11 July 2024

Thailand’s Boy Love (BL) TV series, also known as Series Y, have grown in popularity and profitability across Asia. A veteran in the production of these drama series told Thai PBS World that more than 20 BL series are produced in Thailand per year. Thailand’s BL series are not only hugely popular, but they also effectively promote an inclusive society.

Thanks to the growing region-wide interest in these series, Thailand’s soft power has been enhanced and international streaming revenue is rapidly increasing. According to Department of International Trade Promotion, the streaming rights of Thailand’s BL series, purchased by other Asian countries, were worth 360 million baht in 2021.

According to Dylan Hung, CEO of Enfinity Entertainment, Thailand has already been producing BL series for more than 5 years and the openness and inclusion in Thai society are key to their popularity.

‘’Firstly, I think the young generation accepts LGBT culture. In the past, I believe many people liked this culture, but you could not read and watch BL-related books and dramas publicly. For example, there were a lot of BL comic books in Japan, but the society was not that open in terms of LGBT cultures. Parents did not allow their children to read LGBT comic books, so they could only read them in their rooms. Now everyone is open-minded in Thailand. Due to the success of Thailand’s BL series, many other countries are starting to produce them.’’

As the Thai BL series trend grows in many countries, fan clubs are being set up domestically and internationally. The actors featured in the series regularly host fan meetings. Having a reputation for acting in BL dramas, however, might lead to typecasting. Dylan said that it can be difficult for BL series actors to be successful in ‘’straight’’ TV series.

‘’When an actor appears in a BL TV series, fans recognise the couple in the drama. From the fan’s perspective, the actors are a “gay couple” and should, therefore, not be part of “straight couple”. Fans come to believe that the actor could only be with his partner in BL series. I think it’s difficult to change a partner to a female for BL series actors. Many popular actors have played BL characters and subsequently appeared with popular actresses. Eventually, however, it doesn’t work.’’

On discrimination in the entertainment industry, Dylan said that he has never seen any against BL series actors. ‘’Every actor is treated with friendliness. Thailand has used the influence of BL series to deliver the message that same-sex couples and marriage are normal in an inclusive society.’’

Dylan said whatever their gender and appearance, actors will not face any discrimination in the production team. In BL series, multiple roles, including gay, lesbian, and transgender, can be seen on the screen. Every individual is well recognised in the team.

Dylan added that there is no judgement concerning an actor’s sexuality in BL TV series in Thailand. No matter what the actor’s sexuality is, the compatibility with the role they are playing in the series is more important. ‘’Actors and actress are professionals. Even if you are straight, you can act gay. When it comes to casting, we only consider whether an actor’s image matches the character they will play in the series.’’

By Franc Han Shih, Thai PBS World