- "I've never understood this infatuation with Patrick Swayze."
- "That's unfair. I appreciate the man's work. The wild, animal Swayze of Road House. The sensitive, vulnerable Swayze of Ghost. Or that Dirty Dancing bad-apple my father forbids me to see."
- "That went to kind of a weird place."
- —Tycho and Gabe, Penny Arcade - "Purge 2: The Purgeoning."
So, you have two very close male (or, in rare cases, female) friends who do everything together and are generally pretty chummy.
Ho Yay is short for Homoeroticism, Yay!, a concept that argues that there must be a subtext behind any platonic male or female friendship—or, in some cases, just in one character. These characters aren't gay, but the script, the acting, and the music, among other things, help make it seem that way.
This is not always intentional. Sometimes the time period of a work's publication can showcase outdated social norms that may look... suspicious to a modern audience. Also, sometimes the pair in question are actually enemies, but fans interpret their hostile interactions as "tension," which of course means they're secretly hot for each other.
More prominent Ho Yays include:
- Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee (Lord of the Rings)
- Dr. Gregory House and Dr. James Wilson (House, M.D.)
- Captain Kirk and Spock (Star Trek)
- Mohinder Suresh and Matt Parkman (Heroes)
- J.D. and Turk (Scrubs)
- Any movie in which Simon Pegg and Nick Frost play the main roles
- Pretty much any two same-sex characters in the Harry Potter canon
- Denny Crane and Alan Shore
- Horatio Hornblower and Archie Kennedy
- Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
- Merlin and Arthur (BBC's Merlin)
- Jay and Silent Bob of Kevin Smith's View Askewniverse
- Come to think of it, several other pairs of characters in those movies—Bartleby and Loki of Dogma may or may not fall under this heading because they technically have no gender.
- and, disturbingly,
- Dean and Sam Winchester (Supernatural).
- Buford Van Stomm and Baljeet Raj (Phineas and Ferb)
Enemy Ho Yays, also known as Foe Yays, include:
- Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy (Harry Potter)
- The Doctor and the Master (Doctor Who)
- Mohinder Suresh and Sylar (Heroes)
- Naruto and Sasuke (Naruto) (not enemies, per se, but more rivals than friends)
- Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert (Les Misérables)
- Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Erik Lensherr (Magneto) (X-Men franchise)
- Kim Possible and Shego (Kim Possible)
Yeah, it's a common cliché. A very common cliché exploited by slashfic writers.
Ho Nay! Edit
A less-common reversal of the Ho Yay phenomenon, Ho Nay supporters use it to argue against slash pairings, under the theory that any canon character without a demonstrated same-sex love interest must be heterosexual. Unfortunately, this is also used to argue against the sexuality of characters who are demonstrably homosexual or bisexual in canon, under the guise of "Oh, that's just good buddy stuff."