We waste time looking for the perfect lover, instead of creating the perfect love – Tom Robbins

Isn’t this our perception when we delve into the alternate world of Boys Love? Instead of finding your version of Mr. Right or Ms. Perfect, we walk through the revolving doors into a classic world of sexual diversity or conditional societal acceptance. For some, BL is a refuge from their own love failures, while for others, it is a dream concocted to fulfill whatever fantasies they desire. As fans, we can drive the existence of an universe where our favorite characters or frankly, the BL actors portraying them exist in parallel within the dreamland about which we fantasize.

Edited by TheFNGee

A lot of fans, by their actions on social media, try to corral and vicariously control the lives of those actors by locking them into a group of discrete classification with neat bowties – where they are not allowed to have a personal life or opinion. These BL actors are forced to live their true lives in shadow where their girlfriends or boyfriends are either hidden in the closet or worse, subject to the cruelties of crazed fans on social media insanely claiming authority over the actors and who their partners are. Some couples even suffer undue breakups due to crazy fandoms random attacks.

The main question that rises from these arguments is whether BL actors are revered for their acting talents or whether or not they’re mere sex symbols? Does their true sexuality mean anything to the fans, or do fans see it as an inconvenient truth to ignore? What if an actor is straight or even bisexual, is fan service absolutely important to his survival in this industry? This article tries to focus on some of these difficult questions and how various onscreen BL couples are handling this unfair pressure.  Pressure that can be a major disadvantage to their professional acting careers that happen to be in the BL genre.

Can you deliver a massive hit without resorting to overtly excess sexual or explicit content? Can emotions be expressly portrayed without putting the actors in possibly uncomfortable situations?

Whenever I decide to watch a BL drama, the first thing that comes to my mind is reading the synopsis. I’m not saying that casting isn’t my concern because that would be incorrect. This reason is exactly why I refrained from watching Chinese BL on for a long time. Because like everyone else, I assumed that they would be lackluster the sensuality of physical contact with affection. However, the epic Chinese Mainland “Bromance” called “The Untamed” changed my viewpoint. The show describes the unbridled romance between main leads Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian.

For hardcore BL lovers, this drama might be boring without explicit sensuality. But watching Lan Wangji staring at Wei Wuxian like Wei hung the moon is an emotionally enthralling experience. You need to feel their forbidden emotions to realize that this kind of love can exist without the usual sexuality. Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan are the kinds of stars who share healthy affection, cleverly branded as brotherhood. There is a cadre of fans that ships the couple together and another set that is grossly homophobic. Can you toe the line between professionalism and deception? Probably not without some treacherous and unfair condemnation. This unhealthy obsession with the actor’s personal life is just clocking our perception and not theirs.

Another drama that drew my attention with its slow-burn yet intense romance is “Winter Begonia.” Despite the fact that a main protagonist Cheng Feng Tai is married, his easy affection for Opera Performer Shang Xi Rui is far beyond a “Bosom Buddies” status. The way Feng Tai longingly stares at Xi Rui or waxes poetic about him is a dream come true for every BL trope lover. Actors Huang Xiao Ming and Yin Zheng escaped the potential shipping because Xiao Ming is happily married. Yet, Winter Begonia’s poignant portrayal of the main lead’s underlying emotions is praiseworthy. They seemingly didn’t need a heavy makeout session between the sheets to illustrate their feelings to an audience. The resulting emotions inevitably tugged at many viewer’s heartstrings.

Some dramas make a mark with their intriguing storyline and simple chemistry between the main leads. Thai BL The Moment was one such show, with Mok and Bay shyly admit their attractions to one another. Their loving gazes and sweet gestures were more than enough to elucidate their love for each other. So when the sequel The Moment Since premiered, the fans were excited with anticipation. However, the poorly written storyline, which forced chemistry between Thanapon Aiemkumchai and Bank Thanatip, didn’t do the miniseries any favors. If two actors aren’t comfortable kissing onscreen, there is no use forcing them to do otherwise, simply because the script says so. The end result can seem awkward and tasteless!

2gether The Series was GMMtv’s most successful project ever. Despite the fairly new cast of stars, the show managed to garner a sizeable global fanbase. The storyline was intriguing, the development of the romance was classic, and yet the popular sitcom’s finale was appropriately panned for their “High-Five” status. The fans were disappointed when Sarawat & Tine’s reunion didn’t warrant a kiss. There were also quite a lot of rumors about fans lashing out on Bright Vachirawit’s girlfriend. Bright and co-star Win Metawin were newbies. Maybe they weren’t comfortable doing the kissing scenes, or GMMtv didn’t strongly push for them? Despite being a media giant, GMMtv always reigns in scenes that are overtly passionate in their BL dramas.

When the popular show returned for its second season “Still 2gether”, the dynamics between the two actors had evolved. They are more comfortable in their skin and pretty confident. The awkwardness from the previous season has disappeared, and they have managed to perfect the act. I’m guessing the formula to a perfect BL drama is to let the individuals grow together. They need to have a comfortable platform because portraying a BL character isn’t necessarily an easy job. They need to physically and mentally prepare themselves to portray that intimacy, which they might have never experienced in real life.

That brings us to the next question. What about the couples who have explosive chemistry? Are they dating in real life? Is there a possibility of them being in a secret relationship?

Saint Suppapong is one of the very few BL actors who are not only comfortable doing passionate scenes but had affable chemistry with each of his partners Perth Tanapon and Zee Pruk. While in Love by Chance, he perfected his act as vulnerable Pete, in Why RU, Saint blew our mind with his and Zee’s sensuality. Does that mean he was in a relationship with either? I don’t think so. However, I’m sure that when paired opposite a different actor, he will yet again mold himself, as per the requirements of the script. That is the making of a true actor!

The same question can also be raised for Tommy Sittichok and Jimmy Karn. Although their characters Zon and Saifah weren’t afforded much airtime due to the ongoing Pandemic, they managed to develop their own niche audience. The reason is that their offscreen chemistry is just as sparkling as their onscreen one. They both have a comfortable friendship, which their fans admire and maybe even fantasize about. Is their relationship for real, or is it fanservice? Unless some invasion of privacy occurs and exposes salacious details, that we will never know. I feel their talents weren’t totally utilized, and that’s pretty disappointing. This couple is one that I want to watch on my silver screen again, just because their sensual chemistry is off the charts and doesn’t feel forced, and I don’t ship them together. However, they do have a brotherly relationship and are close friends.

This Opinion Piece would be incomplete if we didn’t talk about the daring HIStory Series from Taiwan. Taiwanese BL is hugely popular for its explicitly defined romantic content. While in HIStory2: Right or Wrong, Steven Jiang and Hang Zhang enacted the forbidden romance between a college professor and his student, Shi Yi Jie, and Fei Sheng Zhe became the dream couple. HIStory3: Trapped was even more precedent-setting with its unusual romance between a cop Meng Shao Fei and a mafia boss Tang Yi. Jake Hsu and Chris Wu upped the hotness meter with their sensual kisses and mutual understanding.

The differences between Taiwanese BL actors and their Thai counterparts is that the Taiwanese are professional actors, paid to do a job that they do very well. The fan service that is provided is limited to appearances on variety shows and talk shows, with lots of hugging and little pecks on the mouth occasionally. I really appreciate this culture because the actors give their 100% to their characters and then move on. The Taiwanese fandom doesn’t suffer from the prejudices faced by the Thai BL in the past. However, times are changing, and although the last enterprise, “HIStory3: Make Our Days Count,” drew flack for its unnerving ending, the main leads Wayne Song and Huang Juan Zhi, secured a very strong fandom. Popularly known as “Enzhi,” both Wayne and Chunchih enjoy widespread popularity, which spurred their recent guest cameo in the very successful Japanese BL “Life Senjou no Bokura 線上の僕ら.”

The second lead couple Wilson Liu (Sun Bo Xiang) and Thomas Chang (Lu Zhi Gang), despite their explosive chemistry, failed to make the mark. Their romance was appreciated but not celebrated. This fact certainly questions the fans’ being so fickle. They are more liable to ship two actors who are closer together in age, which Wayne and Chunchih are. Their close friendship is often mistaken as a likely signal to “being in a relationship.” This status comes in handy, with popular brands are lining up at their doorsteps to sign them as promoters.
Is this relationship an actuality or mere fan service quietly disguised to feed their rampant fan’s imagination?

Another famous Taiwanese BL couple who captured the audience’s attention is Lee Si Kang and Muji Hsu from “Because of You.” Despite the lackluster script with plot holes the size of sinkholes, the only reason this show became popular was the chemistry between the three BL couples. So much so that their ardent fans are demanding a Season 2 for this show. The major highlight is the flirtatious exchange between Lee Si Kang and Muji Hsu. Lee Si Kang is a popular actor based in South Korea, while Muji Hsu is based in Taiwan. The geographical difference isn’t a deterrent to this onscreen couple’s chemistry. They have daily interactions on their social media accounts, which is enough to fuel fans’ rabid fantasies. Recent posts by Lee Si Kang have sparked the audience’s curiosity about the renewal of the show. Although both of them have been pretty insistent that they are best friends, the fans have their own biases and opinions.

The uprise of BL culture has turned the Filipino entertainment industry into a mass producer of the BL genre. Although shows like “Gameboys the Series” and “Hello Stranger” raked up an impressive fan following, the current demands are for a more accurate representation of the entire LGBTQ community in these specially manipulated dramas. One such sitcom that truly stands out is “Quaranthings the Series.” Paired opposite a popular actor like Royce Cabrera, Kyo Quijano plays an “out and proudly gay man.” The character has a backbone, can stand up against societal and familial pressures, and is a role model for closeted gays. I was pleasantly surprised when Kyo Quijano proudly described his sexuality on a social media platform. In a society where people enjoy watching two men kiss on screen but are still antagonistic about their liberal views, the industry needs more daring actors like Kyo, who aren’t ashamed of their sexuality.

Sex and Sexuality are an integral part of the BL culture. Can we do away with both or minimize their dominance? The answer is a resounding, “No.” Research consistently shows that BL dramas with bold sexual content have far more viewers than the less sensual ones. People love spice in their food as well as dramas.

It is my opinion that the only concession we can provide is taking into account whether the actors portraying those characters are comfortable or not. We should understand that most actors are straight, and fanservice doesn’t come naturally to them. I believe some actors take to fanservice with ease; however, most don’t. Again, this is my opinion.

At the end of the day, they are “actors PORTRAYING FICTIONAL characters.” They are required by nothing to live that fictional life and have a relationship with their colleagues. We, as fans, need to pay close attention to the line that divides fantasy from reality and to let these actors live their own lives as they choose to live them, and not be forced to live a life that only exists in the mind of a scriptwriter or a fiction program in which the actor played a role.

Here’s hoping that the fans become more responsible and try to understand their idols better!

krishnanaidu88

krishnanaidu88

I'm a Researcher by profession, prone to questioning everything. Living in Mumbai, I grew up on a stable diet of monotonous Indian dramas which stretch for a decade or so and I sincerely wanted to elude the boredom. So I escaped into the unknown, which is the world of BL dramas. I love sharing my thoughts about the storyline, characters and analyzing the smallest details possible. When something touches my heart, I want to know what others feel about the subject matter as well. That’s why, I’m here at Psychomilk. Being a writer gives me an outlet to explore my inner emotions and turmoil

7 Comments

  • oaksong says:

    One thing I find interesting about the BL genre is the whole fan service thing, which is not something found in western culture. One of the ones I find quite interesting is the Kao/Earth, Boun/Prem, Ohm/Fluke pairings from UWMA. They appear to be very close friends. Ohm taking care of Fluke, who is several months older, is quite endearing. Earth and Fluke traveling together just to have fun is also not the kind of thing that shows up in western culture.
    That all of this goes towards promoting their careers goes without saying. They’ve all developed strong brand appeal and as Mew/Gulf would say, make hay while the sun shines.

  • Wonderful article where you hit the nail on the head “BL is a refuge from their own love failures, while for others, it is a dream concocted to fulfill whatever fantasies they desire…” I’ve been watching I’m Tee, Me Too and The Gifted Graduation. I cannot believe the comments people were making about the two series not being BL. It is delightful experience for me to see the actors playing roles outside of BL. It’s a great opportunity for them and for fans who want to see them in roles where they get a chance to expand their acting capabilities. In still2gether I love watching Frank and Drake put everything into what appears to be a real relationship. The two make it seem and appear real because they remind me of myself and my first boyfriend. Might be because I am older and want to see many of them expand their acting into real drama, comedy and mystery.

    Would enjoy hearing what you feel about GMMTV moving their release called Hook to Netflix? I haven’t watched it because I don’t subscribe to Netflix, however, the series has at least a dozen well known Thai actors. Each part runs about 45 minutes with it now on the 15th episode.

    Note: the comments are not easy to read due to a gray overlay.

    • krishnanaidu88 says:

      Hello Dennis, thank you for the comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed reading the opinion piece. I do intend to watch I’m Tee and Hook, just need to find time. The onslaught of Pinoy BL is leaving me with no time to watch and enjoy straight dramas. But I will surely watch them just because of the talented set of actors in both series.

  • exxuss says:

    Hmmmn…do not know how the double post happened. Another of those little mysteries in life.

  • exxuss says:

    Refreshing to see that Psycho Milk continues to expand their content beyond just series reviews. Don’t misunderstand, love the series reviews and Psycho Milk is definitely the go-to spot to better understand the BL world. It’s also important to explore the underpinnings of the genera and flesh out it’s social ramifications. Much like the above article does so well. Enlightening and thought provoking at the same time. Applaud you diligence.

  • exxuss says:

    So refreshing to see the that Psycho Milk team keeps expanding their content beyond just reviews of series. Don’t misunderstand. Love the series reviews and Psycho Milk is definitely the go-to spot for a better understanding of the BL world, but It’s also Important to explore and flesh out the underpinnings of the genera, which articles like the above do so well. Enriching and thought provoking at the same time. Applaud your diligence.

    • krishnanaidu88 says:

      Thank you so much Exxuss. Your comments and opinions really make my day! It’s nice to know what our readers want to see on the website. Your suggestions are valuable.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: