He is Godzilla in a Big Ten college cap—consuming, fucking, and/or fucking up everything in his path. He shovels hot wings and the boozy contents of red plastic cups into his gaping maw with abandon, punctuating each conquest with a guttural roar. Like our pussy grabber in chief Donald Trump, he’s fluent in “locker-room talk” and is obsessed with winning (or the appearance thereof), with dominion over all, no matter how base or trivial, and by any means necessary. He views life as a ceaseless dick-measuring contest. Even his offer of a high five comes coupled with the threat of menace: the sudden reversal of an outstretched open hand into a cheap sack tap. But for this offense, he is unapologetic. The rules of common decency don’t apply to him.
He is the Chicago bro, that youngish, moneyed jagoff who never outgrew the frat house. He is forever 21, an entitled boy king lording over his tiny postcollegiate fiefdom. Loosed upon Chicago by suburban or exurban parents, he naturally joins his brethren to colonize parts of the city in their image, creating a Neverland for douchebags in which every corner and commercial strip is occupied by bars with wall-to-wall TVs blaring the game (any game) and blasting Top 40 radio or 90s rock (who cares)—spots where the well drinks and lite beer never stop flowing. College flags wave from the awnings of these establishments as implicit reassurance to a bro that he’s entering a safe space where he need not fear censure for misogynist comments or bad behavior but rather can expect a fist bump of approval.
Perhaps because of its strong reputation as one of the country’s biggest sports towns, Chicago is a hothouse for bro culture. It’s a tough reality to swallow, particularly in a year that has seen the active interrogation of toxic masculinity and its role in fostering environments in which men sexually harass women without consequence. The toxicity spikes during the the bacchanalian binge-drinking marathons of Saint Patrick’s Day and TBOX (the Twelve Bars of Xmas bar crawl), when the bros are empowered to spill out from their barstools to treat Chicago as if it’s their own private beer garden. Venture into Wrigleyville on those days and the streets look like a scene from the world’s whitest, most dude-centric zombie movie—call it The Walking Ted. Dressed in half-assed leprechaun and Santa Claus costumes—whatever the occasion demands—the soulless corpses shuffle queasily down sidewalks, puking in gutters and passing out in front yards.
These areas of the city—which Chicagoist aptly dubbed “douche vortices”—were once easy to avoid because their boundaries were known: Clark and Addison, long the bro culture ground zero; parts of Lakeview and Lincoln Park, of course; and much of River North, where tourist and suburban bros tend to congregate. But over the last few years, Chicago’s bro belt has shifted. While the Cubs-owning Ricketts family continues to scale up and dad-ify the area around Wrigley Field into a luxury ball mall, bros have accelerated their westward expansion into sufficiently gentrified neighborhoods such as West Town and Wicker Park. More recent sightings in the heretofore relatively bro-free territories of Logan Square and Humboldt Park raise a troubling question: Is any area safe from this invasive species? v