Bad Buddy and the subversive sentimentality of BL storytelling

Although the BL fandom is diverse, it historically biases women, likely because women seek out narratives that eliminate explicit depictions of the power imbalances that come with a constructed gender binary and that we are steeped in in our daily lives. Sometimes that means seeking escape into a world in which women – but not femininity – are taken out of the equation. In Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan, academic Rio Otomo writes: “To say that the reader disappears in BL may sound negative. But forgetting one’s gendered body, or moving away from a fixed identity, is essentially a liberating concept and, for this reason, it is the central idea of ​​queer theory.

Why are so many women interested in stories centered on men and their romantic relationships? In short, because it’s exhausting to be a woman in a world that devalues, objectifies and polices women. When it comes to fantasy, it’s often more enjoyable for us to imagine a relationship in which women don’t exist than to imagine a relationship that contains both men and women, given how gender has been built into our cultures. (“Of course,” notes Otomo, “this reader is not necessarily a woman but rather a man who has a desire to transform existing social relations and, therefore, is in search of a new utopian vision.” )

Even within the framework of the BL, bad buddy is special. Like any genre, BL has its fair share of problematic tropes; bad buddy subverts so many of them, creating a stronger, more inclusive story. There is no homophobia in the world bad buddy, with many supporting characters going out of their way to express their encouragement for same-sex relationships, even before we learn that one of the characters is himself queer. The challenges the central couple face in being together never have anything to do with their homosexuality. In another example of bad buddy subverting toxic tropes, Pran and Pat make it clear that they are not “just gay for each other,” a common trope that can read as a double erasure or broader rejection of queerness. In bad buddy, it is clarified that the characters have distinct and uncanny identities aside from their attraction and love for each other.

bad buddy actively challenges the casual misogyny that seeps into many mainstream stories. At one point in the series, Pran calls out Pat when he makes a sex joke about their roles as “husband” and “wife”. “Does calling me wife make you feel superior?” Pran asks, brushing off Pat’s occasional misogyny. “You don’t need to call us husband and wife.”

More generally, bad buddyThe female characters in are portrayed as fully-fledged human beings, with a complex inner life of their own. While the series includes Ink (Pansa Vosbein), a girl from Pat and Pran’s past is cast as a potential threat to their rapprochement, in a subversion of the “crazy ex-girlfriend” trope, it’s finally clarified that the real obstacle is actually the two boys. unspoken jealousy and refusal to communicate with each other. The ink is not only romantically indifferent to either of them, but supportive of their relationship. Beyond that, she has identities and interests outside of her relationships with the male leads. The same can be said for Pran’s mother, Dissaya (Paradee Vongsawad). Although Pat and Pran’s parents are sometimes the antagonists of the story, they are never treated as villains. When the surprisingly complex secret behind the parents’ long-running feud is revealed and Pran confronts Dissaya about it, the narrative gives way to Dissaya’s pain and perspective, even as she stands in the way of the central couple.

Another three-dimensional female character comes in the form of Pat’s younger sister, Pa (Pattranite Limpatiyakorn), who represents the other major relationship in Pat’s life. When one of Pran’s friends expresses a romantic interest in Pa, Pat doesn’t fall for the common misogynistic “don’t touch my sister” response, but instead says it’s up to his sister to decide, encouraging the boy to go for it. go. In general, Pa and Pat’s sibling relationship is one of the healthiest in the series and a constant source of support and comfort for both characters. Without giving too much away, the series also features a “girls love” subplot, less common in BL dramas, which is treated with as much tenderness and romance as the central couple’s story.

If it wasn’t apparent from the examples above, bad buddy is cleverly constructed. (A climactic scene is completely recorded by the Thai xylophone.) There are the performances of the stars of the series Nanon and Ohm, who not only have killer chemistry but demonstrate impressive range in their respective portrayals of two men coming of age while trying to balance their hearts, ambitions, and family pressures. The performances suggest a full commitment to the material from the young actors, but also speak to the talent of director Aof and the rest of his crew. Good performances tend to come from creating a safe space for actors to be vulnerable and explore, and P’Aof seems to have done that with bad buddy.

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