Boys’ Love fiction increasingly popular among Chinese netizens but also brings controversy

Source:Global Times Published: 2020/4/1 16:48:40

Promotional material for drama The Untamed Photo: IC

Written works, TV dramas and films in the Boys' Love (BL) genre, which depicts blossoming romances between young men, have earned a large fan base among young people in China, as evidenced by hit shows such as Chinese drama The Untamed and the popularity of Thailand's BL TV series. Thanks to women becoming a more influential demographic among audiences, the subculture is becoming a major well for entertainment companies in China to draw upon.

But at the same time, this entertainment industry trend has sparked controversy within the LGBT community, which says that this genre plays to stereotypes.

Numerous Chinese netizens expressed their excitement on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Monday after a rumor began circulating that 2016 Chinese web drama Addicted may be re-released soon. The related hashtag for the topic quickly climbed the trending chart on the platform, where it has earned more than 680 million views as of Wednesday morning.

The web drama about the growing romance between two men since their high school days got hundreds of millions of views and was a hot topic on social media when it premiered online four years ago.

The rumor started when a netizen posted a screenshot they claimed showed that Addicted was included on the list of upcoming releases for Chinese streaming site iQIYI.

Many netizens condemned the post for pushing false information, saying that the web drama had been included on the site's waiting list years ago, but has yet to return. 

Despite the cold water thrown on their dreams, many netizens remained optimistic and turned to recalling their favorite moments from the show. 

"It was the first BL drama I watched, and it drew me into this fantastic world. Now I am really addicted to BL works," a fan of the drama who asked to remain anonymous told the Global Times on Tuesday.

She added that after Addicted, she has not missed any high-quality works in the genre including literature, TV series and animated series. 

"Like The Untamed and [Thailand's] Tharntype: The Series, I collect BL themed works from a variety of countries, as long as their plots and characters interest me. You will find the subculture has an endless charm if you explore it more," she said.

The fan represents a huge number of young Chinese who have been drawn to the BL genre.

"Reasons why these BL works attract netizens is because their stories about true and pure love can touch audiences, and more importantly, pique the audience's curiosity," Shi Wenxue, a cultural critic and teacher at the Beijing Film Academy, told the Global Times.

Many of the genre's fans are women. Shi said women now have a much bigger influence on the entertainment industry than before and they want male characters to show more beauty and charm. 

But some BL stories have been condemned by the LGBT community, which says that they are based on stereotypes about their group such as that men who fall in love with each other have to be good-looking.

Some LGBT groups are encouraging more discussion about the subculture. The Beijing LGBT Center will host a debate on WeChat on Sunday. The topic will be "Do BL works help people understand LGBT people more or mislead people?"

Newspaper headline: On the rise


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