On 25th May 2022, at 9am British Standard Time, I will be joining a panel at the online virtual conference on “Forgotten Popular Culture: Asian Cinema and Film History” to present on my ongoing work concerning the mainstreaming of Thai Boys Love media. Hosted by the University of Leicester, this online conference “aims to rediscover popular Asian films, genres and filmmakers that are either overlooked in film history or critically deemed ‘unworthy’ at the time.” For better or worse, within the context of Thailand’s queer cinematic traditions, BL has certainly been overlooked as a purely commercial genre of cinema with little cultural merit.
My presentation, The Films of Chookiat Sakveerakul and the Mainstreaming of Queer Romance in Contemporary Thai Media Culture, examines the pioneering work of Thai director, producer, and auteur Chookiat Sakveerakul (with whom I have previously discussed BL in Southeast Asia at the Taiwan Queer Film Festival) to explore how BL has evolved into a significant genre of queer cinema in contemporary Thailand. The abstract is below:
In this presentation, I critically analyse the oeuvre of Chookiat Sakveerakul to discuss this Thai director, auteur, and producer’s seminal role in the popularization and mainstreaming of the genre of “Boys Love” (BL), a pan-Asian queer popular culture form focused on the celebration of romantic entanglements between handsome young men. Shifting the focus of Thai queer media history away from the previous scholarship’s emphasis on independent cinema – chiefly, the work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul – I situate Sakveerakul’s popular teen romances Love of Siam (2006) and Dew, Let’s Go Together (2019) within the growing formalization and mainstreaming of queer romantic narratives in contemporary Thai media culture. I first position Love of Siam (2006) as a “pre-cursor” to the explosion of BL soap operas that have dominated Thai consumer culture from the late-2010s onwards by exploring how the massive success of Sakveerakul’s film with young female audiences revealed the economic potentials of queer romance in Thailand. I then consider how Dew, Let’s Go Together responds to the initial runaway success of Love of Siam. I argue that, unlike Love of Siam which sought to “hide” its queer cinematic interventions through heteronormative marketing campaigns and narrative conventions, Dew, Let’s Go Together instead participates in the generic and promotional norms of BL’s pan-Asian media culture. In particular, I place an emphasis on how the latter film responds to the importance of fandom for handsome young male actors in the BL industry in Thailand. In contrasting these two films and reflecting on Sakveerakul’s public comments concerning the rise of BL media in Thailand, I ultimately reveal that queer romance has shifted from a subversive topic in Thai cinema to a mainstream, popular form with strong market potential.
Importantly, this presentation draws upon and extends my writing on Love of Siam as a “pre-cursor” to Thai BL which forms a significant part of my forthcoming book on Thai BL.
The conference is free to attend, but registration is essential. You may register via this link.