Warnings: Contains spoilers for Bros!
The rom-com a strong main cast and supporting characters, but the Bros cameos might leave some viewers confused. Bros is making a lot of big strides for LGBTQ+ representation in media, with it serving as the first gay rom-com from a major studio. The Universal Studios production features a nearly entirely LGBTQ+ cast and crew, with the focus on the movie being an LGBTQ+ story told by those who have the lived experience, but some fun cameos mark the main exceptions.
Bros follows Bobby (Billy Eichner) and Aaron’s (Luke Macfarlane) journey through love and working out their relationship. However, it also provides a lot of meta-commentary about how the LGBTQ+ community has been represented in media. Some of this comes in the form of “Hallheart” movies, with a range of parody posters and trailers mocking the speed with which some studios have jumped on the bandwagon to gleefully portray sterilized versions of LGBTQ+ lives only a short time after they wouldn’t have touched them.
While the “Hallheart” movies are a fun joke, a larger commentary comes from the discussion around cishet actors taking on queer roles in dramatic features and winning Oscars for them. Bros is poking fun at a longstanding issue in the industry where the LGBTQ+ community has been shut out of telling their own stories and reveling in the fact that Bros is helping to reverse this trend. While Bros’ major cameo appearances from non-LGBTQ+ actors take some different forms, the majority of them serve to join in the commentary about the problems with LGBTQ+ actors not getting the chance to tell their own history on screen and how that is tied to wider erasure of cultural understanding.
Kristin Chenoweth as Herself
The first Bros cameo appearance comes from Kristin Chenoweth who plays herself speaking at an awards show where Bobby Leiber is receiving an award. In real life, Chenoweth has been outspoken in support of LGBTQ+ rights despite it upsetting some of her less accepting fans in the past. Chenoweth’s performance pokes light-hearted fun at allies of the LGBTQ+ community who have the best of intentions but don’t always quite hit the right now. It’s clear that Chenoweth is in on the Bros joke at her expense as she appears wearing a hat that holds a rotating diorama of the Stonewall Riots with a prominent focus on the police presence. Kristin Chenoweth’s Bros cameo manages to blend the ridiculous with some more serious history as the actress and singer continues to support the LGBTQ+ community.
Debra Messing as Herself
Of the Bros cameos, Debra Messing’s is the most sustained, as she appears as herself planning to support the LGBTQ+ museum before arguing with Bobby, and then returns in the final scenes and interrupts Bobby’s run to Aaron. While Will & Grace has sometimes been controversial for its more stereotypical portrayal of a gay character, it is also credited with doing a lot to bring LGBTQ+ identities and experiences into the mainstream consciousness. Having played Grace Adler in the series, Debra Messing’s appearance in Bros ties the movie to has had cultural importance in bringing LGBTQ+ lives to the mainstream consciousness, much as Schitt’s Creek (which is also name dropped) has. However, much as Chenoweth’s appearance does, Messing’s Bros cameo pokes fun at herself as she complains about gay men thinking that she’s the perfect straight best friend as she was in Will & Grace and she then inserts herself into an important LGBTQ+ moment by stopping Bobby to talk about her own feelings in the Bros ending.
Ben Stiller as Himself as Larry Daley
What seems to open as an off-handed joke about Aaron’s idea to make the LGBTQ+ museum more accessible, leads to Ben Stiller’s Bros cameo. Aaron talks about the exhibits coming alive like in Night at the Museum, and Bobby makes a joke about famous straight actors playing holograms of LGBTQ+ historical figures. This ends up coming to be a reality in a strange finale for Bros museum, and Ben Stiller appears as Larry Daley, his museum security guard character from the Night at the Museum franchise and introduces the other holograms. The third Night at the Museum movie was released back in 2014, and while a fourth movie Night at the Museum: Kahmunrah Rises Again is set to release in December 2022, it will be an animated movie neither Ben Stiller nor Larry Daley are expected to return, meaning that Stiller’s Bros cameo might strangely be the last time he plays the nightwatchman.
Amy Schumer as Herself as Eleanor Roosevelt
When Bobby jokes about the Bros LGBTQ+ museum having holograms of famous straight actors playing queer historical icons, his suggestion is Amy Schumer as Eleanor Roosevelt, and that is the first hologram that appears. While Bros debates whether Abraham Lincoln was gay or bi, Eleanor Roosevelt’s inclusion is not questioned by the film. The wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt might seem like a strange inclusion, but there is a lively discussion about the likely possibility that she was lesbian. While biographers argue about whether there was any sort of physical relationship, Eleanor Roosevelt exchanged extensive letters with the Associated Press reporter Lorena “Hick” Hickok which included some fairly strong intimations towards at least desiring closer contact with her already close friend. Even if it is argued, Eleanor Roosevelt’s story (and those of her many LGBTQ+ friends) makes her inclusion in Bros’ LGBTQ+ museum a natural choice.
Seth Meyers as Himself as Harvey Milk
Filling a similar space to Amy Schumer by riffing on the issue of straight actors playing LGBTQ+ figures, Seth Meyers appears as a hologram of Harvey Milk in Bros. Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man elected to public office in California where he joined the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. A huge figure in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, Milk pushed bans on discrimination based on sexual orientation. Milk was assassinated by Dan White, an outgoing member of the Board of Supervisors who had opposed Milk’s work. Perhaps a perfect example of LGBTQ+ icons being portrayed by people who are not part of the queer community, Harvey Milk’s life was the subject of the 2008 biopic Milk, which starred Sean Penn.
Kenan Thompson as Himself as James Baldwin
Known best for his work in Kenan & Kel and Saturday Night Live, Bros’ final cameo is from Kenan Thompson. Thompson appears as James Baldwin, the celebrated novelist who was a key figure in the civil rights movement and the fight for gay liberation. Many of his works dealt with race, class masculinity, and sexuality, ranging from Go Tell It on the Mountain to If Beale Street Could Talk, the latter of which was made into a film in 2018. All three of these historical figures play vital parts in the LGBTQ+ history of the last one hundred years, however as Bros highlights, even this more recent history has not been as widely known and accessible as it truly should be.