“Boyscation” Series Review (Ep.1 to 20)

I desperately, and I mean desperately, wanted to like this ‘reality’ show about 10 gay guys from Hong Kong getting together for what was posted as a gay dating show.

As an outsider looking in and not Chinese, this series, for me, was an abysmal failure on many fronts. Bluntly, there was nothing real about its set-up, its execution, or its aim. Its intent was noble; the execution suspect. The last two episodes (19 and 20) were the only two shows worth viewing as here the young men, after filming the series, got to be themselves, shared with others in a more relaxed environment, and now away from the scene, a truer picture of who they were. Unquestionably, these guys were affected by this experience, but I dare say NOT all of them positively. I have my suspicions about which ones did not but the only one I can say with certainty who did not was HoHo (who did not return for the final episode). It is too complicated to get into the reasons, but he left on his own during the filming. It essentially became too much for him. I think, as he indicated, he fell deeply in love with another individual who could not reciprocate in the same fashion as he did. And understandably so. It simply was not a compatible match.

There are several reasons why I think this series failed and subsequently failed the contestants.

☆ It had no clear purpose. I truly did not understand it. If it was to help the non-gay community in Hong Kong to get a better picture of who gay people are, what they look like, and what they aspire to, then it failed or will have limited success. These young men are brilliant, strong, handsome, successful, and have unimaginable courage. In my eyes, they are ALL heroes for exposing themselves so intimately, and candidly, and showing how vulnerable and breakable they are especially to a world that may not fully want to understand them. They, I think, were looking for validation. This show did not give them that. It played too much with their fears, anxieties, weaknesses, uncertainties, and timidity to really get a picture or even a sense of who these guys were individually. I never saw these guys’ real personalities and, with only occasionally sharing their backgrounds, did not get to know them.

☆ Essentially all we saw in this series are these guys’ weaknesses, vacillations, insecurities, and ineptness at trying to make things work. We only witnessed facades of guys trying desperately to fit in and not feel out of place. We never really observed them alone except in contrived interviews. Sure, intellectually, these guys can show themselves, but there was no effort to get these guys to open up emotionally and let us in, even a little. The only one who did was HoHo and that was by default, not design. With a camera always in your face and a rather dogmatic crew ordering you, reminding you, or instructing you to do certain things, these guys were then taught not to be spontaneous. There was certainly not much here naturally occurring that the production crew did not want to happen. I found their interference in the natural flow of what should be between two people, controlling, leading, and essentially forcing them to do things they might not normally do. Because of the cultural need to be polite, non-confrontational, or to defer to perceived authority figures, they went along with what the production crew said, thus destroying any real genuine reactions to the situation they were in.

☆ Therefore, this show never allowed us to see these guys as a whole person. Certainly not their strengths. Sure, they talked about themselves with one another which was heartfelt and candid at times with several of them having significant crises in their lives. But I never really saw their personalities shine, nor many expressions of feelings of any emotions, nor was that even encouraged. Even a little, Except for humiliation. That was bountiful and pointed out continuously, e.g., who had better bodies, who could cook better, who had the most votes, etc.

☆ Honestly, if this was a dating show, it failed. There was no real dating here. While they went out on ‘dates’, it all seemed controlled and set up by production in the most asinine and contrived locations. It all felt so hit-and-miss with no real intent as to why they were doing what they were except expressed in platitudes. In addition, I saw no interactions with the other contestants except teasing or bantering about someone talking or texting someone else. Why was there no opportunity to spend time with other contestants? And if they did, why was none of that shown? All of that seemed so controlled and contrived as if somehow it was inappropriate to develop friendships. I saw nothing naturally occurring or opportunities for the guys to meet, be with, or even talk to the other contestants on a one-to-one unless it suited what the direction of the production company wanted. Hardly ever did we see ‘couples’ in spontaneous situations and certainly never with others that were not ‘paired’. More importantly, they rarely did anything that normal couples would do on ‘dates’ that people who are not gay would find relatable. If you wanted them to look relatable, why not show them in relatable activities, dates, or gatherings? It was mentioned that even gay couples go out to movies or dinner as part of getting to know one another. Yet that was not done. The ‘dating’ concept made little sense to me and was completely unrelatable as ‘normal’. It all seemed aimless.

☆ These guys were then asked to decide on who they wanted to be with based on what? Some of their choices fascinated me because we saw little to no interaction with their choice, so why did they pick that person? We had no clue. Most of these pairings seemed so adrift. I saw them share very little outside of what the production company wanted us to see. Why were they not allowed to NOT pick anyone? This then became a ‘forced-choice’ love pairing, which screams doomed relationships. One relationship, ironically, that should have been explored, never was. When HoHo did not show up for his ‘date’ with Nathan, Nathan became interested in the dance instructor and he also seemed interested in Nathan. I thought their dance was rather sensual. That is the only relationship, albeit brief, that I saw sparks fly and a real connection with someone. Yet, the dance instructor was not one of the contestants. But we see that it appears naturally, yet nothing further is said and in fact, Nathan seems to have little choice as to who he might want to be with. If given the opportunity, would he date the dance instructor? (Yes, I think he would!)

☆ The production company seemed at least to me to be pushing issues where there were none and also contriving things that were not. Their interference either in the dating process or the control of the conversations was inappropriate, leading, and judgmental. In several cases, they truly embarrassed the individual contestants by pointing out inconsistencies in previous statements or contradictory behaviors. What is the point of that? I found the crew to be so controlling and so in-your-face that I do not think that these guys could ever feel like they could make a mistake or a misstep. Therefore, they could not get used to the cameras because they knew if someone did not like something, a crew member would point out the inconsistency. I felt the production crew created an environment that made spontaneity, natural flow, or impulsivity virtually impossible. None of these guys ever seemed to be comfortable with the cameras which after three months, they should have been. The whole concept of a ‘secret angel’ that they introduced unbeknownst to other contestants was so cringeworthy and presented such a ‘false flag’ scenario that what was ‘real’ interactions from contrived ones all became suspect. What was the point of faking attention?

☆ The way the whole thing was presented to the audience was wrong. Look, I know I am not the primary target for this show, but the running commentary of what was happening was misleading, mean-spirited, judgmental, and condescending, and made a mockery of what was happening. If you wanted this to be non-judgmental, it failed. This was so heavy-handed with such a strong emphasis on what went wrong rather than what is simply not meant to be. You never allowed for the possibility that none of them might find anyone attractive, desirable, or who they want to be with. Or the possibility that while liking one another, are at different stages of liking, and are therefore not on the same level you wanted them to be at.

This series tried to ‘force’ relationships to occur. Honestly, in the first episode, I saw very little real connection with any of them. Rather than merely presenting as an option an opportunity for 10 great gays guys to have ‘fun’, spend time with other gay guys (which by all accounts they rarely engage in), do normal activities, and then take an opportunity to date (or not) naturally would have been way more interesting. We could have seen some real growth. This series forced people to choose when they were not ready, and those who were not chosen had to feel like losers, and undesirable and that came across loud and clear in a number of them. Need I remind you of HoHo?

Perhaps it might have been a good first move to show Hong Kong these beautiful 10 men just as they were, in everyday living, spending time together, seeing their lifestyles up close, and letting nature take its course if relationships were to develop. All of this seemed so contrived, forced, presented poorly, or not realistically, and put vulnerable people into more vulnerable positions. It all seemed like pandering. Ironically, I do not think they presented gay people in a positive light at all as all we saw magnified were their insecurities and weaknesses.

Who stood out here? There is one person here that deserves this distinction. That person is HoHo. I base this on several reasons. One, he opened himself up to being vulnerable to his emotions as he took to heart that this was a ‘dating’ show. I am not sure if the rest were on his same level or believed it was a ‘dating’ series. Two, he had an unrequited love and did not process that, and there were no reality checks to point that out to him, or anyone to help him deal with that. The production seemed unprepared for such an outcome and cold in its dealings with it. I would like to tell HoHo, MANY of us have been there and have done that. I completely understood his pain. Three, he dared to leave. Not only did he have the courage to do this show, but he also had the courage to be vulnerable, and the courage to leave knowing he could not put up with the charade anymore. He could not act like a light switch, turning on and off and on again. I have such admiration for him and if he ever reads this, I want him to know that I saw you, I felt your pain, and I understand you. Perhaps sounding a bit trite but not meaning to be so, I stand with you. I have been there. For what it is worth, it does get better. You are the most courageous person in this series.

In the end, only one couple seemed genuinely to like each other and that was Kenny and Ray. This relationship seemed solid and appears to be taking off. Why? Because they shared two things with each other. An ability to break away from being timid and be intimate with each other. And two, they took the time to get to know each other by finding out their strengths, weakness, desires, hopes aspirations, dreams, etc. They were willing to share that with us. The other two ‘couples’ remained ‘stoic’ and passive and gave the audience not the slightest hint they were a ‘couple’. Companionship maybe; a couple no.

If you are ‘selling’ gayness, then show it. Show these guys are real people not in some contrived or make-believe world that to some degree was unrelatable with an emphasis on what is wrong with them. They had a lot to say even if they did not say it. How? By being in it. That spoke volumes. That is what you should have shown.

You missed.

Rating- 1 out of 5

Streaming on- Boyscation YouTube Channel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s