s understanding and acceptance of homosexuality), other customs in said society will change accordingly to adapt to the initial change (i.e., redefining the mechanics of heterosexual male friendship). According to this definition of Functionalism, the term “bromance” does not represent any new form of relationship, but actually is a social mechanism to create a distinction between heterosexual male relationships and homosexual male relationships. It reinforces the classic aspects of friendship — love, caring, and camaraderie — as heterosexual, thus quelling any social anxiety regarding heterosexual friendship in light of heightened social sensitivity to homosexuality.
A Boasian Cultural Anthropologist on the other hand, may explain bromance as a simple product of cultural diffusion. Boasian Anthropology suggests that culture traits pass, or diffuse, from culture area to culture area. The way each culture area utilizes the culture trait is considered to be the trait complex. In the case of Bromance, it could be said that growing acceptance of closer relationships between males is a culture trait that has diffused from another, more cosmopolitan, culture area to ours, and that bromance is American culture’s trait complex for it. By the principles of Boasian Anthropology, bromance would actually be considered a new form of friendship, gained through diffusion from other culture areas.
Bromance is an interesting new facet of male friendship that has taken precedence in American culture in the recent past. Both Functionalist and Boasian Anthropologists may have different explanations for the nature of bromance in American society, but both approaches seem to take into account the current ambiguity of what the definition of heterosexual male friendship is and what it entails, and how it is changing our modern understanding of male friendship. The multiple facets of anthropology allow for numerous interpretations of the meaning of bromance in the sphere of American society.
– Cameron G.
 Conrad Phillip Kottak, Cultural Anthropology (New York: Mcgraw Hill, 2009) 67.