In reflection of 2022, in the BL world, I have noticed the inclusion of serials that had much more depth to them than the sugar and spice and all things nice usual fare. Those shows that were gritty and ballsy took the genre into new frontiers. The storylines had more grunt and substance than cutesy teen dramas. The world of BL storytelling seemed to have grown up.
The characters were flawed and rough around the edges. They weren’t squeaky clean virgins to the world. They had gone through some heavy shit that was why they found themselves in the dark places they had ventured.
The storylines seem much more complex, dug deep into themes and emotions not usual in the genre. These worlds exist beyond the college campus. They are living, loving, and learning in an urban reality. Not a lot of milk tea and fried chicken in these drama serials.
Not Me The Series
My first case in point, Not Me, a high-octane series that felt like it could be part of the Fast and Furious franchise but with a BL flavour. There were a lot of twists and turns to cause whiplash and enough action to keep the audience wedged to their seat. There were more slaps than tickles and more blows than blow jobs.
This was the perfect example of what I mean by grit and grunt. There was no sunshine and rainbows in this series. I was pouring grit out of my boots long after the series had finished.
You can start watching Not Me Episode 1 via the GMMTV YouTube channel.
Of course, then we have, KinnPorsche, set in a Mafia world with so much action you would think it was a Tarantino movie except this series has rimming. Amongst the gun violence and bloodshed, there is a story of two men caught up in this dangerous world who fall for each other. One minute, punching the daylights out of each other, and the next, on their knees giving head.
This was the series that gave the finger to heteronormativity by showing men having wild sex without shame and prejudice. They were enjoying themselves even if consent was blurred at times. They also recognized that some relationships preferred a little kink on the side. I mean some like missionaries while others prefer their nipples being zapped. Yet that is all okay when consensual.
I know some people objected to the not-so-consensual sex, but this is a world of gun violence and brutality, you enter at your own risk. It wouldn’t be so gritty if you made everything sparkle with Mr. Sheen. It wouldn’t feel authentic to this world.
The uncut version of KinnPorsche is streamed via iQIYI.
180-Degree Longitude Passes Through Us
And, not to forget, 180-Degree Longitude Passes Through Us, doesn’t have the sex and sin of the previous but has the raw emotional intimacy of a Film Noir production that has a lot more grunt than other BL series.
The story revolves around three people who are carrying around so much emotional baggage that their rather stunning physiques should all be hunched over. What combines them all is their sense of loss and loneliness which is heartbreaking to watch.
The location is isolating and moody giving the series a haunting quality. The performances are so powerful that they grab you by the scruff of the neck and don’t let go until the final credits. This series really does pack an emotional punch.
GagaOOLala streams this drama, click Episode 1.
To Sir with Love
And a very recent addition to my grit and grunt category is, To Sir With Love, a period drama set during the second world war when homosexuality was contemptible, and you certainly couldn’t ascend to be head of the family dynasty if you were known to be gay.
This is a good example of showing just how far we have come as a society, to watch characters experiencing such prejudices and shame at a time when homosexuality was even more taboo. The mother goes to extreme lengths to cover up the fact her son, and rightful heir to the family dynasty is homosexual.
At times, it is hard to watch this young man being treated so brutally by the people who are supposed to love him. The character goes through so much pain and anguish that you can’t help feeling a symbiosis with him. Yet that was, and for some people still is, the reality for many LGBTIQA+ people.
These grit and grunt shows are not afraid to take the audience to some dark and scary places. They show just how messy same-sex relationships can be when set against the most challenging of circumstances. They tap into worlds that are downright sexy and brutally dangerous.
Yet, what is the most important aspect of grit and grunt BL, is that same-sex love is treated the same as heteronormative characters in non-BL series. They show some skin. Some huffing and puffing in the sack. They are equal to them in every aspect except BL characters prefer hot dogs while the others like a taco. That is the only difference.
You can start watching To Sir with Love Episode 1.
This style of the BL genre helps to take the storylines beyond coming out and first boyfriends because eventually, all boys do grow up. They demonstrate that BL characters are strong and flawed; Can pack a punch and take a dick.
These stories are needed to further diversify the genre into other areas so LGBTIQA+ representation is visible to all. We are not just one story. We are many. So, cheers to the rise of the grit and grunt series. May you continue to push the boundaries of storytelling and find interesting ways to show same-sex love.
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Daz James is an undiscovered writer living in Australia who is an advocate for LGBTIQA+ representation in media. He has come to love BL serials in recent years having been bewitched by the genre through Innocence – Bangkok Love Stories and Together With Me series. He provides commentary on all things not just BL serials on Twitter and Instagram.