“Casting sometimes is fate and destiny more than skill and talent, from a director’s point of view”- Steven Spielberg
I’m sure that James (Time Dhamawat) would agree with this sentiment, because fate did bring him someone special. As the Thai BL “CIWYW The Series” came to conclusion last week, the miniseries was applauded for its brutal yet realistic depiction of fraudulent problems plaguing the BL Entertainment Industry. Director Aam Anusorn is known for his uncharacteristic portrayal of real life situations and this drama wasn’t any different. While drawing parallels to drastic issues, the director has indirectly voiced his opinions in a discerning manner. While most BL actors are put through a grinder to pacify public demands, their life becomes a glaring reflection of their onscreen characters. The script was designed to highlight the abysmal conditions forced on the BL actors. Without further ado, let’s review the finale episodes of this drama that is creating a buzz with its unique storyline!
The Stinging Reality of BL Culture
We will be focusing on some of the finer details in this script, as we proceed with the review. As the show throws shade on the miscreant activities as well as flagrant attitudes of most people involved in the BL industry, it is important to highlight the major issues that were criticized. This is going to be a long winding discussion, so buckle your seatbelts!
● BL industry is unfortunately full of small minded individuals who neither have absolute knowledge about the genre nor respect for the subject. While most view BL adaptations as lucrative business, creativity has been swept under the carpet. In the third episode James has a meeting with his colleagues, they are rather dismissive or too prudish. While most seem to follow a set formula (like costumes that are frequently recycled, irrespective of their relevance to the script), others are homophobic. I enjoyed watching James reconfirm his authoritative stance as he quickly fired the homophobic assistant. Glaringly obvious solution!
● The degrading attitude displayed by most Executives towards the BL actors was fleshed out realistically. Tee (Kenneth Won) received a lot of flake and rightly so. His mindset is utterly demeaning and disgusting. His rules and regulations are far too rigid and inhumane. The fact that he treats the actors under his management like dispensable products is unappreciative. As a human, he lacks compassion and respect, something he needs to learn from James. Director Aam drew Tee’s caricature from real life situations and you can almost spot the similarities. His controlling nature and aggressive tendencies grated on my nerves. I felt enraged on the behalf of the actors and was apologetic for the abysmal conditions they had to endure.
● I’m in love with James’ honest convictions and work ethics. Forgoing his personal connection with Ait, he is compassionate towards his actors. He is sympathetic to their plight and often tries to argue with Tee to lax his strict rules and regulations. Unlike most directors and management who view their actors as “Money Making Machines”, James is straightforward and kind. While creating this character, Aam Anusorn has presented his personified opinion about an ideal Director. Unless you treat your coworkers as human beings, you cannot expect an exemplary artwork. Their mental wellbeing is as important to a script as their physical appearance.
● “Shipping a Fictional Couple” is another mistake that was highlighted. Despite the fact that they are paired together in a BL series, Bas (Michael Kiettisak) and Ait (Benz Panupun) are close friends. Shipping is a serious business in BL culture and the popularity of a BL drama depends on the off screen compatibility of the pairing. Something that sounds ridiculous and fake! Do we have the same kind of expectations from actors starring in a straight romance? Most fans adore the heterosexual couple in mainstream dramas and once the drama ends, they move on. They rejoice when the same actors are cast opposite different people in their new projects. The differences between both fandoms is the level of toxicity that steeps into the BL actor’s personal lives and makes them miserable. We really need to stop projecting our dreams and fantasies onto the BL couples. They can be friends, confidants and even good companions without being real life partners!
● “Casting Couch” is a figurative term that explains the deviancy portrayed by most filmmakers as they seek sexual favors from the actors in return for favors granted willingly or unwillingly. We have two such cases depicted in this drama, that blasted our notions pertaining to the management of BL actors. Kaprao’s (Kaprao Pongkorn) contract was wrongfully terminated because his pictures with a certain female friend were circulated all over the social media. Kaprao however was brave enough to address the real issue behind his suspension. Soliciting sexual favors forcefully is an executable offense in most Asian countries, unfortunately they never get reported. While Kaprao has the guts to accept the reality and fight for his rights, Bas’s docile nature makes him an easy target for Tee. The first season ended with his tearful acceptance that Tee abused him as well. I’m looking forward to the second season, simply because I want to watch Bas take a stand against Tee and fight for himself.
The Agony of Being A BL Actor
We watch regional BL dramas, enjoy the romance and then build a fictional universe where the characters are truly together. Likewise, we keep replaying their moments in a hope that their onscreen chemistry will spill onto their offscreen lives. We follow the actors obsessively on their social media handles and comment on their daily lives, trying to reconnect the dots.
What we fail to imagine is the stark reality behind the mask they wear!
Yes, the BL actors are forced to act in a real life play that extends beyond their onscreen persona. They have to follow a rigid lifestyle with curtailed diets, their facial features are adjusted to suit the characters they portray and their social media accounts are monitored. They live a stifling life without a moment of peace. Most fans fail to understand that they are enjoying fake illusions displayed to please their senses and earn more money.
Bas (Michael Kiettisak) has become a shining beacon to the issues faced by a BL Actor. We must appreciate Michael’s acting talents. As against “Oxygen The Series” where his character had a somber personality, Michael gave a power packed performance as “Bas”. His depiction is realistic and will leave you devastated as well as aghast. After facing miserable circumstances (at the hands of his Manager Tee), Bas is learning to step out of his comfort zone. It might take sometime before he gathers the courage required to face his personal demons, but I’m sure he will work past those issues. Unlike most BL actors, Bas is blessed with a strong support system (Ait, James and Marco). Here’s hoping that he learns to fight his own battles in Season Two and stands up against Tee’s nefarious attitude!
A Beautiful Love Story
While most BL actors refrain from posting about their personal lives, there are a few who are proud of their better halves. The unfortunate reality is that BL actor with same sex partner might escape the narcissist attitude displayed by their fandoms. However, office romances are still considered as taboo in this culture. As such, the refreshing portrayal of James and Ait’s relationship was praiseworthy. Ait’s daring attitude was a welcome change. Despite James’ fervent attempts to hide his feelings, Ait never gives up on trying. He likes what he sees and has the guts to follow his heart. It was nice to watch them slowly fall in love while trying to escape Tee’s clutches. James and Ait are one of my favorite Thai BL couples (apart from Director Aam’s Phana & Wayo).
It was exciting to watch them enjoy stolen moments of solace, while being under intense scrutiny. Unexpectedly this romance was the fresh breath of air that provided some relief. I’m honestly astounded with Director Aam’s ability to write a script that not only focuses on the darker elements but also provides classic romance. Although James acts scared in the preceding episodes, Ait slowly draws him out of the shell. They are polar opposites, have different personalities and yet they gel together. Although I did feel bad for Marco (who has feelings for James), love cannot be forced. It just happens when you meet the right person!
A Fledgling Romance That Gives Hope
The loose ends were tied together in the finale episode. Both Marco and Bas are lost souls trying to find their way back from harsh realities. While Bas struggles with his stringent lifestyle and sexual abuse, Marco suffers from a bleeding heart. Marco sees a kindled spirit and as such, he is drawn to Bas. Two strangers meet under unfavorable circumstances and end up becoming each other’s support. I was actually surprised by their easy interactions. The way Marco ostentatiously tries to help Bas, safeguards him and teaches him to swear his worries away was heartwarming. I’m looking forward to watching the next season, simply because I’m enamored by the chemistry between these two characters. Marco’s kind and caring nature can be the balm for Bas’s wounded soul.
CIWYW The Series is one of those few dramas with a well written script and fantastic direction. The anticipation is at the peak for the second season and I’m hoping we can get a release date soon. The sequel will probably bring Tee to justice as our two main couples grow closer. Beyond speculations, I’m totally excited to watch James-Ait and Bas-Marco’s future journey. Fingers crossed!
Rating- 4 out of 5