Stan: No, I didn't, Patti. Did you know that in the gay community, a hairy man is also known as a "Bear"?
Patti: Uh no.
In gay slang, a "bear" is a Manly Gay man with a Carpet of Virility—and not always just on their chests. Very often bears are also voluptuously heavy set and at least middle-aged, but these are not definitive requirements. Thin bears are often known as "otters", semi-hairy bears are "wolves", younger bears are "cubs" or "pups", Asian bears are "pandas", and especially muscular bears are often called "muscle bears" or "bulls". A "husbear" is a term some men use for their bearish boyfriends or husbands.
Bears don't appear as often in mainstream entertainment, where gay stereotypes more familiar to the audience predominate. But bears are common in the gay community and in LGBT-made works, and hold a beloved niche in gay porn and Bara Genre. Where bears do appear, they announce themselves by their body type appearance, as the Bear is as much about Rule of Sexy as it is about subculture.
Usually a subtrope of Manly Gay, and the aesthetic opposite of The Twink, though cubs are similar in disposition. Frequently overlaps with Big Beautiful Man, Cool Old Guy, Leather Man or Beast Man. In fact this trope overlaps with Big Beautiful Man so often that some people would consider them the same trope—except that technically this trope is about body hair and the other trope is about body fat.
Though this trope always involves gay men, the targets of bearish interest need not always be gay. This trope can apply to straight men who gay men acknowledge as attractive for their bearish looks. For this to be objectively applied, it has to be deliberate in a story. For Real Life examples, the straight men have to have acknowledged their bear fanbase. All examples solely acknowledged by gay fans should go in LGBT Fanbase.
Has no relation to the Furry Fandom, though the two can overlap.
- There's an entire genre for this. It's called Bara Genre. (Despite the assumptions of some Western people, the word "bara" is not a Nipponisation of the word "bear", although many Japanese gay men are entirely aware of the coincidence.)
- Mike Flanagan in My Brother's Husband is a big, hairy, masculine guy who fulfills all the bear stereotypes. It's joked about in the Hot Springs Episode, where Kana wins a giant teddy bear at an amusement arcade and names it Mike.
- In Circles, Arthur is a gay bear in his 40s who is also a bear.
- Most versions of Wolverine fit the trope, although they are not canonically gay. Then again, the "mutants as persecuted minority" theme makes a connection. Wolverine's psychopath of a son, no less beefy, has slept with both genders.
- Howlett, an alternate reality version of Wolverine appearing in X-Treme X-Men is also a bear, as is his canon lover Hercules.
- In Clerks II, Kinky Kelly's assistant (later revealed to be his partner) fits this trope to a T, though he's never explicitly mentioned as being gay.
- The Spanish film Cachorro (Bear Cub in English) is about a gay bear who has to take care of his 9-year old nephew as a favor for his sister.
- Pretty much the whole point to the film Bear City.
- Another Spanish film Chuecatown (Boystown in English) features two bears as protagonists. Arguably, they overlap with Big Beautiful Men.
- In True Stories, Louis Fyne (John Goodman) states numerous times he has a very consistent "panda bear" shape.
- In These Words Are True and Faithful, a writer at a general-interest newspaper attempts to explain the origin of the term and gets it completely wrong.
- In an episode of Ashes to Ashes (2008), Alex deduces the gangster they're investigating is into bears, and Ray (a noted homophobe implied to have latent homosexual tendencies) has to flirt with him in order to further the case.
- Game of Thrones: Lord Renly Baratheon's nickname on this entertainment website aimed at gay men is the Otter King. The character has a hairy chest, but the audience never sees it because his lover Ser Loras Tyrell finds him more attractive with a smooth torso. Renly doesn't really "get" the smooth thing—he thinks it makes him look like a young boy—but he's willing to do it for Loras.
- On Glee, this trope is lampshaded and discussed by Kurt and David Karofsky, who we find out in season three has taken to hanging out at a local gay bar and been dubbed a bear cub because of his youth and rather burly stature. Kurt, apparently not knowing anything about the term, jokingly asks if he's a cub because he "looks like Yogi."
- Max on Happy Endings, although, in his words, he's "more of a cub". A Season 3 episode fully Averts this by showing he doesn't fully fit into any one gay subculture, having traits from several of them.
- One of the sketches in The Kids in the Hall involves a man encountering a Bear, but following the advice on what to do when encountering an actual bear (don't make eye contact, play dead, etc.).
- One episode of Modern Family has Mitchell and Cam look for a gay club to go on New Years Eve. As they are comparing their situation to that of Goldilocks, as they hadn't yet found one that was "just right", three bears walk out of one of the bars and the guys share an amused look.
- Recurring character Thor from Nurse Jackie is a gay bear.
- In one episode of 30 Rock, Jack decides to seduce his wife's gay interior designer so he can get his way on their home's wallpaper. He explains to Liz:
"Do you know what a prize I am in the gay community? There's a term for it. I'm a bear. And I'm a daddy. I'm a daddy bear."
- Also brought up in another episode when Jack, desperate to sabotage the CEO's heir to claim the role for himself, is told a rumor:
- The gay couple in the neighboring cabin in the 2 Broke Girls episode "And the Bear Problem."
- Big Mary from Max's pastry school combines bear looks with a very campy way of speaking.
- Referenced in Warehouse 13 Artie (hairy, rotund, and middle aged) was about to admit that he loved someone (a girl) when he figured out which artifact was causing this week's trouble. He uses the Jewish name, which sounds like a man's name. The (older) man with him responds. "I didn't know you were homosexual. Are you what they call a Bear?"
- In the eighth season of Will & Grace, Karen's boyfriend Malcolm (also played by Alec Baldwin) says of the charity carnival Will's organizing, "I can't go to the carnival without a woman. The gays would be all over a bear like me."
- In Parks and Recreation, Ron looks for a clue Leslie left behind for finding Ben's gift at Pawnee's local gay bar and many of the patrons are clearly checking him out due to his bear-like looks (though he doesn't notice).
- Lampshaded on The Muppets, when Fozzie Bear talks about his dating life:
- In the Canadian mockumentary "Trailer Park Boys", Randy is the always shirtless Assistant Trailer Park Supervisor (as wearing a shirt will give him a rash) and he also happens to have a very large, hairy gut for which he is frequently ridiculed. However, many on the show consider him attractive and he has many romantic involvements throughout the series, including a long term relationship with Jim and also dates Officer Ted at one point.
- On Britain's Got Talent, one of the acts that came on was "The Dreambears" - three husky gents in Union Jack-pattern spandex dancing while lip-synching to "It's Raining Men"
- The Big Dipper. He describes his genre as 'gay bear rap'
- A Filk Song from Seattle-based filker Commander Claus (a gay man himself), changed the kid's song "My Uncle Walter Goes Dancing with Bears" to "My Uncle Walter Goes Dating the Bears," and is told from the point of view of an embarrassed nephew who is fine with his uncle's coming out, but boggled by sights like "There's ten in the hot tub, giving each other backrubs."
- Check out Lou Reed's references to bears, in the song Andy's Chest. The album Transformer got a lot of crap past the Radar and onto radio stations, who simply didn't get the references.
- Babydaddy of Scissor Sisters publicly identifies as a bear.
- Jūichi in Morenatsu is simultaneously The Bear, the bear, a Bara Genre role, and a high school student. He looks more like a 30something than someone who's supposed to be 16 or 17.
- Zangief from Street Fighter is possibly one of the oldest examples of this in video games. He has been hinted to be gay enough that audiences gay and straight have taken notice, and his gay bearish appeal has long since been secured.
- Three letters: S P D. An attack where he grabs you into a standing 69 position.
- Final Fantasy:
- In Final Fantasy VI, Sabin refers to himself as a bear during the cut scene on Mount Kolts — this is Hilarious in Hindsight, even if intentional. Depending on the artist, Sabin certainly has more of the body type for it, with Amano tending towards the hairier with Badass Beard and CG art tending towards the smoother and beardless. None of this necessarily means Sabin is actually gay (it's still entirely possible he's not), but that he's a "bear" with a fittingly bearish body type. This, along with the fact that he's one of the only adult male main cast (along with Stragos) who is never shown expressing any kind of interest in women, has brought him more LGBT Fanbase by far than any other male character in the game.
- Mukki and his 'bubbies' in Final Fantasy VII, a beefy male prostitute. Who Cloud can sleep with. Cloud also jokingly refers to the burly, attractive Barret as a 'bear' in one memorable line.
- Considering the all-male nature of the Galka and the strong implications that they are predominantly gay (or at least were during their time alone without females for centuries), the fact that every Galka has at least a chinstrap beard immediately makes the whole race very bearish, with shades of Big Beautiful Man as well.
- Referenced in Mass Effect 3, where Cortez and Vega are arguing about which ground vehicle is the best, and Vega expresses his fondness for a tank called the Grizzly. Cortez snarks that he would be one to like something called that. Vega doesn't get it.
- A cosmetic item in Team Fortress 2 called the "Triad Trinket" (an open-collared shirt with two gold necklaces hanging on the chest) has two styles— one is called "Bear", and it gives Sniper, Spy, Engineer, and Heavy all chest hair. Heavy's shirt is too small, and even exposes some of his bare belly.
- Josh from Hijinks Ensue is a self-identified bear, of the bald+pudgy variety.
- CaptainGerBear's Grant comic has two bearish main characters. And as the artist's moniker hints at, he draws a lot of bearish men.
- Skoll from Chasing Ice falls into the muscle-bear category.
- A frequently used trope in Blur the Lines due to the author's preference in men.
- Discussed in Gqutie, which proposes "Mongoose" as a genderqueer varient.
- Too many examples to comprehensively list here. There is a huge presence of the bear community online, and there are a lot of artists who draw bear art, everything from tame to erotic to porn.
- Where the Bears Are is about 3 bears (and the whole bear community by extension).
- Paul from Eddsworld is accepted as this in the fanbase.
- In an episode of The Simpsons where Homer befriends a gay couple, he is mistaken as a bear while out in Springfield's gay district.
- On Family Guy, Peter watches an episode of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams where Grizzly Adams and his grizzly bear companion Gentle Ben are an actual gay bear couple.
- On The Cleveland Show, while Cleveland and the rest of the gang ventured around New York City, Tim entered a bar he thought was for literal bears. Turns out it was for Bears.
- Mascumax, a villain from The Powerpuff Girls.
- In the Bob's Burgers episode "Turkey in a Can", Bob is Mistaken for Gay by the deli counter clerk, who tries to hook him up with a friend of his who's into "sloppy bears", i.e, Bears who are both overweight and not overly concerned with their hygiene. However, given that Bob replies that he's mostly straight, that might not be so much of a mistake.
- Subverted in Bojack Horseman. Bit character Jose Guererro is a homosexual and is literally a bear, but he isn't depicted any more testosterone-fueled or muscular than his of his lovers.
- Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who has the body size, body hair, and beard to pull it off, has publicly self-identified as a bear since a Salon article in 2003, and occasionally posts articles regarding the Bear community on his blog, The Dish. He also regularly comments on beards (a major element of Bear culture, but he seems to like it when any man grows a beard, whether he is gay or straight, large or small—he sees beard-growing as more natural).
- Sullivan's liberal counterpart is Joe Jervis, another gay blogger known for his bearish build.
- Director Kevin Smith acknowledges his bear fan base and has interviewed with bear media.
- Chef and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio is straight (having been married to a woman since 2001), but has acknowledged his bear fan base on air, has done interviews with bear media and was briefly scheduled to ride on the bear float in the 2010 LA Pride Parade (he cancelled due to scheduling conflicts).
- Actor Nick Frost is well aware of and seemingly flattered by his status as an icon in the bear community, and has has discussed his interest in posing for the cover of a gay magazine dressed in leather chaps, a vest and tiny stetson.
- Retired rugby star Ben Cohen is a beloved straight ally to the LGBT community due to his anti-bullying efforts, while his hairy chest, stocky build, and boyish face make him a sex symbol to bears and general gay men alike, which he uses to his advantage such as selling calendars for charity.
- Pennsylvania state representative Brian Sims is the first openly gay elected state legislator in Pennsylvania history. In addition to pursuing LGBT rights in his home state, he is also a member of Philadelphia's bear community and has a substantial Facebook following that owes no small part to his sex appeal. While he does keep his pictures classy due to his sensitive position, this arguably adds to his appeal.