For almost the entirety of "Entourage's" run, Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier), E (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), Drama (Kevin Dillon) and Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) were the definition of bros. They were unabashedly self-indulgent, raged hard, generally killed it with the ladies, and, most importantly, they were almost always winning. These four white men living it up in Hollywood didn’t know what the word “consequences” meant because they didn’t need to; they got what they wanted. Life was bro-fect for the boys, and we were fine with it because it was so much fun to watch.
Four years after the series finale, the “Entourage” movie swept into theatres with the grace of a rowdy frat bro barging into a party and getting it started with a case of Natty Light, and it’s clear that things have changed. "Entourage" the movie wasn't just bad. It was boring, and the boys and their whole schtick felt like anachronisms. Some might say it’s because the American Bro has finally died, as Alexander Nazaryan of Newsweek, IBT’s corporate bro, did in a recent essay eulogizing the passing of this great American staple. But, that’s a bit of an overstatement.
The “Entourage” movie doesn’t feel dated because bros are dead, it’s because the platonic ideal of bros has changed. Like the law of conservation of energy states: energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can change states. The concept of bros has always been around and was something different before “Entourage” came around.
“I think this idea of groups of men together is a basic sort of property of American popular culture,” Dr. Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, said in a recent telephone interview. He pointed out how old Westerns shared similarities with stories we now describe with the term "bro."
A Brave New Bro
So where have all the
cowboys ... I mean, bros gone? To HBO's other "Sex and the City" for guys comedy, "Silicon Valley," a show about an all-male group trying to make it big in the tech industry. Sounds familiar, right? Replace tech industry with Hollywood and you have "Entourage." Both are hyper-competitive fields that are generally unwelcoming toward women. Their humor is also very similar. “Silicon Valley” tends also toward the crass and the profane. There's an extended and elaborate mathematical joke about how long it would take one guy to engage in a form of intercourse with a room full of tech guys and Erlich (TJ Miller), the group's resident endearing a-----e, could easily give Ari Gold a run for his money. Bros are alive and well; they just picked up and moved from Hollywood to Sunnyvale.
What distinguishes the shows from each another, apart from the fact that "Silicon Valley" is a really good series, is their versions of the bro. The men of "Silicon Valley" are socially inept, bedwetting computer geeks who are terrible with women. Like, they can't even interview a female engineer for a job without making things awkward. The same character, Jared (Zach Woods), can't even properly say "Bros before h--s." "It's sexist, but it's about friendship," Jared says when he tries. However, what they lack in social skills and swagger, they make up for intelligence and skill.
The obvious reason for why “Silicon Valley’s” take on bro-hood feels more fresh than “Entourage” is because it is actually fresher. “Silicon Valley” is nearing the end of its sophomore season, whereas “Entourage” had basically said all that it had to (and it wasn’t much) about what it was like to be fabulous, good looking and perfect in Doug Ellin’s fairytale Hollywood by the end of its eight season run.
The world in which “Entourage” the TV show premiered in 2004 is different than the one to which it returned as a movie in 2015. We’ve moved on, and as Slate’s Eric Thurm notes, the idea of four white guys making money without doing anything of substance, especially in light of everything the country has gone through, is generally rejected by today’s zeitgeist. Moreover, the ethos behind "Entourage" is kind of outmoded.
“The kinds of things that Entourage dealt with -- the notion of celebrity and the Hollywood successes and failure and ups and downs -- have become kind of old-fashioned themes,” Thompson said.
In the years since “Entourage” went off the air in 2011, and probably starting a bit before, we’ve the rise of the brogrammer, a new breed of programmers who are not only intelligent, but also very sociable. Our culture’s interest in those who’ve made it big in the tech industry, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, is also reflected in our media.
“Since ‘Entourage,’ these themes of the excitement of socially uncomfortable nerds in the high-tech industry have become some of our great American stories,” Thompson said. “Some of our most successful, our richest pursuers of the American dream are doing it in the industry.”
A year before “Entourage” ended, the Oscar-nominated film “The Social Network,” which was about how Zuckerberg’s success started from the hard work he was doing in his Harvard dorm room, hit theaters. On television, we’ve seen “The Big Bang Theory” become the most-watched show on television. Other shows about nerdy computer guys have also done well, such as “Chuck,” which lasted for five seasons.
The characters on “Entourage” are probably the laziest pursuers of the American dream. Vinnie Chase isn’t rich because he’s a good talent or a hard worker — he appears to be a terrible actor. According to the show, success comes from just hanging with your bros and letting the good times and weed and alcohol and hot women roll. The vapidness of their life was further highlighted toward the end of the show’s run when Turtle became skinny, and then rich in the movie, thereby removing the group’s one, albeit superficial, flaw.
Everything isn’t perfect for the bros of “Silicon Valley.” In fact, no matter how hard Richard and his team work, every happy ending is ruined. At the end of the first season, they won TechCrunch Disrupt and a lot of money to put toward their new start-up. In the second season premiere, that victory is blunted when their competitor files a lawsuit to stall them.
The rejection of the bro-ness put forth by “Entourage” in “Silicon Valley’s” is plainly encapsulated by Russ Hanneman, a new Mark Cuban-type character who joined the show this year and offers to fund Pied Piper. Russ got rich 20 years ago by putting radio on the internet, but hasn’t done much since and became rich just by sitting on his money. He’s vulgar, obnoxious and feels like he would get on really well with the “Entourage” boys. But, he feels out of place in this world and the character works because he’s supposed to be ridiculed. Russ' misogyny, along with a lot of the show, is clearly satire. Whereas, "Entourage" seemed to embrace its characters' misogynistic tendencies.
Ultimately, what makes "Entourage" and "Silicon Valley" so different is that the latter is smarter and more self-aware. "Silicon Valley" looks at the world in which it's set and relishes in mocking the ridiculousness. "Entourage," on the other hand, sees the world and its response is to just create an even more fantastical one that, to borrow Time Out's Dave Ehrlic's words, is like men's rights activists' dream world.