Between Thailand, Japan, and Asia: “Boys Love” dramas in Thailand

Noh (Captain Chonlathorn) and Phun (White Phumphotingam), the main protagonists and couple from Lovesick: The Series

I will be giving a presentation entitled Between Thailand, Japan, and Asia: “Boys Love” dramas in Thailand and the internationalisation of Japanese conceptualisations of gay desire at the University of Sydney as part of the Crossroads in Cultural Studies Conference. The details for the conference can be found here.

The presentation forms part of a panel which I have organised and will be chairing entitled Transnational Boys Love: Japanese homoerotic comic culture goes global. I will be joined by two of my friends and colleagues; Asako Saito from the University of Melbourne and Kristine Santos from the University of Wollongong.

Here is the abstract for my presentation:

The internationalisation of Japanese popular culture has emerged as a key area of enquiry within cultural studies. In this presentation, I investigate the influence of Boys Love (BL), a Japanese genre of homoerotic media produced for heterosexual female audiences, on the production of a Thai lakorn (drama) entitled Lovesick The Series. Employing Iwabuchi’s (2002) theory of glocalisation, I discuss how BL’s generic conventions are adapted to lakorn and investigate the juxtaposition of Thai understandings of gay desire with those expressed in BL. Through this discussion, I interrogate the development of a cross-cultural discourse of gay desire within the Thai mediascape. I demonstrate that the conservative nature of Thai media, where television networks have censored expressions of non-heteronormative sexuality in the past, leads Lovesick to adopt certain narrative structures that reinforce the normality of heterosexual relationships. In particular, I examine how the image of the kathoey (the so-called “ladyboy”) is utilised within Lovesick to reinforce the heteronormativity of the principal gay couple. I conclude with a brief survey of international fan reactions to the perceived lack of “authentic BL tropes” in Lovesick, reflecting on how the transnational character of BL fandom potentially represents an internationalisation of one Japanese discourse of same-sex desire.

The PPT slides for this presentation will be made available on my academia page at a later date.

Asako will be giving a presentation entitled Narrative or database consumption? Conceptualising Chinese and Japanese Three Kingdoms Boys Love. Here is the abstract:

The classic Chinese tale of Three Kingdoms has been retold countless times throughout history. Cinema, television, and gaming are some of the numerous mediums in which its themes and characters are consumed in China today. In Japan, where it has enjoyed great popularity for centuries, Three Kingdoms has also been extended to various genres and mediums. Of interest to this particular paper are its rewritings within the context of the Japanese female-oriented subculture known as Boys Love (BL). With origins in 1970s Japanese girls’ comics, this subculture focuses on the romantic and often sexual love between men. Japanese and, more recently, Chinese women are playfully experimenting with unconventional homoerotic pairings of Three Kingdoms characters in their writings. In this presentation, I aim to examine this cross-cultural phenomenon through the lens of Hiroki Azuma’s theories on postmodern consumption of popular culture. Although Azuma’s study focused solely on consumption in the Japanese context, I hope to demonstrate its versatility by applying it to both Japanese and Chinese Three Kingdoms BL.

Kristine will be giving a presentation entitled Transnational fujoshi literacies as seen in “glocalised” Boys Love fanworks. Here is the abstract:

The global export of Japanese popular culture has led not only to an influx of Japanese cultural goods to youths but also access to Japanese fan culture. In this presentation, I explore the power of dōjinshi (fan-produced comics) in teaching girls of various cultural backgrounds about literacies tied to the fan culture of fujoshi, “rotten girl” fans of Boys Love (BL). These literacies range from theoretical concepts such as “coupling” to inter textual creative practices that typify the production of BL fanworks. For this presentation, I specifically discuss the global distribution of Japanese BL dōjinshi in online spaces such as Pixiv, Livejournal, Tumblr, and online manga reading sites. I examine how these spaces have been pivotal in educating non-Japanese fans about the various literacies involved in fujoshi culture. I argue that whilst these spaces have been integral in building fujoshi literacies amongst foreign fans, they have also contributed to the development of a “glocalised” fujoshi culture. The presentation concludes by arguing that, rather than being tied to the same imagination as Japanese fujoshi, the glocalisation of BL dōjinshi has caused a rift between Japanese and non-Japanese fans.

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