Thailand is currently the reigning king when it comes to the production of boys’ romance series (BL), surpassing Japan. Thai BLs have been slowly gaining in popularity and importance since 2013. The demand for Thai BLs in the past few years has increased significantly. Shows such as Kinnporsche, Not me, To Sir With Love, Cutie Pie, and Bad Buddy have a huge local and international following. These shows dominate the market and are currently Thailand’s biggest entertainment export.
1. Where it all began
Thailand’s boy love series culture, was mainly inspired by the growing popularity of Japanese manga in Asia. In the beginning, discussions about adapting this drama genre were considered controversial. Many entertainment companies were reluctant to present a homoerotic relationship as the main plot of a show. Therefore, they chose to make their subplots and gauge the reactions of their viewers.
The Channel 9 network, however, decided to take a risk in 2014 when it released Love Sick: The Series and changed the game forever. It became the inauguration of Thai queer media on the mainstream platform. The show was positively received and proved that the public was ready for homoerotic media that did not conform to the heteronormative narrative.
Following the success of Love Sick, other Thai entertainment companies began to pay more attention to this new genre of media. GMMTV, a subsidiary of Thailand’s largest entertainment conglomerate, launched SOTUS, which was a huge success. The impact of the series’ success is still evident today. SOTUS became the model for the BL industry; it paved the way and popularized the BL series. It was also a wake-up call to entertainment companies that the BL series can be extremely profitable.
2. The blossoming of the genre
There has been a remarkable shift in societal attitudes toward homosexuality in recent years. Globally, many young people are supporting LGBTQ rights and looking for queer representations in the shows they watch. These shows are now evolving and talking about the social complexities that queer people go through in their everyday lives. The show Cutie Pie raised the issue of same-sex marriages in Thailand.
Another successful show, Not Me, has addressed LGBTQ activism, and viewers can certainly relate to these issues. These shows have mastered how to discuss issues such as LGBTQ discrimination, coming out to parents, and exploring and understanding sexuality. The characters portray these stories in a way that viewers can not only understand but sympathize with.
Global lock-ins have given people the opportunity to watch different shows and discover new content. Social media is one of the most effective ways to discover trending shows. Shows like 2gether: The Series has a huge following on social media and were released during the pandemic, which helped tremendously. The pandemic also helped popularize the Thai Bl series. Throughout its run, it dominated global trends on Twitter. More and more people became curious about the BL series and quickly went down the rabbit hole.
There is also a correlation between K-pop and Thai BL; it’s like bread and butter. A common joke among fans is that you can’t like one without knowing the other. Most fans have admitted to falling in love with K-pop and K-dramas and somehow finding themselves watching the Asian BL series and vice versa. The two fandoms intersect beautifully and influence each other positively.
3. The charm of the Thailand Boy Love series
The BL industry has learned to give its target audience exactly what they want. The biggest consumers of the Thailand BL series are young women from around the world. One of the reasons why many young people watch the BL series is because of the handsome men. These actors are not only handsome, but they also work and look just like the hot characters described in the manga.
Second is the on-screen chemistry between the two attractive leads. There is something so appealing about good on-screen chemistry between the lead actors. It helps viewers root for their story and makes their brand marketable. Thai BL actors have a huge following because of their incredible chemistry. For example, take a look at some of Thailand’s most famous BL couples, MileApo, BibleBuild, Zeenew, Offgun, and YinWar. Their chemistry, both on and off screen, is something that fans are always curious to see.
The demand for them is so powerful, and it allows them to create powerful brands that fans and companies want to invest in. Their huge audience for these shows on social media has also helped Thailand revive its declining tourism. Fans want to visit Thailand and see the filming locations of famous scenes; they want to attend fan meetings to meet their favorite stars. They want to attend concerts by their favorite actors and meet other fans.
4. The power of fandom
After the release of KinnPorsche, actors like Bible, Build, Mile, and Jeff Satur became instantly famous and had one of the most powerful fandoms online. This is the kind of soft power you never want to mess with. The success of these shows also propels these actors into global fame, attracting millions of fans worldwide who will stop at nothing to support these actors and their future projects.
These dedicated fandoms play a huge role in spreading “BL culture”. They have created a safe space online where people can feel comfortable supporting the BL series and sharing their opinions. They are free to engage with each other and have discussions about the shows. Of course, there have been toxic elements in fandom, especially online, but every market has a madman.
These dramas’ narratives and love scenes are also designed to compel the audience to support the couples. KinnPorsche has elevated the Thai BL industry by moving away from the usual high school and college themes and their explicit approach to love scenes. KinnPorsche has proven that a good script and a great cast can elevate a show. The show’s love scenes continue to trend on TikTok and Twitter weeks after the series ends.
These series also sell the perfect fantasy, and critics have long talked about how these shows don’t capture the reality of queer people in Thailand. Most of these series take place in a world where queer people are not a minority and do not face the everyday obstacles that many members of the LGBTQ community face.
However, others have argued that sometimes escaping reality is a good thing. There is also the fantasy of having the perfect partner who will see you through the ups and downs. A gorgeous, sexy man who will love you until the end of eternity. These actors make their viewers believe in the possibility of such love. In the end, fantasy is escapism, and that is its glory.
Sound off in the comments section below, and tell us what you want to read next and if you want to read more about the rise of the BL industry.