Hi guys, welcome to A Disgrace To Scholar’s first In the Weeds feature post, this time focusing on the topic of queer subtext in East Asian popular media. I'm going to go a bit broader than our usual remit in the sense that I'll be talking about anime and video games as well as dramas— there will be spoilers for some of the examples I’m discussing, but I'll make sure to give warnings in advance when I'm about to talk about a particular fandom in detail (they are also tagged on the post, for the curious).
This topic is going to be covered in two posts. Part one is going to be looking at the concept of “queerbaiting” and why it is inappropriate to apply that term to these kinds of relationships in East Asian media. Part two, which will be posted next week after our discussion on episode 3 of Guardian, is going to take a more in-depth look at what the signs of an implied same sex relationship actually look like.
So, without further ado: welcome to my TED talk!So what am I discussing, and why?
This feature is specifically examining quasi-canon subtextual/implied same-sex relationships in popular East Asian media, particularly in relation to (1) the reasons why creators often leave it to the audience to read between the lines rather than outright confirm, and (2) the signs that imply that kind of authorial intent.
There are a number of things I may touch on, but will not be discussing in detail, including pure fanservice and “no homo” tropes (except to the extent that it’s relevant to help draw this distinction), or about the actual BL genre, both of which are more than extensive enough topics to fuel their own discussions. (Anyway, at least in terms of Chinese/Taiwanese BL, hollyberries
is far more qualified than me to talk about that.) However, in the second post, I will
be talking about the “grey zone”, where fanservice and quasi-canon overlap, or it’s not possible to tell which it is or whether the author even intended to imply anything at all.
As for why… first of all, I find that being able to interpret these hints really deepens your understanding and enjoyment of the source material, and because a lot of them lean on cultural signals and genre tropes, they can be easy to miss or misinterpret for a western audience. Personally, I love this shit, and I wanted to share at least a taste of this joy with our readers, especially since we are currently reviewing a drama based on a BL web novel where the lead characters lean hard
into that relationship in spite of the censors, and it is particularly pertinent as we lead into our discussion on episode 3 of Guardian
(or, as we refer to it, the Sad Lesbians episode).
The second reason is that I’m choosing to be optimistic about the possibility that spreading a little more understanding on the topic might cut down on the number of western fans slapping the label “queerbaiting” on things where it really doesn’t belong. (Possibly futile, I know, but this is one of my pet peeves and hope springs eternal.)( Read more... )
To summarize: this is the way these stories get told. For now, at least, it is in many cases the only
way these stories get told. If the choice is between queercoded quasi-canon subtext (which, for Guardian
and Yuri!!! on Ice
, is an understatement) and no queer relationships in these genres and mediums at all, personally, I am more than happy to take the subtext. It is also worth bearing in mind that progress often happens in stages; you don’t leap from zero to 60 with representation. These shows are stepping stones— and in the case of Yuri!!! on Ice
, a very big
step that personally left me stunned.
So please, whatever you do: think twice before calling these stories queerbaiting, and if you see someone who does— maybe link them over here?Join me again next week for Part 2 of this In the Weeds special feature: Recognizing the Subtext Signs.