More than Conformity or Resistance
Chinese “Boys’ Love” Fandom in the Age of Internet Censorship
Keywords:BL, danmei, censorship, fandom, media studies, Zhenhun, Gouwazi Tianyi, 耽美, 審查制度, 粉絲研究, 媒體研究, 鎮魂, 狗娃子天一
One of the most popular literary and cultural practices particularly in the digital age, “boys’ love” (BL, danmei 耽美) manga and fictional works are fantasies on romantic or homoerotic male-male relationships, and therefore are often naturally associated with homosexuality and pornography, two “morally” suspicious targets of government censorship in the heteronormative Chinese culture. This article aims to examine the various, indeed often opposite, strategies and tactics taken by BL participants and by some conscientious netizens on popular social media to illustrate how those who are under the threat of censorship grapple with harsh reality. In this article I argue that the BL practitioners’ responses to Chinese government’s anti-pornography campaigns are not simply a passive or reluctant “reaction.” I will first study the web adaptation of Priest’s BL story Zhenhun, demonstrating Priest’s as well as her fans’ tactful collaboration with the consumer culture and willing conformity to official discourse. Forming a sharp contrast with Priest’s commercial success, the controversial ten-year jail sentence of another BL writer, Gouwazi Tianyi, for profiting from producing and selling BL fiction has caused widespread outcry from both BL fans and ordinary netizens on Chinese social media. This case not only questions the dated criminal laws on obscene articles, but also challenges the patriarchal and problematic social institutions.
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