Today one of my Vietnamese friend living in Taiwan posted a photo of her classroom, where 80% students skipped the class to join the same-sex marriage protest. It’s great to see the country being one of the most progressive in Asia on LGBT rights, even President Tsai Ing-wen previously expressed support for equal marriage: “When it comes to love, everyone is equal”.
Homosexuality remains taboo in mainland China and many Asia countries, therefore same-sex marriage in Taiwan would send a powerful yet potentially provocative message.
#2. Chinese Danmei Fandom
Many friends know that I’m a jiejie (sister) fan of the Chinese teenager boyband TFBOYS. Strangely as it might sound, but being a fan of this band leads me to the discovery of not only the power of Chinese fan communities, but also the precarious existence of danmei fandom in the mainland.
Danmei (耽美) is a word that has been applied in the description of BL (boys’ love)-themed comics since the 1970s which at the time were mostly aesthetic and romantic. However these days, the danmei fandom tends to celebrates explicit homoerotic relationships between boys or men who are fictional characters or real-life celebrities, which obviously put it at a high risk of prosecution as it breaks two social taboos in one shot: pornography and homosexuality.
In 2010, a massive censorship crackdown in China shut down more than 60,000 pornographic websites and arrested 5,000 people. Thousands of danmei fan forums, websites, and personal blogs were affected and the community had no choice but to collapse. For those who might not know, danmei fandom is surprisingly dominated by women, most of whom are heterosexual and mockingly referred to by public as “rotten girls”.
Chinese media contributed to the scene by suggesting that “the BL fan girls needed psychiatric help because their interests were abnormal and a sign of mental problems. Some also argued that they might cause societal harm because of the anti-mainstream, rebellious nature of their practice, or might be used by anti-governmental and anti-social forces to threaten social stability” (Reflection on Chinese boys’ love fans: An insider’s view – Erika Junhui Yi).
Despite strict regulation from government and heavy pressure from society, the Chinese danmei community has managed to thrive on by one way or another. There also exists a super strong bond among members of the fandom. So I discussed with Arina (a friend from Russia) the other day about what might be the psychological cause that drive those kinds of thoughts and behaviours and we both came to the agreement that gender inequality in society is one of the main factors.
However in my case, a straight girl who never shipped any m/m couple before and strongly despised on danmei fictions, suddenly one day discovered that she has become a casual shipper of TFBOYS Karry and Roy, the reasons turn out to be quite different:
- The 10-year age gap between me and TFBOYS very naturally blocks all the fantasy a normal fangirl might have with their idols. However as an female individual, I somehow still feel more comfortable seeing they end up with a male rather than a female :’> Whether or not this can be explained by a psychological research, I think it well reflects my subconscious jealousy.
- The bromance between Karry and Roy is really adorable to the point that I gradually enjoy seeing them together.
So whether or not I have a mental disorder? I guess it’s better for my friends to answer it *wink*. But as much as I support the existence of danmei as an emotional outlet for some people, I detest extreme cases of manifestation and all acts of fandom manipulation.
TFBOYS officially debuted on August 6, 2013 with three members: Karry was born in 1999 while Roy and Jackson was born in 2000. At this moment, their popularity has swept across Chinese regions and the three boys are some of the youngest Chinese A-list celebrities. So how come the band usually gets associated with danmei keywords?
#1. They are scripted
While what’s going on among the three members is simply just bromance, it seems that TF Entertainment (the company) has been tactical in creating a narrative that appeals to the fan girls’ interests in homosexual relationships. Even Hunan Broadcasting System (China’s second biggest television network after CCTV) plays this card to exploit the popularity of BL fandom.
#2. They are young
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines pedophilia as an intense and recurrent sexual interest in prepubescent children. Although pedophilia fiction is banned in major Chinese danmei communities, it continues to spread through online file-sharing services and personal blogs.
In “The End of Cool Japan”, Mark McLelland thinks “the debut and immediate popularity of the domestic boyband TFBOYS in social media in 2013 seems to have revived the specter of pedophilia in danmei fandom”.
As I truly like the positive vibe of this young band, hope that they are well protected in the industry and can grow up to be happy and successful. Can’t imagine how they would feel or think upon seeing countless of danmei fanfics and fanarts spreading on the Internet, in which they are sometimes portrayed in extreme sadomasochistic love affairs.