“The liberal idea of tolerance is more and more a kind of intolerance. What it means is ‘Leave me alone; don’t harass me; I’m intolerant towards your over-proximity”- Slavoj Žižek
This dialogue resonates throughout the sequel of the highly anticipated drama “Call It What You Want”. While the first season build the crescendo to high pitch, the second season solemnly focuses on despair, hurt, pain and separation. As Bas and Marco acknowledge their weaknesses and endeavor to fight against injustice; James and Ait realise that trust and mutual understanding is of utmost importance in a relationship. Both couples signify different aspects and yet the message they deliver is pivotal and important. I’m in love with the succulent script that will probably leave you awestruck and surprised. The show’s abject need to project fraudulent practices and dishonest behavior is Director Aam Anusorn’s attempt at showcasing a reality, that is otherwise hidden and glossed over. While the prequel focused on the stinging realities of the BL world like “Workplace Harassment”, “Shipping Fictional Couples” and “The Restrictive Life faced by the BL actors”, the sequel majorly focuses on seeking justice and redemption. Director Anusorn doesn’t mince his words, as he takes a direct dig on the abysmal conditions forced on the BL actors, while highlighting the miscreant activities of their dubious managements. Without further ado, let’s review the second season of this trailblazer drama!
The Unacceptable Reality of Sexual Abuse
The true agony and helplessness of being stuck in an alternate reality, with no escape route is truly tormenting. While Bas is an overtly sensitive individual, his major weakness is his inability to say “No”. Such a simple word and yet powerful enough. But how many of us, actually have the mental fortitude and strength to assertively utter this word. Honestly very few!
We must applaud both Director Anusorn and Michael Kiettisak’s consistent efforts to portray the mental instability of this character. Bas represents most actors or even actresses in the entertainment industry, who are subjected to sexual abuse on a daily basis. While workplace harassment is common in most industries, “Casting Couch” is a more frequent anomaly in the media industry. The actor’s inability to voice their opinions, is taken as free concession. Michael Kiettisak does a phenomenal job evoking the base emotions of this character; as Bas goes through different phases of denial, fear and resentment. Bas represents most actors who wish for popularity and as such endure harassing situations. For them, there is no way out; as they feel compelled to ALLOW the abuse. The mental torture is degrading and there are very few, who actually climb out of this rabbit hole. While Bas’s helplessness was tormenting to watch, his final stance to fight for justice was satisfying. Michael’s power packed performance will forever be etched in our minds, simply because it is realistic, brutally honest and reckoning.
Fighting Against Fraudulent Practices
While the sequel majorly focuses on the despairing and painful reality faced by Bas, we had some powerful performances by the remaining cast as well. One of the most memorable scenes is when James is summoned to Tee’s office (Bas unexpectedly releases Ait and James’s cozy picture). Tee is already in dismay, because of the uncertainty regarding Bas’s situation (that might be the only reason for his leniency). Unlike the prequel, where Tee projects a lofty attitude; he is quite subdued in this season. That doesn’t change his conniving behavior and as such, James issues an ultimatum. It was a heady experience to watch him dress down the insufferable bastard, as Tee quivers in fear. I’m in awe with James’s honest demeanor, his convictions and work ethics. He protects his own and there is no need to question his intentions. There is a lot of resemblance between James and Director Anusorn, which is quite obvious from the caricature. Time Dhamawat embodies the subtle nuances of his character, making him entirely believable.
While James abhors dishonesty, he does bow down to Tee’s insistent demands to hide his relationship with Ait. While Ait is besotted and absolutely in love with James, he doesn’t blindly follow his boyfriend’s advice. Despite their age difference, Ait is quite mature and brave. He voices his opinions and expresses his displeasure when he doesn’t agree with James’s decision. Benz Panupun renders a unique voice and soul to his character that is equal parts endearing and inspiring. The BL industry is hugely based on the “Shipping Business” and as such it is a necessary evil to depict a fake pairing for marketing and promotions. While Bas and Ait are good friends, they aren’t a real couple and as such, Ait doesn’t want to mislead their audiences. There are very few actors who actually honest with their individual fandoms. It is obviously their personal choice, which often leads to backlash. But they are the courageous ones and I really applaud their mental strength.
A Romance Hinging on Hope and Acceptance
Marco and Bas are both lost souls, yearning for love and attention. In some aspects, they are quite similar. While Bas is facing his personal demons, Marco suffers from unrequited love. Bas understands Marco’s inhibitions, while Marco accepts his fears and insecurities. Their romance seems like a fateful journey, as their destiny gets entwined unexpectedly. A trip to the beachside resort brings them closer and makes them question their individual feelings. While Bas learns to appreciate himself and gains self-esteem, Marco comes to terms with his conflicting emotions. Marco’s confident attitude is like a shining beacon of light in the darkness; which leads Bas onto the correct pathway. Marco safeguards him and gives him the much-needed strength to fight Tee’s sexual advances. Their contrast personalities match perfectly and as such, they are a “Match Made In Heaven”. Daniel Chang and Michael Kiettisak perfectly compliment each other. I enjoyed watching them slowly fall in love and gain trust as well as acceptance. There are very few love stories that remain etched in our memories. Marco & Bas’ romance is definitely memorable and impressive!
The finale episode might seem rushed, but the loose ends were tied up subtly. James and Ait are more forthcoming about their relationship; they understand that as celebrities, their lives will always be under scrutiny. Despite that, they decide to be more honest and open about their feelings. They are done hiding and have no qualms about announcing their relationship publicly. While James does face confusion in the beginning stages, Ait’s unfazed attitude helps him overcome his reservations. Bas and Kaprao on the other hand, work together to tear down the elitist image that betrays Tee’s true, vehement nature. It was oddly fulfilling to watch him flee from his metaphorical and grand stage. While the drama was intensely focused on reflecting the oddities in the BL culture, the base concept remains that “Love cannot be forced, it happens at the right time with the right person!”
Call It What You Want is certainly one of those few dramas with a thought-provoking script, well executed directive and mesmerizing cinematography. The show’s success can be gauged from the fact that it has been nominated in the “Best LGBTQ+ Programme made in Asia” category at the Content Asia Awards, 2021. Here’s hoping that they continue with GagaOOLala’s winning streak and gain laurels at the international platform.
Rating- 4 out of 5