Though romance is important in many works, bonds of friendship between those of the same sex form some of fiction's most significant relationships. One common method of playing with these close relationships is to portray them similarly to romantic relationships, though the characters feel nothing sexual for one another. For example, two male friends may bicker in an exaggerated manner, mirroring how television normally depicts husbands and wives, or one friend may voice jealousy of another with lines lovers normally use.
The juxtaposition is often played for laughs, especially with male characters—the equivalent dramatic portrayal might imply actual romantic feelings. Other such scenes may attempt Fan Service, particularly when the characters are the opposite gender of the intended demographic.
In older media, there were often rules forbidding overt displays of homosexuality. Writers who wanted to create gay characters would often resort to homosexual subtext.
This page covers only intentional examples, chiefly those lampshaded by characters, Word of God, laughter or awkward pauses. It does not cover fans' delight at or tendency to view any interactions as gay; for that, see Ho Yay. It also does not cover any Ship Teases or actual homoerotism, where the characters may indeed be attracted to each other.
No real life examples, please; this is a trope about how characters are depicted in media.
Anime and Manga
- Bleach: Remember the time Rukia Kuchiki and Orihime Inoue were drawn naked (and holding hands) in a chapter spread?
- Negi and Fate Averruncus in Mahou Sensei Negima. The subtext is actually noticed and lampshaded in-story with the girls wondering if they have a strong new rival for Negi. Even disregarding that both of them are around ten years old, at least one of them has/had a female Love Interest.
- Much earlier, there was Negi and Kotarou.
- While the author of Durarara!! is apparently annoyed to some extent by the people who ship Izaya and Shizuo, he has apparently said 'Hell, why not' and put in some subtext in later volumes. In truth, they absolutely hate each other, but Izaya delights in pissing people off and this is just another way of doing it.
- As an extremely genre savvy shoujo manga, Ouran High School Host Club plays up the homoerotic subtext for both fanservice and laughs. After all, a decent amount of Yaoi Fangirls have to be reading it. It's even invoked in universe when the twins play it up during club activities.
- The last episode of the first season of Student Council's Discretion plays it for laughs where the protagonist is doing his best to avoid this as best he can and failing utterly until he finally manages to relax and give the other guy some advice. Curse you, Mafuyu!
- Axis Powers Hetalia might have some of this—being a comedy that also has a few Canon gay couples, it's hard to tell sometimes what is Played for Laughs and what is actual Ship Tease.
- Sengoku Basara lives and breathes this trope. Helps that 90% of the cast are male.
- From Persona 4: The Animation:
- Episode 12 seems to have a lot of this between Yu and Yosuke. Yosuke pulls Yu out of Mitsuo's Shadow's illusion, and they then look each other in the eye while in Jiraiya's arms. At the end of the episode, Yosuke calls Yu by his first name.
- Episode 15 and the Love Hotel, Chie, Yukiko, and Rise in the rotating bed having giggle fits. Something similar happens when Teddie, Yosuke, and Kanji end up in a bed together, except in that case the only one laughing is Teddie.
- Episode 19 has some tension between Yu and Yosuke during the group date. Yosuke says that he feels he was "about to cross a line that should never be crossed," and searches frantically for a drink.
- Sakamichi no Apollon (also known as Kids on the Slope). The anime is full of this (specifically between Sentarou and Kaoru). Even though the main characters eventually each have their own canon Love Interests, it's still full of this.
- Episode 1, the scene when Kaoru first meets Sentarou is blatantly ripped-off from some shoujo manga, complete with the pink background and the line "So, you have come to take me". It is explained later in the manga that Sentarou thought that Kaoru was an angel who had come to take him away in his nap. The fact that Kaoru has been known as having a 'pretty face' according to Ritsuko (which she corrected into 'handsome' right away) doesn't help.
- Sentarou and Kaoru constantly bicker in exaggerated manners, even though they actually get along pretty well, as stated by Ritsuko.
- There are many scenes in which Sentarou has no sense of space around Kaoru, including patting his head or shoulders, trying to share a jacket with him to shelter from rain, or pinning him down to his bed in a serious manner, much to Kaoru's surprise.
Film -- Live-Action
- Top Gun was rife with subtext. Years later, asked if his role in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was his first gay character, Val Kilmer joked that it was—but only if you don't count Top Gun.
- X Men First Class: James McAvoy called the movie a "love story" between Xavier and Magneto, even though, pressed for clarification, he admitted they were not gay. The film certainly did concentrate heavily on the two's relationship, and a final scene, in which the two split and their surrogate children chose sides, played out like a couple's divorce.
James McAvoy: It is a little bit of a mini-tragedy that [Xavier] and Magneto don’t, you know, have sex and become married and become best friends.
- Gore Vidal claims to have inserted homoerotic subtext into the script of Ben-Hur, treating two male characters as former lovers. The characters otherwise appear straight, and Charlton Heston later claimed complete ignorance of the subtext.
- Heston's ignorance was a case of Enforced Method Acting. Vidal told Stephen Boyd (Messala) privately to act as if his character was in love with Ben Hur.
- I Love You, Man tried to sell itself as "the first bromantic comedy." It covered the start and development of a male friendship much how other movies might a romance, and large not as a parody.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge is an odd case. After its release many people noted its strange homosexual subtext. Years later the scriptwriter revealed that he intentionally added these elements to the story, but the entire rest of the production crew, the director included, simply never noticed.
- In Jeeves and Wooster, after Bertie has ended an argument with Jeeves:
I felt like one of those chappies in the novels who calls off the fight with his wife in the last chapter and decides to forget and forgive.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray had enough that it was used as evidence when Oscar Wilde was tried for homosexuality.
- In multiple episodes of Friends, Joey and Chandler often have conversations about completely innocent subjects that sound exactly like those a married couple would have.
- In one episode, a conversation between Rachel and Monica about the fact tha Monica has been shopping with Julie (Ross' girlfriend at the time) sounds exactly as if Monica has cheated on Rachel. Of course, From a Certain Point of View, it is true. She's done something meaningful with Rachel's rival.
- In Boston Legal, Alan and Denny would often joke about their relationship as if it were a sexual one. The nods came in almost every episode, and they even ended up dancing together once. In the final episode, they actually married each other, still maintaining a platonic relationship.
- An episode of Seinfeld, Jerry Seinfeld's favorite, portrayed the rise and fall of one of Jerry's friendships like the start and end of a romance. The two-parter was called "The Boyfriend."
- Full House starred three men living together in San Francisco, and some early viewers thought the characters Jesse and Joey were a gay couple. This quickly proved not to be the case, but the show did have some fun with the idea. In one episode, the two tried to bathe a baby, and one ended up singing a love song to the other rather than to the baby. A third character walked in, and this was a case of Innocent Innuendo — until he left with the baby and the two chose to stay in the tub together and the song resumed. A few seasons later, the two worked together and tried to convince their boss to let them work from home, saying, "Joey and I... we have a baby together."
- House has this in egregious amounts, mainly between House, the Doctor Jerk, and Wilson, his loyal Lancer and only real friend. Most of the time it's hard to point a finger at it though, because with House's personality, any of the sexually loaded comments (including some of the "I'm so gay for you" and "will you marry me" sort) could, and most likely are, just sarcasm so thick it's impossible to say what House actually means. Wilson, again, has learned to sometimes pay House back with the same thing. And in the end, the only thing actually happening between them is friendship and constant teasing; both have heterosexual interests and relationships/activity of their own.
- Raj and Howard from The Big Bang Theory, to the point where Leonard's mother asks when they're going to express their latent homosexual feelings for one another.
- They even virtually make out.
- Scrubs is overflowing with bromance between Turk and JD, up to and including a duet between the two called "Guy Love" in the musical episode in season 5.
- The Daily Show and The Colbert Report has this between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. The actors deliberately play it up in their characters.
- How I Met Your Mother, mainly with Barney, Ted, and Marshall (in any combination of the three), though Lily and Robin have their moments, too. The insane levels of chemistry among the cast members does not help.
- It's actually canon that Lily has some sort of sexual interest in Robin (possibly a nod to Alyson Hannigan's role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
- Boy Meets World did a non-stop torrent of jokes in later seasons about Cory and Shawn acting like couple. There was a break-up episode which revolved around this premise, Cory's fiancee Topanga admitted that she knew Cory loved Shawn more than her, Cory wished Shawn was there the night he lost his virginity ... it would be too much to list it all here. There was also a lot between Jack and Eric.
- Shawn and Gus in Psych act like an old married couple CONSTANTLY and apparently can't spend more than an hour apart without repeated phone calls. Shawn likes to pretend they really are in a relationship around other people because it makes Gus incredibly uncomfortable.
- Rizzoli and Isles plays into this trope more and more with each passing season.
- Hello Cheeky took great delight in this trope...which is a bit strange, since two of the four main characters were married.
Barry: Oh, Denis, don't get upset. I do love you when you're angry...but don't get upset.
- Issei and Shirou in Fate/stay night. Shirou notices occasionally and is kind of bothered, though Issei seems oblivious as to how his behavior appears. As of Fate/hollow ataraxia, even the other students at their school notice it, mentally including Issei as part of the harem surrounding Shirou.
- Charlotte and Mary in Shikkoku no Sharnoth. The series is extremely fond of highly ambiguous writing and portraying non sexual things in a sexual manner, so Charlotte's yandere devotion to Mary is probably not romantic. But damn is it hard not read it that way.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, the subtext and Ship Tease between Aang/Zuko, Sokka/Zuko, Katara/Toph, Roku/Sozin, and Azula/Ty Lee, among other couples, is completely deliberate on the part of the writers, between Word of God and in-show Lampshade Hanging. The writers are very fandom-savvy, and at least half of the Ho Yay in the show was intentional.
- The Simpsons:
- Lenny and Carl. There have been a few jokes about this, of course.
- Recent seasons have done the same for Wiggum and Lou. Wiggum is usually the overly emotional wife/girlfriend.
Wiggum: Lou, you can't leave the force! I can change!
- A specific episode brought Chief Wiggum and Homer together. There was a falling out between them when Wiggum became too needy but they kind of make up by the end.
- While Smithers would obviously prefer his relationship with Mr. Burns to be something different, the show often offered such jokes about their relationship earlier on.
- One episode had Apu and Snake seeing a therapist, acting like a married couple:
Apu: He used to rob me 2-3 times a week. Now, I'm lucky if I get it once a month.