The problem with Real Men Watch Bravo and toxic masculinity

Bravo announced a new show called Real Men Watch Bravo, and the gay men of the world all collectively rolled their eyes.

In the grand tradition of praising straight men for literally anything, Bravo has greenlit a talk show just for (heterosexual) men who watch Bravo, hosted by Jerry O’Connell. I’ll give you a few seconds to roll your eyes before reading on.

The new show is titled Real Men Watch Bravo, and though it doesn’t explicitly say it’s for straight men, the inclusion of the term “real men” and the fact that it’s hosted by O’Connell is enough to assure us this won’t be a panel of gays. The late-night show, produced by O’Connell and Andy Cohen, will bring together male celebrities, comedians, and taste-makers on a panel about Bravo shows and other things happening in pop culture so we can know what men are really thinking.

When the show was announced last week, people on Twitter had some thoughts about this new premise. Most notably, gay men took issue with the term “real men” and the need to assure straight men that they can still be masculine while liking typically “feminine” things, like trashy reality TV.

Some people reading this may roll their eyes and think “It’s not that deep,” but if that’s what you think, you’re missing the real issue.

Gay men are told since the moment they start walking as babies about what being a “real man” is about. “Real men” play sports. “Real men” have deep voices. “Real men” hide away their emotions. Not only is it toxic for young queer boys to be told that they’re not “real men” because of everything from their interests to their mannerisms, but it also further hammers in the idea of just how different they are from other people their age, making them feel like freaks.

This toxic masculinity is also harmful for straight men because they constantly feel the need to uphold the standards of being a “real man” at the risk of being seen as gay. But what are they so afraid of? It’s great that men like Jerry O’Connell are so comfortable with their sexuality and embrace their “feminine” interests, but why does that mean they deserve their own TV show? And who says they get to decide what a “real man” is?

Gay men do something, and they get criticized for it. They wear a pink shirt, and they get slurs thrown at them while they walk down the street. A straight man takes a shower for once and wears a pink shirt, and they’re praised and called metrosexual. It’s just another example of straight people cherrypicking from gay culture when it’s convenient for them, without having to suffer the same criticisms that the LGBTQ community has to face. “Yas” and “shade have already been co-opted from the queer community. Real Men Watch Bravo is just the next step.

When gay men indulge in shows like Real Housewives, they’re seen as loving the cattiness and the drama, because obviously gay men liiiive for the drama, right? But when straight men admit they like Real Housewives, they’re seen as, what, pioneers? Yawn.

Besides, why do we care what a panel of Hollywood straight men think about the latest Vanderpump Rules episode, or the latest Bethenny and Ramona drama on Real Housewives of New York? Don’t they already have enough platforms to voice their opinions? To quote the iconic Wilhelmina Slater from Ugly Betty, “We shouldn’t be taking pictures of them, we should be throwing rocks at them.”

Gay men have been watching Bravo for years, and are arguably part of the channel’s biggest demographic. The connotation around the term “Real Men” implies that all those gay fans who have been with the network since the beginning, aren’t, in fact, real men. And frankly, that’s really disappointing. The LGBTQ community has put so many of their shows on the map through social media, thanks to their hilarious memes and witty tweets, but I guess the network forgot about that.

Bravo also already has Watch What Happens Live (hosted by Cohen), and the late-night show features a variety of different guests — including straight men, women, drag queens, and everything in between — who often discuss pop culture and Bravo’s “buzziest” moments. It’s essentially the same show as Real Men Watch Bravo, but of course, straight men need their own space where the dudes can bro out about Bravo, bro.

Like I said, it is great that these men are going against society’s expectations of masculinity, but why does that warrant a show? If you identify as male, you’re a real man. Period. Next.

What do you think about Real Men Watch Bravo? Will you be watching?