Boys Love and Japanese Queer Popular Culture across Southeast Asia


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers across East and Southeast Asia have found themselves turning to Thai soap operas known as “Boys Love series” as a source of comfort and joy. Originally deriving from Japanese comic book culture, Boys Love, or BL, represents just one of many instances where the queer popular culture of Japan has transformed sexual culture in Southeast Asia through the development of new expressions of gender and sexuality.

Joining Dr Natali Pearson on SSEAC Stories, Dr Thomas Baudinette shines the spotlight on the influence of Japanese queer popular across Southeast Asia, highlighting how, across the region, young consumers – most prominently from sexual minority communities – have been turning away from Western media to draw upon Japanese popular culture in the ongoing search for affirmative representation and tools to not only make sense of their minoritised sexualities, but to also advocate for their emancipation.

About Tom Baudinette:

Dr Thomas Baudinette is Senior Lecturer in Japanese and International Studies, Department of Media, Communication, Creative Arts, Language, and Literature at Macquarie University. Thomas’s scholarly research focuses upon the role of Asian popular culture in informing knowledge about gender and sexuality across East and Southeast Asia. His first book is Regimes of Desire: Young Gay Men, Media, and Masculinity in Tokyo (University of Michigan Press, 2021). His second book is Boys Love Media in Thailand: Celebrity, Fans, and Transnational Asian Queer Popular Culture (Bloomsbury, forthcoming).

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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