The Fine Line Between Fitting In and Standing Out

With KinnPorsche’s conclusion, we’ve all entered a period of contemplation.

While it was airing, it was easy to get caught up in the weekly anticipation and feverish enthusiasm that a mature gay drama brought to the BL scene. Now that it’s ended, the binging and rewatching has begun, and with it, questions we didn’t ask ourselves before.

And most prominent among those questions is how exactly KinnPorsche fits into the BL landscape as a whole. And what made it such a global sensation.

Viewers’ voices are rising, and the ‘versus’ divide among them is fascinating. From the viewers who find it too sexualized versus beautifully intimate to those who find it overrated versus those who love it. From those who felt the conclusion was satisfying versus those who wanted more for certain characters and couples. Yet despite all of this, it still circles back to how KinnPorsche fits in and what makes it so popular.

The truth is, it’s globally marketable because it doesn’t fit in at all.

In one of my first write-ups for KinnPorsche the series, I talk about the mafia genre that inspires it and how the genre’s penchant for violence, sex, and crime gave rise to its popularity. At the time, I compared it to the Western film The Godfather, but today I want to expound on that.

Recently a reader reached out to The BL Xpress and pointed out the similarities KinnPorsche also draws from Asian sources, such as Hong Kong gangster films while wondering how it may equally draw from other Asian BLs.

This topic not only brought me back to the previous write-up I mentioned above with my Western mafia comparison but also begged the question, “Does it even fit into the typical BL landscape?”

I’ll start with its mafia theme.

From the days of black and white films to the introduction of technicolor, the mafia genre has captured the imagination, taking viewers into a world that may exist on the wrong side of the law but manages to uphold a distinct sense of loyalty, brotherhood, and family. No matter where the film/drama is made, the stories are essentially the same with similar settings–casinos, nightclubs, urban streets, underground fighting clubs, back alleys, and covert businesses–but they’re tackled differently depending on the culture it takes place in. From the crime-filled slums of Hong Kong that inspired its 80’s rise of gangster cinema to the Prohibition era that catapulted the American gangster film to the Italian Mafia scene and Japanese Yakuza, a large part of how a mafia story is told is the country it’s told in.

KinnPorsche has a fascinating ‘Lakorn meets Mafia film’ mentality, melding the Lakorn culture that’s so popular in Thailand with a crime syndicate genre that’s globally sought-after. And it does it by combining what makes both Eastern and Western mafia stories well-received.

Eastern mafia stories (such as Hong Kong Triad films and Japanese Yakuza films) tend to ‘hero’-ize their crime syndicate families. Western mafia films/dramas make them anti-heroes, typically concluding their stories with a comeuppance. Eastern mafia stories incorporate more martial arts into their fight scenes, while Western mafia stories rely heavily on gun violence.

KinnPorsche does a little of all of this, including adding a mix of light and dark humor, and it does it inclusively by having gay leads. However, despite its fascinating combination of culturally-inspired mafia storytelling, rich cinematography, and vintage dress style, KinnPorsche stands out not because it is a mafia story but because it doesn’t fit into the BL genre it’s marketed towards.

KinnPorsche differs in that it never draws from other Asian BL sources. Although I’ve seen it compared to dramas like Taiwan’s Trapped, it carries itself like a classic mafia story that happens to have gay leads rather than drawing on the less violent and romance-centered BL standard. It never focuses on the fact that the characters are gay. Outside of the moment between Big and Porsche in Episode 4, where Kinn’s sexuality is mentioned, being gay is simply a part of who these characters are, not a story focal point.

There is also a decided lack of the typical BL trope moments, such as ‘taller more dominant versus smaller less dominant male’ and more of an equal footing among its characters, including the show’s most villainous and dominant male character, Vegas, being one of the shortest cast members.

There are glimpses of things that may be compared, such as Tankhun reminding me of a Japanese BL with his over-the-top moments interlaced with sudden deeper touches. There’s also an evident love for Kdramas mixed in with KinnPorsche’s writing, evidenced in Pete’s use of the Korean language and Tankhun’s fascination with the Kdrama Bad and Crazy. But, all in all, I think where KinnPorsche differs is it never felt like it drew too much from outside sources except for its wardrobe and martial arts, especially since its story foundation is an original novel. The drama played up the mafia aspect and added flourishes of humor but being inspired by a novel gave it the originality it needed to stand out in the BL genre because the book itself felt very much like a gay Thai Lakorn rather than a Thai BL.

It’s tricky to compare a drama/film to other dramas and movies since that can get a little touchy for some, especially the more popular a series is, and the more original its audience views it.

KinnPorsche draws inspiration from diverse places but remains mostly faithful to its source material rather than trying to meet specific BL standards. Because of this, it attracted the attention of a much broader audience with a much wider age range, mingling the typical BL fandom with viewers who had never watched a Thai BL until KinnPorsche. It’s this growing shift in broadening viewership that opened up more intense, divided, and sometimes angry discussions amongst viewers online.

How a person feels about KinnPorsche depends largely on the viewer’s perspective and where he/she/they are viewing it. There’s no wrong or right way to feel about a drama. Negativity isn’t in disliking something, it’s in how a person expresses that dislike. For typical BL fans, KinnPorsche straddles a fine line between being too much for some and excitingly more mature for others. For mafia film lovers, KinnPorsche straddles a fine line between being satisfactory and decidedly less than compared to the violence and sex typically shown in crime dramas/films, especially in the West. As for viewers with diverse drama tastes, KinnPorsche straddles the line between what they prefer to watch and what they don’t.

And that’s where it shines. In the same way the characters of KinnPorsche don’t fit into a typical ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characterization, the drama itself doesn’t fit into a standard mold, neither inside nor outside the BL genre.

It sits somewhere between the two, and what makes it tempting for many is that it doesn’t fit in anywhere. And that’s a relatable place to be.

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