Chinese television regulator reins in boys' love drama, calls for realistic works
Published: Sep 17, 2021 11:26 PM
Wang Yibo (Left) and Xiao Zhan attend a concert for The Untamed in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province on November 2. Photo: VCG

Wang Yibo (Left) and Xiao Zhan attend a concert for The Untamed in Nanjing, East China's Jiangsu Province on November 2. Photo: VCG

China's National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) on Thursday held a meeting urging the television industry to boycott adaption of boys' love novels, as well as to avoid tax evasion and stick to realistic works amid the nation's drive for comprehensive regulation of entertainment. 

The NRTA also asked industry practitioners to strictly carry out the rules on actors' paycheck caps, to rule out dual contracts and other tax evasion tricks, to make TV dramas with a positive influence and stop the viewership-priority mindset, "fan culture" problems and swarming to boys' love adaptations. 

Boys' love, a novel genre whose adaptation to TV drama turned out to be a big success, usually depicts blossoming romances between young men. Legendary drama The Untamed, starring Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo, and Word of Honor, starring Zhang Zhehan and Gong Jun, are among the most famous ones. 

Zhu Yonglei, vice director of the NRTA, urged the industry to keep alert toward unhealthy phenomena in entertainment, create realistic works, resist capital seeking interests, and firmly boycott entertainers who commit crimes or are morally tainted. 

Romance has always been a popular theme, and when it comes to two good-looking men, it can easily pique the interest and curiosity of young TV drama viewers, the majority of whom are women, popular culture observers said while explaining why the genre is so popular no matter how poor the acting, plot and production. 

"It is like fast food," a Beijing-based playwright under the name Youyan told the Global Times. 

Boys' love dramas have turned out to be really popular in China and among some Southeast Asian viewers and Xiao Zhan has attracted quite a bunch of irrational loyal fans after the airing of The Untamed. Those fans defended Xiao online and did not allow any negative comments on their idol. 

Commercials enabled Xiao and his agency to earn huge amounts from the fans, who spent extragantly on Xiao-endorsed products. The model was repeated many times and drama producers turned to picking "popular" actors instead of those with better acting skills or who were more suitable for a role, an industry insider told the Global Times on condition of anonymity. 

The circle reinforced itself and the results were poorly made dramas and overly exploited fans, the insider said. 

What young people watch for entertainment has a strong influence on their value system. That is the reason why what the young watch should be guided. But that guidance should include offering high-quality dramas, experts said. 

The new NRTA guidelines come at a time when China is tightening its regulations on the entertainment sector, especially after scandals such as actress Zheng Shuang's tax evasion and the arrest of Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu on suspicion of rape.  

China also enhanced rectification with specific measures for "fan circle" culture in the entertainment industry, tackling the controversial moves by teenage fans that blindly idolize celebrities and spend money excessively on their "idols."