“22 Jump Street” and the disappearance of homophobia from bromances

[Minor spoilers for the movie “22 Jump Street” follow!]

 

The main theme of the very entertaining “22 Jump Street” is “everything is exactly the same as before.” But the secondary theme is basically that Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Janko (Channing Tatum) are treating their professional relationship like a personal relationship. They say things like, “We do everything together,” and, later, “I think we should investigate people…separately.” It’s a theme that has been used a lot in movies, and if this film had been made twenty or even maybe ten years ago, there would’ve been an element of “No homo” to it: the two guys who are so close getting caught in a situation that makes them appear to be a gay couple, at which point they both vehemently object to it.

“22 Jump Street” doesn’t just leave that element out of its story–the humor is entirely from the way the two treat their relationship, not the relationship itself–it also pokes fun at it. In one terrific sequence, Schmidt makes Janko pretend to be blowing him to throw off suspicion about what they’re doing when drug dealers are about to discover them; when the drug dealer says, “It’s just a couple faggots,” Janko explodes, but not because he’s been mistaken for a gay man. He explodes because of the guy’s language. “It’s 2014!” he yells. “You can’t call guys ‘faggots’!”

As we track the evolution of the acceptance of gay people and gay lifestyles, movies are an useful barometer. There are still “no homo” jokes out there, but they’re getting fewer, and a movie like this one, though it may not be squarely aimed at the dudebro demographic (there is another great sequence in which Janko and a friend just say “Dude” and “Bro” back and forth), shows a terrific evolution of sensibilities.

Also it’s a pretty dang funny movie.

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