I gave an online lecture as part of the monthly Research Seminar Series of Macquarie University’s Department of International Studies on Friday 3rd April 2020 from 2pm-3.30pm (Sydney Time) via Zoom. The presentation draws upon my recent book project on Thai Boys Love media.
Thailand’s “Boys Love Machine”: Producing “queer” idol fandom across Southeast Asia
This presentation explores the emergence of a form of popular culture that has recently developed in Thailand known as “series wai” or “Boys Love (BL).” Drawing upon five years of observation of this emergent media genre, I argue that Thailand is fast becoming a new regional hub for Asian queer popular culture. This presentation traces the celebrity culture that is central to Thai BL fandom through case studies of celebrity management and promotion by two production companies. I argue that GMM, Thailand’s largest media producer, has developed a “BL machine” that deploys Japanese and South Korean celebrity management techniques to produce “BL ships” designed to be consumed by heterosexual female fans of homoerotic media. I argue through a case study of one such “ship” named TayNew that Thai media companies have explicitly and strategically co-opted the grassroots practices of K-pop fans in the production and promotion of their celebrities. I then turn my attention to the transnational nature of this fandom through a discussion of a fan-meeting for Thai BL celebrities held in Manila. Through interviews with Philippine fans, I reveal that “Thai BL” has important emancipatory affects, dislodging Japan as the leader of Asia’s queer popular culture production within the Philippines.