By: Queenie Resmundo
There’s no denying that Asian dramas in general are starting to attract multiple international viewers. Thanks to technology, Asian series are now more accessible even outside their borders. But there’s one unique genre that recently caught the attention of casual viewers – BL series.
You probably have seen this on your feed or have heard this term. Way before COVID-19 happened, I’ve seen BL series-related posts a couple of times but during the quarantine period, more and more of my friends are talking about it. What makes it so popular all of a sudden?
Portrayal of same-sex relationship
Apparently, BL or Boys’ Love series has been in the entertainment industry for quite some time. It’s a unique genre that originated in Japan, portraying homoerotic relationships between male characters. Countries like Taiwan, China, and Thailand are producing such contents which are massively consumed by young women. By ‘Boys’ Love’, you mean love interest between two guys?
Yes. It’s like any Asian romance drama but led by two men. However, more than having flamboyant or comic gay characters like how we commonly portray the LGBTQ+ community in our TV shows or movies, BL series intends to depict the reality between male lovers.
Thai BL series 2gether starring Thai actors Metawin Opas-iamkajorn and Vachirawit Chiva-aree became a hit to Asian fans, which eventually encouraged viewers to discover more similar series to watch.
With the growing market and bigger recognition that it gets, BL series are getting diverse when it comes to plot. Asian producers, especially in Thailand, successfully adapted many BL novels into live actions such as SOTUS, Dark Blue Kiss, Tharntype, 2gether, and many more. Casting good-looking actors is also a big factor in the popularity of BL series.
“I think BL series has become part of mainstream media because of 2gether series and I think their difference is how it showcases the LGBTQ+ Community. It tells that people, no matter their gender identity, have the right to love,” shared Paul, a new fan of BL series.
According to Keane, an avid BL viewer since 2013, social media and its relatability helped popularize BL series.
“Aside from same-sex relationships, the BL genre also became popular due to the sense that gay viewers can relate with the struggles of the main characters. Such struggles that we face in a daily basis are bullying and discrimination from people around us. The fact that the gay characters in the series can get past these struggles give us the hope that someday we might also be able to do in our own surroundings,” he explained.
Empowering the LGBTQ+ community
What viewers have observed in BL series is its story substance and messages being conveyed pertaining to the LGBTQ+ community, which separates it from other Asian dramas.
According to Alex, a BL series viewer since 2017, what the public needs now is a good representation of the LGBTQ+ community and BL series are somehow mitigating the stigma, widening the understanding of other viewers, and normalizing male to male couple as love is supposed to have no gender.
Ronald, on the other hand, also believes that BL series deserves the recognition—romance may be the common denominator, but it also tackles love within the family, friendship, and acceptance of one’s sexuality.
“SOTUS is a must watch. This BL series answered my long-standing question that just because a straight guy falls in love with a gay, that doesn’t make him gay. You love the person, not his gender preference,” he added.
Carla has been a fan of BL series and she thinks storylines in BL are quite unorthodox. Some stories are definitely not perfect but issues such as homophobia, rape, misconceptions about LGBTQ+ in general are being addressed in many series. More importantly, characters who are unapologetic about who they are is such a good representation for the LGBTQ+ community.
“If you’re looking for an anime BL, watch Yuri On Ice, Given, and Sekaiichi no Hatsukoi. For live action, the HIStory series from Taiwan is great. Love of Siam and Love Sick are one of the first few Thai BL series so it’s also great to work your way from how Thai BL was then till now,” she recommends.
In the Philippines Television, GMA 7 produced My Husband’s Lover in 2013, a gay-themed soap opera, but viewers see its storyline depicting adultery as too heavy for a BL series. However, Filipino producers have recently started exploring this genre. In fact, an online series Gameboy produced by IdeaFirst was recently launched, a story about the budding relationship between online gamers. Director Darryl Yap also unveiled his eight-episode web BL series entitled Sakristan.
As BL continues to emerge in mainstream media, spectators are becoming more critical as to how producers capitalize on LGBTQ+ community by casting straight men than actual bisexuals or gay. However, the improvement of BL series through the years is still commendable, and producers may take the criticisms as a challenge to create more sensible and realistic contents now that they’re no longer out of spotlight.
What are your thoughts on BL series? Comment down below!