Too often, I hear people say that Brokeback Mountain is a good BL. There are of course, too many things wrong with that statement, but here I will only focus on one. Brokeback Mountain is a [terrible] LGBQT movie, not a BL. But what is the difference? Simply put, BL is a utopia while LGBQT shows present you with the reality of gay life. If we look deeper, we find that BL series focus on romance, while LGBQT shows tend to focus on queer identity or issues relating to queer life.
Most modern Thai-BL series are LGBQT shows but not all Thai BL shows are queer-conscious shows. BL shows in general are not always told from the perspective of a queer person. Instead, BL series and movies present an idealized, imaginary version of queer romance. How does this differ from mainstream LGBQT shows? The majority of BL novels, which form the basis of most BL series in Asia, are written by straight women. Thus, BL is not an experiential account of queer life. Instead, it is a third-person perspective on queer life, often based on stereotypes and presenting a fictionalized narrative about homosexual romance. While this is problematic, it also represents a unique opportunity as most women who write BL fiction seem to reimagine queer life in a way that is devoid of many of the tropes that have plagued Western queer cinema, such as tragic endings, parental interference, unrequited love, bisexual love triangles, etc. Often in Thai BL, the friends of the protagonist are very accepting of homosexual couples and parents are either blasé or nonchalant and may often be openly accepting with very little conflict experienced by the protagonist.
In LGQBT cinema, the gay identity is a central and defining element of the characters. We often hear a character say “I am gay” or we may see a character struggle with finding his or her sexual identity. A whole movie can be about a character’s inner journey to find their true identity. Alternatively, a character can find love in the course of finding his or her identity. Regardless, the central element of the plot is the character’s journey to find and accept his or her queerness.
In true BL, the characters rarely question their sexuality, and are sometimes portrayed to be gay just for the particular person they have a romantic attraction. If a character questions their identity, it is almost as an afterthought and most of the time their friends or family don’t question their sexuality. Central to the plot is not the sexual identity but the romantic relationship between the characters.