The glory of BL in my mind is the effortless breaking of gender roles. If there's any demographic to vehemently hate arbitrarily imposed expectations it should be women. Apparently that doesn't manifest itself into this medium of manlust as the traditional BL stereotype is the heteronormative manly man + submissive boy combo. The train of thought for every outside observer is that the female reader self-inserts as the twink, thereby subjecting themselves to the same exhaustively covered heterosexual romance as with any other series. Above all I wanted this stereotype to be a reductionist perspective of BL. For a genre that has prevailed and matured over decades, surely it isn't as predictable as everyone thinks it is. Unfortuntely, I discovered that the numerous jabs had merit. Fuck long necks and giant hands, this encompasses aspects so fundamental to this genre that it's hard to view with anything other than a grimance. This arbiturary character swapping of a male with female feels forced to say the least. It exhudes this sense of gay for the sake of being gay. Despite its subject material it's written by women for women. The incessant emphasis on pairings is further evidence of the same roles being pushed into the same scenarios with the same personality tropes, only read by women and with twice the dicks.
But after dipping my feet into fandoms often incessantly vocal about which character they'd like to sop up on a plate, motives can be surprisingly diverse
There are several series that run up and occupy the dare I say "realistic," homosexual relationship. Those done well are brilliant in capturing the more dramatic, emotional elements of unrequited romance. Pages of reciprocal, casual talk that most may finger through is an actual representation of what friendship among men looks like. Character tropes are disregarded in favor of at first, bland and insignificant characters. The true extent of their personalities are a slow trickle, rather than the shounen-esque "Here he is, now see his hardships." And a slow build-up of mutual affection avoids cheese and in my eyes, stands as the apogee of romance stories. Despite being BL there's no submissive male trope and in turn, no conventional gender roles. It comes into its own as something separate from traditional heterosexual relationships and in my opinion, should define BL as a genre. Romance involving a seemingly indelible wall is another option and BL as a genre has limitless potential. However, very few series do social isolation or familial alienation well, much less as a central theme in the story. It's a shame as I would think it could be a unique genre-defining theme to these kinds of tales. Regardless, I believe "realistic" BL is the highest point of what romance stories could be, and truly differentiates itself as a genre.
And the other reason why people line up to read BL is simply romance. Two characters with their own merits come together and the reader basks in the glory that is love. Two men are easier to write, and hell, if you're a woman, what better substitute is there? The reader takes on a distant position, like birdwatching. No self-insertion here and plenty of shipping potential. Personally not for me, but I can see why people would get drawn in. I certainly don't self-insert when reading GL.
Now there are certain aspects that I cannot dissmiss or downplay. Easy plot devices are absolutely everywhere. The childhood trauma trope is a lazy, contrived safety cushion. Is prostitution fun to read? Getting "saved" is agonizingly predictable as a reader. And my god are some female authors as tasteless as their male counterparts. Humor really forgives all but some of these titles are an assault on the senses.
Above all, the most puzzling element is rape. Sex is an intensely common affair in BL and one that doesn't particularly add much to the plot. It could be a powerful bonding moment for the characters, a regretful cathartic scene, or just something to shake the plot a bit. Yet time and time again, the central part of these scenes seems to be which organ goes into where. There are of course outliers but as a whole, it seems to be a lazy bone-toss to the audience. But the casual induction of rape as a plot device is the most bizarre element of this genre. It again, can be a very effective plot device if the scene has meaningful, rippling consequences for the characters and their relationships. When you open with a guy getting railed against his will, how do I as a reader establish an emotional bond with anyone? Am I supposed to believe that love between a rapist and his victim is a good love story? Again, authors take the easy way out. It's lazy and frankly a bit disgusting. I won't even get into the real-life connotations as the Japanese seem to firmly insist that media and reality are separate, Good luck with that.
Regardless, exploring BL as a whole is a facisnating task that I think most romance-lovers should commit to. Those books that make you say "Damn, this can only happen in BL," could be a great sign that there's something special only it can offer. Other times, it's mpreg.
There's a whole lot out there and I hope my opinion about this genre remains plastic.
Last edited 7/20/18