Mild spoilers follow. They will be already known to anyone familiar with the plot of this classic story.
Since I began dating my wife, I have sat through almost every romantic comedy under the sun. Many an argument has been lost as I succumb to another Lifetime movie or cinema flick starring Renee Zellweger, Sandra Bullock, or Amy Adams. Yet this past Sunday I was victorious as I convinced my wife to go with me to see “The Magnificent Seven.” But it was an easy fight considering one of the stars was her secret crush, Chris Pratt.
As I watched, I was enamored by the relationship these seven strangers cultivated through their small amount of time together after being drafted to protect a poor village from thieves. These men joked, drank, laughed, shared personal details about themselves, and grew in admiration for each other very quickly. You don’t get that kind of relationship between men anymore. In this day and age, it’s more about the “bromance” and less about the camaraderie.
After the movie we discussed how some in our culture will try to twist these male relationships. It seems like society deems that men can have one of two relationships with each other: Either they are in love with each other or engage in the twenty-first-century bromance.
What’s Wrong with Bromance
A bromance, of course, is when two guys hang out a lot and are considered too close to one another. It’s asexual, but from the outside could be misconstrued as something more. A good example is the show “How I Met Your Mother.” If you need actual visualization you can google their episode called “World’s Greatest Couple.”
A bromance is a close relationship without all the messiness of actually caring about anyone else. It’s about having a good time with someone who has the same interests. The article linked above says bromances are an awkward male relationship. They’re right—bromance is awkward. But not for the reason they think.
Male friendships have been around since the beginning of time. Think David and Jonathan from the Bible, Spock and Kirk, even Woody and Buzz from “Toy Story.” From the modern perspective these relationships are a little weird, even mildly sexual, because they’re so close. But this ignores the real reason these people and characters are so close to each other. It’s the reason bromance must die and camaraderie take its place. This happens in “The Magnificent Seven.”
At the beginning of “Magnificent Seven,” these men didn’t know each other. So when they decided to take on the job, a few also decided to take a “half day of drinking.” That’s probably about the equivalent of a bromance nowadays, since it was pretty shallow and just them having a good time together.
But as they fight alongside each other and try to train the men in the town, they grow close. These men begin see each other’s character weaknesses and strengths. So then, after they spend a long day of digging trenches we see them laughing and joking with each other while eating and drinking. They also begin to share deep, personal parts of themselves. The character Jack Horne stops them from joking about women to explain he had a family and wife at one time.
No Greater Love Hath a Man than This
So after putting these townspeople first and working to help them, these seven men start sharing intimate details they wouldn’t have discussed otherwise. Even the community recognizes that after seeing these men come together, work, fight, and help others, the townspeople have come out of hiding and are laughing again. They say they’re doing so for the first time since being oppressed and threatened, and it’s all from seeing how these men sacrifice for the community.
The biggest example is when the hired guns’ leader Chisolm gives them the option to leave. One does. But the others have seen what they mean to the people. They’ve stared into the faces of the children, and have grown to care for these other men as well. Ultimately, the one who left comes back and sacrifices his life for the town.
While these men are fighting and dying, they’re able to save the kids more than once, help the men from the town hobble to safety, provide cover for the other seven, and even put themselves directly into the line of fire of a Gatling gun to stop it. These are huge sacrifices, not something a hired gun would normally do for others. But as we have seen throughout the movie, these are no longer just men hired to do a job. They’ve become friends and comrades who ride off into the sun together at the end.
“The Magnificent Seven” shows camaraderie is not only men spending time with each other but suffering with one another and even sacrificing for others. There are many great examples of this companionship throughout history. The Founding Fathers spent nights in the tavern together but also fought mentally and physically alongside each other for a greater good. Our country was created out of a strong bond between men who stood up in self-sacrifice for those around them.
Really, no greater example can be found than in the military or men fighting in war. When men offer their lives for others, they have to form a bond in those trenches. When things get tough, these men who have laughed and drank together put themselves in the line of fire for the ones they call brother. When they come home, that bond remains, because they have shared themselves in a way that today’s men often don’t.
A Bromance Can’t Compare
Compared to this, bromances are awkward. Men who engage in them are trying desperately to gain that relationship without the commitment. They feel the need for male friendship but don’t know exactly what it is they’re needing.
It’s really quite simple. Camaraderie is born in the fires of struggle and sacrifice for others, while a bromance is fueled by satisfaction and mutual amusement. You can call it macho or overly masculine, but it comes down to just being a real man who loves in a real way. This isn’t being macho. It’s not being chauvinistic. I’m not telling people to try to kill someone else to gain friendship with other males, or go out and be Rambo or Jason Bourne.
What I am saying is men need to be real men who live not for themselves but rather for the sake of others. They should not look at a relationship and think, “What can I gain from this?” like Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. But rather men should think, “What can I do to help, preserve, and protect what is right, moral, and good?”
I know this is now way outside our natural thoughts. It can be too foreign to contemplate. But many of our fathers and grandfathers did this. It was not to gain friends later in life, to get a girl, or to get a job promotion. They simply did the job in front of them because they believed it was the right thing for their country and for their fellow man.
The same can be said for this movie. At the beginning, these men might have gone into the situation with money, vengeance, or fame in mind, but in the end they chose fight for the defenseless and for the notion that wrong should be swiftly fought. Their moral compass, which hadn’t always pointed north, suddenly changed when surrounded by the people they promised to help.
Our society needs more camaraderie and a lot less bromance. We need more movies that show these selfless acts that bring men together in true social justice. We need more fraternal love that can suffer many hardships and shoulder the daily burdens. Yes, there are times to drink, laugh, and relax with each other. If “The Magnificent Seven” has shown us anything, it’s that a real brotherly love is not awkward. But it’s only created in times of trial.
It also shows us this love can help us through difficult days, if not outright travesties. That’s the time I want a brother standing by me. I want a friendship like that of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, not like Seth Rogen and James Franco. I don’t want one of convenience. May we all have that kind of relationship that the Westerns and war movies show. Let bromance die and camaraderie live forever.