BL series slowly becoming popular

July 14, 2020

ALL of a sudden, there are so many local Boys Love series being produced and shown not on mainstream TV but online where viewers can access them on Youtube for free. Boys Love, as the title itself connotes, is a romance about two young men falling in love with each other.

We thought this genre started in Thailand, where it’s now shown on mainstream TV, but upon research, we learned that such homoerotic relationship shows started with Japan in the late 1970s, called yaol.  This later became popular in Thailand and was called wai. 

Thai filmmakers there started producing their own BL content in the early 2000s in such shows as “Kiss Me Again” and “Love By Chance”. In 2019 alone, more than 20 of such shows were produced in Thailand and they have also amassed a following in other Asian countries, including the Philippines. Their most popular show now is “2gether: the Series”, about two male college students falling in love with each other.

In the Philippines, it’s GMA Network who first experimented with gay love stories, starting with the immensely successful “My Husband’s Lover”, the trans series “Destiny Rose” and  the lesbian love story, “The Rich Man’s Daughter”.

Locally, the first BL series on line is “Game Boys”, produced by IdeaFirst Company of Perci Intalan and Jun Lana, written by Ash Malanum and directed by Ivan Payawal. It’s also the best so far and stars Kokoy de Santos and Elijah Canlas as two teeners who meet each other while playing online games and they’re story is told through the video feeds on their respective laptops, making it very contemporary.

Now, we have many other BL series being shown online so there’s practically a glut of such shows. First is “Sacristan” by Darryl Yap of “Jowable” fame, then “Hello Stranger” on iWant streaming. 

Also available is “In Between: Sa Pagitan ng Kamusta at Paalam” on USPH TV youtube, starring newcomers Migs Villasis and Genesis Redido, directed by Brilliant Juan. Then there’s “Unlocked” on Gagaoolala.com, which aims to raise funds to help local film industry workers displaced by the pandemic. This stars Markki Stroem and Mike Liwag, directed by Adolf Alix Jr.

We have yet to see “In Between” and “Unlocked”, but we’ve seen “Sacristan” and “Hello Stranger” and they both most certainly lack the wide appeal of “Game Boys”. The stars of “Sakristan” Clifford Pusing as Zachary and John Henry Villanueva as Christian, are both unattractive, lack star presence and look so ordinary. The story telling also feels dated. In this season of the pandemic, it feels like you’re watching a 90s romance, only with closeted gay characters.

“Hello Stranger” is even more ho-hum, even if its main star, Tony Labrusca, made waves in the iWant movie “Glorious”. Here, he’s projection is too pa-mhin. And he certainly has no chemistry with his supposed love interest, JC Alcantara, who lacks star quality and seems better suited for supporting roles. The supporting actor who plays one of their friends, Patrick Quiroz, is definitely much more appealing onscreen than him and looks like he’s also bursting with more energy. Also, they copied the format of “Game Boys” using laptop screens to tell their story, so that’s minus 20 points for being copycats. 

“Game Boys” remains to be the most worth watching local BL series at this point. It has much humor and the two leads are both splendid, particularly the charming Kokoy de Santos. Each episode is well written and inventive in having more “kilig” factor, including giving meaning to new words like “potassium”, which means “potah na, assuming pa.” 

Also intriguing is the entry of Kyle Velino as Terrence, Kokoy’s ex boyfriend, making it a love triangle. Also giving great support is Adrianna So as Pearl, the female faggot supportive friend of Kokoy. Now, they have also introduced two more new characters, Sue Prado as Elijah’s mother and Jerome Canlas as Eljiah’s elder brother.

One thing we noticed with the BL shows is that they all feature straight-acting guys. All act masculine and there are no swishy effeminate fags sashaying for the camera. This is understandable as such cross-dressing characters are often portrayed only as objects intended for comic relief and derision, not to be taken seriously. 

In the BL series, the sexuality of the characters are not really delved into deeply. The guys don’t identify themselves as gays but are projected as mere people who just happen to be in love with each other, regardless of gender. 

This makes it more of a fantasy than reality. This likewise suggests that only masculine acting gays are the ones who are desirable. 

Well, maybe, eventually, they will feature openly gay characters in their stories. But as of now, if you want to see real transgenders playing themselves with so much gay abandon on screen, you better watch such American series as “Pose” and “Legendary” where you can see them in wild abundance.