On Being Fujoshi Trash in 2019

So, when Strawberry Shortcake, Patton Oswalt, and Donald fucking goddamn Trump can all technically be described as problematic, how useful can the word actually be? This is why when we use the word problematic to describe an entire person or text as opposed to an individual action or element thereof, it usually has some sort of redeeming quality—in many cases, very redeeming.

rantasmo, Tina Fey Needs More Gay

For those that don't already know from my previous posts, this blog is the realization of something that I've wanted to start for a long time. What many people in my life actually don't know is that I made one previous stab at a BLog that never went live. During the summer after my senior year of high school, I set up a WordPress account and wrote one blog entry (about Nichijousahan Bi – Beautiful Life) with the intention of looking at BL manga from a more serious, critical point of view. By 2013, I had been reading BL for four or five years and was more than familiar with the problematic tropes plaguing the genre, which birthed in me a desire for a space to air all my grievances or—perhaps better put—unpack the issues I had with the stories that I loved the most.

Based on the academic publications to which I had access at the time, the scholarly scene with regard to BL and yaoi was either overly focused on Western slash fiction or the reason(s) why women were interested in romantic and sexual male-male relationships. As someone who would go on to be a Literature major, I wanted to fill what I perceived to a dearth of engagement with BL manga as individual stories to be explored in the context of full-blown literary criticism.

Fujimoto Yukari, a Japanese scholar frequently cited in discussions of shonen-ai, yaoi, and BL, concedes that even Japanese scholars—let alone Western scholars—were preoccupied with asking psychological and sociological questions related more to the why of BL and its appeal prior to 2005 or so.[1] Even now, I sense anglophone scholarship leaning more towards ethnographic or sociological inquiries into BL fan communities, so tackling BL through a literary critic's eyes would still be a worthy endeavor. This is also not to say that deep dives into individual stories don't exist, but they are really few and far between in my experience. (Not to mention that most attemps at academic BL criticism have to spend multiple sections reiterating the same introductions about what the genre even is because they have to assume no one knows what the fuck boys' love even is.) There is value in doing work with a more sociological bent plus I obviously have a bias for my own field, but in practice we also experience and are deeply impacted by BL at the story level. So, while it's incredibly important to track trends, do quantitative work, and make generalizations, I'm way more into capturing that individual fan experience and perception of fandom.

To get back on track, I ended up pulling the plug on that first BLog because it was impossible for me to reconcile its serious (and probably overly pretentious) tone with my desire to make fun of myself and joke about the BL media I was consuming. While today I feel more comfortable with my inner comedienne and inner intellectual coexisting in the same space at the same time, I've been feeling a growing tension related to the same sort of thing and we're not even a month into this blog's go-live date. When trying to settle on which story I'm going to review next, I keep running into the problem of wanting to pick things that deal explicitly with sexual assault, abuse, homophobia, and/or misogyny. And while these things are less of a problem and more the original impetus for my starting a BLog in the first place, I feel the need to make it clear that these negative aspects of BL media are not something I find funny at all, despite my joking demeanor.

The fact that I am uncomfortable with sexual assault as a plot device is definitely something one can infer from my first two reviews, but as a bit of a leftie millennial who [used to work] in DEI in real life, I want make sure that subtext gets raised to full text. In general, I'm very interested in what it means to be a born-again fujoshi in 2019. How can someone like me reconcile my hobby in a post-#MeToo, post-we should be woke world? So, I'm using this post to announce my intention to periodically create more serious posts that directly engage with the more problematic elements of BL. Although I can't speak to how frequent such posts will be, since they will no doubt take more time to write than a standard review, I do want to use this blog to get down and dirty with the things I dislike as much as the things I like about BL. To quote rantasmo's Tina Fey video again:

As long as we engage with it critically, there's no reason that we can't enjoy the media that we love.

Btw, he also has another video about Yaoi Fangirls, which I might talk about later because I have tons of thoughts about it. I namely dislike its scope creep from ostensibly being about fujos to being about yaoi itself, and back again. This scope creep is a staggeringly huge problem in critical discussions about BL—people have a hard time differentiating when we're talking about BL as a genre and when we're talking about its fans. These things are related, of course, but they are not the same thing.

While I'm at it, I want to clarify that I don't intend to bust out full lit crit shit here either—I work a full-time job and my last two brain cells don't need any more strain than what they're already getting during the week as your typical wage slave. In other words, these will still be relatively informal posts that may or may not engage with ongoing scholarly conversations about BL and yaoi. They will still rely heavily on my busted-ass opinions and anecdotal experiences as a young veteran of the Western fujosphere more so than anything else.

The next post up will be the first of the serious ones. We'll be taking a closer look at non-consent and dubious consent in BL, aka what's often reported as being problematic BL trope offender number one. Writing this post will help eliminate any moral quandaries I run into cracking jokes in my upcoming reviews, since the two biggest contenders for being up next are Porno Superstar (which has all the bad BL things) and sweet pool (in which consent comes in at the final hour and only sometimes). If this sort of thing doesn't float your boat, feel free to tap out when they pop up. I'll be back soon enough (and more often) with the usual fare.

xoxo Shio

1. Fujimoto, Yukari. The Evolution of BL as ‘Playing with Gender’: Viewing the Genesis and Development of BL from a Contemporary Perspective. Boys Love Manga and Beyond: History, Culture, and Community in Japan, edited by Mark McLelland et al., University Press of Mississippi, 2015, pp. 76-92. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/book/39003.

Post History and Author's Notes

This review was originally posted to WordPress under the Real Talk category on November 23, 2019. Post content was converted from its original format and made viewable for Neocities on November 1, 2022. Minor changes have been made to the post text to reflect more up-to-date information and somewhat better grammar.

Last updated: 2022-11-01