When Time Magazine wrote an article about Thailand’s Boys Love (BL) industry, I was amused. I know that mainstream content managers are realizing there’s an audience out there hungry for the new romantic ideals of boy x boy. Just a few hours ago, Forbes followed suit.
Korea targets the Boys Love industry with innovative content
Kdrama and film writer Joan MacDonald reports on South Korea’s moves in the BL market, published by Forbes:
The characters in BL dramas live in a world without the problems that many LGBTQ individuals face, especially in socially conservative countries. When he auditioned for the BL series Park Jae-chan was advised by his management not to take the role as it might adversely affect his career. He took a chance and his role as the overly regimented programmer Chu Sang-woo only boosted his popularity. The drama also enhanced the career of his co-star Park Seo-ham, who played Jang Jae-young, the impulsive art student that falls for Sang-woo.How One Producer Promotes Change With Boys Love Drama ‘Semantic Error’ by Joan MacDonald
McDonald’s subject SJ Shin is a former creative director at YG Entertainment. He promoted KPop acts including BlackPink, and Big Bang, among others. He produced the Boys Love drama Semantic Error and made it a huge success locally and around Asia.
Shin differs from Jaechan’s Korean agents due to his vision and lack of a biased mentality. He looks at the bigger picture. That’s why he’s a creative director handling the biggest stars. For the agents, it’s all about the money. Protecting Jaechan’s image is of paramount importance. Yet the casting of their star in Semantic Error boosted his career in a way they can’t possibly attain on their own.
Shin further announced:
“To be exact, we are opening a drama label, Blue by Blue. We’re going to have a new project. The first content will be about vampires, so a BL vampire series. The drama will have the BL component to it, but we’re not going to label it as BL anymore because we want to be very open that there are different types of relationships.”
South Korea already produced great BL titles – you may browse a selection from this article. There are also upcoming series including Eccentric Romance (a collaboration with Thai producers), Choco Milk Shake, A Shoulder to Cry On, and Once Again.
Thailand’s BL Industry is its soft power
Chad de Guzman reports for Time magazine:
Thailand is a socially conservative, primarily Buddhist country with a significant Muslim minority. The country’s military-backed regime—known for its use of repressive laws to crack down on politically progressive forces—is also unlikely to be enthusiastic about the country’s burgeoning reputation as an exporter of luscious gay TV.Thailand’s Boys’ Love Dramas Are Changing the Way Many People View Gay Romance by Chad De Guzman
De Guzman further discussed the importance of the Boys Love industry in Thailand and reiterated the logic espoused by LGBTQ expert Thomas Baudinette that says adverse effects on BL are a direct assault on LGBTQ representation.
The article ends with a conclusion from Baudinette:
In other words, it is precisely through its commercial appeal that BL can increase LGBT visibility in places previously deprived of queer representation. “Yes, it’s about money,” Baudinette tells TIME, “but that doesn’t necessarily always mean that it’s a bad thing.”
Since 2019, the talk of Thailand’s soft power points to the Boys Love industry, and I think they’re right. There are popular BL titles such as Bad Buddy, He’s Coming to Me, and upcoming series like Moonlight Chicken and Never Let Me Go that excite the BL audience worldwide.
While the military regime continues to govern, they can’t help it if the BL industry will bring in the tourists and the dollars.
Further discussions with friends on Twitter revealed plenty of pent-up emotions and strong opinions. In conclusion:
- It takes visionaries and prime movers in the Asian entertainment industry to make BL a regular staple, similar to Kpop and Japanese anime;
- The BL audience is not exclusive to females anymore, yet female fans have the power to dictate content and direction;
- There is a tendency among LGBTQ members to utilize the popularity of BL to push for social and political changes. It may not happen overnight, but the line has been drawn. It’s just a matter of time;
- Governments either adapt to the ever-changing moods of the public or resort to censorship. Mainland China once experienced a boom in BL and immediately put an end to it – in a surgical and painful manner. Taiwan takes the opposite stance and continues to produce innovative BL shows;
- The Philippines’ talent management sector continues to be ‘careful’ about casting actors in BL – unless they want to turn off their fans;
- Japanese production companies want to gain lost ground. Media influencer Johnny’s Entertainment has joined the BL fray;
- South Korean idols have joined the BL craze;
- Gay movies/series remain a separate genre vis a vis BL;
- Boys Love (BL) is generally romantic while Yaoi has sexually graphic materials.
Unless powerful forces who want to maintain the status quo have their way, BL may not flourish and become part of mainstream entertainment.
Right now, Boys Love is gaining momentum.
An old-timer BL fan way back in 2007. I started out loving BL after watching the Takumi-kun series from Japan, went on collecting BL manga, and watched old BL anime such as Junjou Romantica and the likes. Love of Siam allow me to transition into Thai, while Amphetamine gave me glimpses of Taiwanese BL magic. I love to write reviews and I’m one of the administrators of Psycho Weird.