Is There Anything Better Than Guys Being Dudes? Damn, I Hope So

On its 11th birthday, the question posed in the beloved meme deserves a new answer.

In Depth
Is There Anything Better Than Guys Being Dudes? Damn, I Hope So

Eleven years ago, a man stood on some empty bleachers at a football practice and made a statement so simple and yet so confounding that it immediately cached itself in internet history. Posted on Vine in June 2013, “What’s better than this? Guys being dudes” garnered over 35 million views and became a meme that outlasted Vine itself. The man featured in the four-second video is Steve Addazio, then head football coach at Boston College. The expression that would cement his legacy far more than his college coaching record (61-67) was inspired by his defensive coordinator Don Brown. “That’s his saying all the time, be a dude, and what being a dude is, is being a baller. You know?” Addazio told ESPN in 2013, “Just being a real baller. Just being a dude.” 

But what does being a dude really mean, or a guy, or for that matter, a baller? These words generally refer to people gendered male, so the statement roughly translates to “men being men.” I was surprised to find that while the internet loves this meme, its denizens have offered little in the way of gender analysis, and I am stepping in to fill the gap. Because Addazio’s proclamation is as fundamentally conservative as it is hilariously tautological, and it obscures the radical potential of his question.

The vine has been reposted a million times everywhere, but several comments on the most-viewed YouTube of the video illustrate perhaps the most obvious interpretation: the perennial paradox of the ultramasculine trying to distance itself as much as possible from homosexuality, only to end up seeming gayer than ever. “Most masculine vine ever,” Essence V comments, to which AnonymousX responds: “Masculine sounds kinda gay. It’s guys being dudes. Doesn’t need any more wording.” Another commenter then chimes in with, “why do you care if it sounds gay? Are you insecure or something? It’s just a goddamn word.” Elsewhere in the comments, NN writes, “Me as a teenager trying to convince the world that I’m straight.” So this video has clearly aggravated plenty of debate about how gender relates to sexuality, but not as much about gender itself, and really…what is so great about guys being dudes?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by College GameDay (@collegegameday)


When I first saw this vine in 2020, I was struck by how it evidences mainstream America’s attachment to gender and all its trappings. How comforted people feel by seeing society’s expectations of traditional gender roles fulfilled. The Tab.com, which asserted in 2018 that this is “the best vine ever made,” says the four-second video “speaks to the American inside all of us. Once you’ve replayed this Vine some 20 times you start to wonder what is better than this. Sun beaming down, polos and khakis, American football, Boston, the American Dream.” Ashwat Giri comments something similar on YouTube, saying that Addazio “is expressing something which many of us are familiar with but fail to articulate, namely, appreciation for a happy and organic moment…. how endearing (or ‘cute’) he is and how much we sympathize with him.” 

Like so much else, traditional gender roles have been mythologized as hallmarks of a simpler, more wholesome time–American culture’s (white, Christian, colonial) underpinnings have explicitly tied traditional gender roles to that which is ethical, healthy, holy, safe, sane, and destined for success. The clearest evidence of this is the way that trans, nonbinary, and gender-conforming people’s rights have come to the fore of our national conversation, and the enormous backlash from people who find them terrifying, repugnant, or both. So far in 2024, a record-breaking 586 anti-trans bills have been introduced in the U.S. (Happy Pride!). “This simple line is way more inspirational than anything the woke mob has put out,” reads one YouTube comment from Stephan Robert. 

We’ve been conditioned to subscribe to these binary gendered roles in myriad ways. So much so that all Adazzio had to do to become an internet sensation was spend four seconds gesturing to a field of young men playing a sport that is so closely identified with masculinity that pretty much only men play it, and rhetorically ask, what could possibly be better?

I can appreciate that people have a lot of love for this meme. Wholesome corniness, happy, organic moments, and appreciation for one’s present are unequivocally positive. But this was not in fact a happy, organic moment.

You could argue that football exemplifies some of the many problems with “guys being dudes.” One of the most quintessentially American sports, it’s also one of the most violent and most dangerous, as well as being rife with sexual assault-perpetrating players. Any number of think pieces on toxic masculinity will tell you that “guys being dudes” doesn’t often go well, for the dudes themselves or for the non-dudes around them, and that the settings that celebrate this culture are often some of the most hostile and dangerous to anyone who isn’t a straight white man. 

This wasn’t any less true in those bygone eras for which people have such nostalgia. The U.S. has yet to see an era that wasn’t replete with racism, sexism, violence, and domination characterizing the vast majority of its systems and institutions, with dudes nearly always in charge. The only YouTube comment I found that made reference to any of this, if cryptically, is 4Duckie’s “What’s better than this guys sending nukes.” (To be fair, I don’t know what 4Duckie meant by this–a tongue-in-cheek critique or an earnest endorsement of nuclear warfare as a masculine passtime? Or perhaps “nukes” was just a typo: “i can’t tell if you meant to say nudes or nukes but either way into [sic] about to cry,” weesnaw commented).

I can appreciate that people have a lot of love for this meme. Wholesome corniness, happy, organic moments, and appreciation for one’s present are unequivocally positive. But this was not in fact a happy, organic moment. According to a 2018 Sports Illustrated article, this vine was just one of seven clips posted by Addazio, all focused on the concept of being a “dude” as part of a marketing effort related to changing the culture at BC (it’s unclear, however, what he was aiming to change the culture to). Would the millions who’ve laughed at this video feel differently if they knew it wasn’t a spontaneous musing that makes it seem so innocently adorable but just a calculated marketing tactic of a private Catholic college?

After all, it’s often corporations and their marketing campaigns that have most reified and glorified gender roles. The mythical good old days really only exist in old commercials and television shows. Real life has always been messier and queerer than Leave It To Beaver or Folgers Coffee would have us believe. Aside from being problematic and oppressive, clinging to “traditional” masculinity as something with inherent value is just not grounded in reality. 

Listen: I was a cheerleader in high school, just a few miles from Boston College. I, too, love a Boston accent and a sunny day and sometimes feel nostalgic watching football games. As a cis, queer, femme woman, I grapple daily with my own attraction to and fondness for traditional masculinity even as I watch men hurt women, queer, trans, and non-binary people, each other, and, perhaps most of all, themselves, in their efforts to successfully embody guys being dudes. What is more characteristic of life in 21st-century America, after all, than enjoying something that you know is fucked up (football, fast fashion, fracked gas….)?

Watching the vine again, I have to respect the question it poses, if not the answer. What is better than this? Given the dire straits we as a society find ourselves in, due to disasters caused by the actions and values of the cisheteropatriarchy, this is a necessary, perhaps even revolutionary question. What, actually, could be better than this? What version of the world could we create, where we could all truly enjoy sunshine, corniness, parents wearing polos, and playing games together? Where we could share in moments of wholesome gratitude and feel like things were as they should be. 

6 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin