HIStory – A “BoyLove” Web series from Taiwan

On Youtube at the moment there is a gay web series that is available (not sure how legal it is), with English subtitles. There are three stories available, each with four episodes. Each episode is about 15-20 minutes. The web series is called HIStory, and it is in the “BoyLove” (aka BL) genre. For anyone not familiar with BL, its a genre of gay male fiction or TV that is most commonly found in Japan. The usual trope is that a masculine older man finds himself attracted to a young, more effeminate man who is his junior, and after some soul searching they then embark on a relationship. From what I saw in Japan, it is actually a genre that is more popular amongst teenage women than gay men.

The three stories from the web series are titled ObsessedMy Hero, and Stay Away From Me. The first one I watched was Stay Away From Me which follows two young men (around the age of 18) who have recently become step brothers. Their parents recently married and they’ve been put together because one of them has been told to help the other with his school work. They start out disliking each other, but then steadily grow to respect and enjoy each other’s company. One of the brothers has a female friend, who, in a sort of parody of the genre, becomes obsessed with the idea that the two men could become lovers and starts writing BL fiction about them. I then watched My Hero for which the premise is that there is a girl who dies, and who negotiates with a ‘genie’ to inhabit the body of a man in order to stay with her boyfriend. She then has the challenge of making her boyfriend fall in love with her as a man, even though she is sure he is not attracted to men. The final one was Obsessed which is also the most odd. It is about a young man whose male lover tells him he is engaged to a woman. The young man then runs out into the street and is hit by a car. He is then reborn, and vows not to have anything to do with former lover ever again.

When I started watching the tv series I was little sceptical because I know how the BL genre can be. BL can be quite dull and superficial without much profundity in it. However what I quite liked about these web series is that the writers seemed quite aware of the genre they were working and, and were prepared to thwart our expectations. In the first two series I watched there was a twist of some sort that took it away from the common expectations of the genre. I also liked that the characters in all the genres were aware of social pressures to be straight, but when love came along they decided that being with who they loved was more important than conforming to societal norms. I felt that this was also important because it was set in Taiwan, where same-sex marriage is being discussed. Popular culture has the power to change hearts and mind on issues such as this.

None of the stories in this web series is likely to win any prizes for storyline or directing. You can see that they are written by teenagers for teenagers. You have to suspend disbelief quite heavily at the start of each story to accept it’s premise before you then watch the rest of it, and some of the acting could be improved. That said, it is an improvement and a movement towards accepting gay tv in Taiwan that such a web series has been created. And they are better than most of the BL stuff I’ve watched previously. Possibly the best indication of this was that I was able to watch each of them to the end, whereas with previous BL stories I normally stop after a few minutes when I am introduced to the main characters.

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