(P49) Queer Web Series in South East Asia
Fri 15:30-17:00 K10 | 3.39
- Ben Murtagh SOAS University of London
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Finding Community Online; Testing, Treating and Positive Living in Queer Webseries from South East Asia.
Ben Murtagh SOAS University of London
Rates of new HIV infection in some Southeast Asian countries are among the highest in Asia, and queer Southeast Asians are often among the most at risk groups. Numbers living with HIV are also increasing due to improving though inconsistent access to anti-retroviral treatments. Recent years have seen a range of web series from different parts of South East Asia which engage with HIV AIDS in different ways. In particular a small number of series have specifically focused on queer individuals fearing, contracting, testing for, or living with HIV. Often funded by NGOs with a specific interest in developing knowledge about sexual health and informed decision for people living with and at risk of HIV, these series, to varying degrees integrate educational and entertainment objectives.
This paper will explore how the importance of online media in the lives of queer Southeast Asians comes together in various ways in the content and potential meaning making of these series. The series engage with online practices for finding sex partners, relationship partners and community support. Information about sexual health is incorporated into narratives but further information and ways to access support are provided in supporting material (spin off shows, blog posts, links and so on). These series form evidence of online worlds where people living with HIV and their allies are able to find voice, and speak to others who are more marginalised, in ways that mainstream television and national regimes of censorship often do not allow.
Online and Mainstream Thai Y series: The Politics of Exhibition and Queer Rights in Thailand
Atit Pongpanit Naresuan University
Sanchai Chotirosseranee Thai Film Archive
This paper explores the politics of exhibition and reception of “Boy Love Story” or “y series” in Thailand. This type of narrative, whether in novels, TV series or films, has been extremely well received among Thai audiences in recent years, especially among those who identify as sao y (y girls). Within the webseries format, we can say that it is now recognised as a distinct genre. At least 10 such series have been produced in Thailand every year since 2016. While originally introduced to Thai audience on online platforms, this paper will discuss study how Y series have developed over recent years, being produced for both online and legacy channels. In addition to considering how how and why the unique narrative of y series is differentiated from antecedent “gay films” or “gay series”, particular interest will be paid to the impact of censorship and ideas of popular tolerance (if not acceptance) on the y series content created for different channels and platforms. Finally, noting that these series only focus on male queer identities, rendering female queer identities almost invisible in Thai media, this paper will ask how the politics of exhibition and reception of y series, whether online or mainstream, impacts on discourses of queer rights in Thailand, both individually and within legal domain.
The Limits of Gay and Bakla in Select Original Pinoy BL/GL series: Gameboys, Hello Stranger, and Chasing Sunsets
Paul Michael Atienza University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
As the global COVID-19 pandemic began to spread early in 2020, the development and circulation of queer-focused web series from the Philippines multiplied. These original Pinoy BL series came after the successful reception and popularity of 2gether: The Series produced in Thailand. Online digital platforms have less influence from traditional Philippine media censors and its attachments to the Roman Catholic Church, thus allowing for media content with Philippine LGBTQIA+ stories to be less scrutinized. Applying feminist readings to three original Pinoy BL/GL series, this paper extends Robert G. Diaz’s (2015) analysis of the limits of bakla and gay as quintessential markers of queer Filipino/a identity in contemporary queer mediascapes. I argue that although original Pinoy BL/GL provides sites and spaces that validate gay Filipino cis-gender experiences, it still reinscribes idealized qualities of proper queer Philippine subjecthood informed through social hierarchies of race, class, gender, and sexuality. These include metrics of gay Filipino desirability mapped on to skin color and ethnicity, masculine and feminine binary gender expressions between same-sex couple characters, and representations of education and material access. Despite the possibilities of increased queer world-making through the web, it is important to understand the fraught nature of such liberatory representations, particularly when these cultural products fail to create solidarities with other marginalized groups or to critique intersecting forms of oppression.
The web series format is increasingly recognised for the new opportunities it offers creative workers to produce niche content long neglected by traditional or legacy broadcasters. Web series - scripted or non-scripted video in episodic format accessible via the internet - share certain characteristics with television series and can range over various genres including
sketch, drama, comedy and vlog. However, academic studies have highlighted a number of differences in terms of production techniques, subject matter and particular structuring, whereby it is not enough to simply characterise web series as television watched online on a computer. These developments have opened up spaces for marginalised and niche groups
to create, produce and consume content traditionally excluded from legacy networks. While this exclusion is characteristic of traditional television in many parts of the world, exclusion is often specifically accentuated in South East Asian due to strict regimes of censorship and government regulation, which has particular impact on the queer creatives and audiences.
The recent nomination of the Singaporean series People Like Us for an International Emmy, and the large audiences for the 2012 Vietnamese series My best gay friends, and the strong following for the Indonesian series Conq are just three examples of the range of queer web series being produced in South East Asia.
The academic study of web series from South East Asia is still in its infancy, despite the large audiences series can attract and the cultural and commercial potential offered by the format. Studies of queer series from the region are even fewer, though the burgeoning queer content being produced across the region is evidence of the value of the format for creatives marginalised or excluded by legacy TV. This panel invites papers which address the variety of queer web-series now being produced in South East Asia. We are particularly interested in papers that address queer representation in all kind of web series (for example; web series that engage with health and well-being (HIV, Covid-19, Mental Health, Sexual Health, boy love series, coming out narratives and youth dramas with a strong if not exclusive focus on queer characters). We are also interested in papers focused on industry, production, sponsorship and screening platforms and how these provide space for queer content. Studies which take an audience studies or fandom approach will also be welcomed. We are particularly interested in papers that take a region wide approach, or which focus on web series from Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia or the Philippines.