The Bro Code, by Barney Stinson with Matt Kuhn
Although my knowledge of and fandom of the late CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother is at best slight , this book does fit in with a genre of books that I read and tend to enjoy written by men about the issue of masculinity . Does this work stand apart from a series so that it is enjoyable to read even if the show has largely faded from public consciousness? Yes, this is still an enjoyable and funny book even outside of the context of the sitcom from which it sprang. On those grounds alone this is a worthwhile and enjoyable volume and one I recommend so long as the reader is not offended by the pervasive tone of crudity and casual immorality that can be found in it. This is by no means an edifying book, but it is a book that can provide the sensitive reader with some painful but worthwhile realization that even those of us who might consider ourselves to be godly people have been deeply influenced by the moral decay of our times of which this book is so emblematic a representative.
This short and breezy book of about 200 pages begins with an introduction, defines a bro (carefully and accurately pointing out that one’s brother is not necessarily a bro, as is the case for me), and gives some rather facetious discussions of a brocabulary and the origin of the bro code in the imagined mists of ancient history. The vast majority of the book contains 150 articles of the bro code, making it among the more readable examples of massive law (?) codes in existence, some of them with exceptions and limitations to the exceptions, with ten amendments to the rules, a commentary on the penalties for violation of the rules, and a glossary of terms for those who may need a bit of aid in improving their brocabulary to the level of the author. Some of the rules are entertaining, and I found much to my surprise (and sometimes alarm) that a great deal of my own social conduct around my more broish friends through my adulthood has in fact corresponded with the approach and standards outlined here. Whether or not that is a good thing or a very bad thing is something I lead to the reader to decide, hopefully according to the hermeneutic of charity.
I am not sure how common this would be, but when I was reading this book I could think of numerous people who I find to be rather broish. Some of these people are my own bros, so to speak, and they certainly are bros to other people, including some people who may not think or feel all that fondly of me. In general these codes reveal a sophisticated understanding of the social life of men, including a high degree of discretion in one’s behavior as well as what one says about others (including the avoidance of gossip), the avoidance of awkward and embarrassing moments in dealing with male dignity in public, the ways in which male bonding takes place in a context where cars, sports, food, booze, and a shared appreciation of the appreciative male gaze is often involved, and where loyalty and respect are key aspects of getting along over the long term. More negatively, one can find here plenty of cases of objectification of women as well as a certain phobia towards commitment to marriage and family and a desire to provide a safe space for openness of expression with people who will not be offended by what a guy really wants to say. Despite its pervasive crudity and immorality, this book has a surprisingly shrewd and knowledgeable core. The authors clearly know men well and write with a loving and humorous respect for men as men.
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