Now that self-proclaimed “nerds” and “fanboys” have emerged as villains in our great culture wars, it’s come time to reevaluate the “bro” and just why the word has become such a dirty one. Sure, you know you’re in bad company when some lughead can’t address you or anyone else without it, but what of the good and decent bros, the kind who can embody a breezy magnetism while also remaining kind and welcoming? There’s a reason we all prefer Stranger Things’ Steve Harrington over the show’s token outcast, Jonathan Byers.
Inspired by the hunky and lovable Peter Kavinsky of Netflix’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, Esquire conducted an investigation into this very topic and came away with some interesting findings. For one, bros don’t have to be, well, bros. “Bro” has evolved, now indicating an essence rather than serving as a mere signifier of gender. Also, bro is not synonymous with “jock” or “asshole,” though, as the article points out, the intersection is not rare. Writer Justin Kirkland breaks the bro down to three different categories—the Soft Bro, the Frat Bro, and the Stoner Bro—positing that the best bros blur these distinctions while also never leaning too far into the stereotypes associated with these types. “[T]he more extreme you are in your given category,” he writes, “the less likely you are to be a good bro.”
With the help of a chart he calls the Broton, Kirkland elaborates:
And that leads us to The Lovable Bro (TLB). What makes a bro lovable is the shedding of any particular moniker. Being a bro comes with an essence, an aura. A bro makes you feel at home, even when there are no other friends around. But TLBs are special because they manage to do it without alienating anyone around them. Where Drake (a Soft Bro, with a Frat Bro rising) falls toward the outer ring for his obtuse love of his bed and his mama, TLBs feel no need to disclose that at all.
Rihanna exhibits a laissez-faire approach to life, an understanding of what’s important in the world, and the ability to throw back a good, cold beer. But like a superhero or a farm-to-table restaurant, the ultimate quality of TLB is that he or she uses these powers for good. It’s a shared quality of the inner-circle: Peter Kavinsky, Michael B. Jordan, The Rock. Their attitudes highlight the best parts of the bro without forcing the worst trappings upon those around them.
Dwayne Johnson emerges as the quintessential good bro, while the likes of Donald Glover, Jennifer Aniston, and Channing Tatum also make strong showings. On the lower end of the scale? The cast of Entourage, of course, as well as Leonardo DiCaprio and SNL’s Colin Jost. Our only complaint? Terry Crews is drastically undervalued here.
See the full Broton map over at Esquire.