There is a chance that you have encountered a person who thinks they know what "good cinema" is. As the two of you begin talking, you notice that they talk about big directors as if they were indie filmmakers and that they lack certain critical thinking skills when it comes to character analysis.
There is a good chance that you've met a "film bro." Actually, according to the BuzzFeed “Are You A Film Bro?” quiz, at some point you and I were probably film bros.
Despite what you've read online, film bros are not monsters who only value predatory and abusive filmmakers. Instead, film bros are a product of an American moviemaking system that values traditionally masculine genres and stories that are largely unoriginal. This doesn't mean that we should shame those who enjoy traditionally masculine genres or stories. Instead, we want to examine who the film bro truly is, and why they only consider these films in their film bro canon as "peak cinema."
Eyebrow Cinema breaks down who the film bro is, what makes the film bro significant in cinephile culture, and how we can learn to appreciate every film we watch in one way or another. You can check out his full video below!
What Is a "Film Bro"?
If you haven’t heard the term before, a film bro is a popular phrase that denotes a certain type of movie buff who gravitates toward dark stories about violent men and celebrates these films as the pinnacle of cinema.
According to Urban Dictionary, a film bro is someone who “views themself as a huge film nerd, while having mostly surface-level knowledge of movies.” Even though a film bro has just broken into the world of cinephiles, they tend to have an arrogant and condescending approach to films and filmmakers that fall outside of their knowledge.
In layman’s terms, they are baby cinephiles who think they have the best taste in films and will fight you in the local Denny’s parking lot to prove their point. The term is not self-appointed because most people who fall under the term do not realize that they are acting as if they are the expert even though they are working with a narrow framework for cinema.
The Canonical Films of the Film Bro
The films that make up the film bro canon have a distinct level of panache, and—in total fairness—are great films. To summarize the most common films which appear on film bro listicles, films that define this person's taste are a lot of Quentin Tarantino films, especially Pulp Fiction, a lot of David Fincher, especially Fight Club,and a lot of Christopher Nolan, especially The Dark Knight.
Other recurring films include Goodfellas, Scarface, Drive, American Psycho, Taxi Driver, Blade Runner, A Clockwork Orange, The Silence of the Lambs, and The Godfather. From these films, we can identify the trends within the film bro canon:
- The films are about masculinity within the confines of society
- These are violent films
- These are cool films largely due to the intoxicating nature of the filmmaker’s choices
- These films are morally ambiguous
- New film buffs discover these films while they are still teenagers
'Pulp Ficiton'Credit: Miramax Films
The Discovery of the These Films
As cinephiles and filmmakers, it is easy to look at this list of film bro films as entry-level texts to the wide world of cinema, but all cinephiles have to start from somewhere.
Do you remember how amazed you were the first time you saw Donnie Darkofor the first time? You probably didn’t have a vast knowledge of cinema at that time and were just discovering a world of films that treated you like an adult. For the first time, you were watching films that have a complicated protagonist that asks you to examine your morality without holding your hand.
Another aspect of the film bro canon that you might have noticed is that you’ve probably seen all of the films that fall under the film bro umbrella. But that is the thing—all of these movies are very popular and are extremely well known.
We at No Film School celebrate these films and filmmakers often because their styles and narratives are fantastic works to examine and break down. These are good films and are worth the hype, but the films are not the problem.
The dilemma has become less about the film bro's taste and more about the way they react to them, viewing specific films as "good" while largely ignoring everything else.
Donnie DarkoCredit: Pandora Cinema
What the Film Bro Canon Excludes
While the film bro can be a bit pretentious about their thoughts and ideas surrounding a certain film, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that we can all be a bit smug when it comes to defending our favorite films. Smug condescension and belittlement of others are bad behaviors found within all film communities that should be called out and challenged.
What sets the film bro apart is their narrow-mindedness. Even though their films are transcendental, their choices are limited and exclude a vast majority of what cinema is. These are a few elements of cinema that the film bro canon doesn’t make space for:
- Stories and genres associated with femininity
- World cinema and cinema about people of color
- Films that were made before the 90s
Yes, what makes a film "good" is based on subjectivity, but cinema is an art form that allows artists to be creative and experiment with traditional form and structure. Expanding past the films that the cinephile culture has declared "good," new doors will open you up to new narrative structures, experimental editing and cinematography, and the discovery of something unknown that could reshape the way you look at the art of visual storytelling.
A "good" film introduces you to something new, piquing your interest, and encourages you to explore new techniques. For example, I don't like Phantom Thread, yet I am aware of how breathtaking the cinematography is throughout the film despite the film not having a DP. That is truly amazing, and the creative collaboration of the crew is something we can learn from.
People who are narrow-minded might never get understand how wholesome and sincere Paddington 2 is, as it discusses prison reform and immigration through a pastel color palette. Or how profoundly moving a family drama can be in the chaos of the genre-bending film Everything Everywhere All at Once, which constantly pays homage to other great films.
'Paddington 2'Credit: StudioCanal
Trying to define what stories "count" as important is restricting, and only hurts the film bro. They are an unfortunate product of overly indulgent fandoms and our own snobbery with our favorite films. All they need is someone to discuss films with and possibly open up a new door for them to slowly discover the vast world of cinema.
I was lucky enough to take a film studies class in college and met people who suggested films to watch and talk about afterward. It is that first plunge into the unknown waters that can introduce you to your favorite director, cinematographer, or editor. There are so many creative perspectives to learn from, so why not embrace them?
Luckily, Hollywood is slowly diversifying, creating big-budget films with women, the LGBTQ+ community, and people of color in front of the camera as well as behind it, showcasing stories of intersectionality that could potentially render the term "film bro" irrelevant.
We shouldn't alienate the film bro simply because they haven't been exposed to anything else. Shaming someone's taste only limits them and pushes them further and further away from that door of cinema.
So, please, be kind if you meet a film bro in the wild and recommend a film that they might enjoy that challenges what they believe is "good cinema," and open their eyes to a conversation that they have unconsciously ignored.
Want to recommend some films to a film bro? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!
Source: Eyebrow Cinema