Episodes 1 & 2
So this will contain spoilers about the episode as well as opinions. Be forewarned. However, I will also bring up the issues raised in the first two episodes about the Y Industry in Thailand.
First, let’s look at our Y actors. We have three pairings primarily. We have the seasoned BL veterans P’Atichon and Dew, who win every time. Think of your Off / Gun or Tay / New. In this dramatization, we have Nott & Pan, the up-and-coming stars, your mid-level actors who have some work under them, on their way to the top. Pan has been in another BL before being paired with Nott. Then we have the absolute rookie pair of Bew and Gus, who are beginning their first Y Series together.
—Edited by TheFNGee
Then there are the managers for each boy in each pairing played by veteran Lakorn actresses. P’Koon is Pan’s manager, along with some others. Tai Penpak Sirikul (P’Koon) and Dee Chanana Nutakorm (P’Candy) bring their experience to the set and give us multiple character dimensions for the boys’ managers here.
Ok. Let’s dive into the first episode. We begin the show at an awards ceremony reminiscent of the Kazz Awards. The various couples are clustered in pairs, flanked by the managers on either side. So what is the big deal of this? If you watch closely, you can see that Nott expects to win and is a sore loser when he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to stand up to applaud the seasoned actor (Talay) who has won. We know jealousy exists in the industry. There are the darlings of the media and fans, and then there are the rest who have dedicated fans but aren’t too popular despite the number of works they appear in together.
After the show, the fans are waiting. This interaction between the different Y couples and their fan clubs shows us the differing dynamics of their para-social relationship. For our rookie actors, the fans are excited to get close to them but also scream and run to the next couple as soon as they appear. This is typical for the fickle fan who is about being the “first” to the next ship or a more popular couple. The mid-level actors are those who have an established fanbase and interact with each other with ease and familiarity. The revered legendary couple knows many of the fans by name and even their stories. Here he stops by to chat with an injured fan and ends up signing her cast. This is typical of those Y actors who have been in the industry for many years with the dedicated following they’ve held from the beginning. You see jealousy displayed from Nott, who wants fans’ attention on him and his “shipped” partner, and not on any other pair.
The managers also compete with each other. Nott and Pan’s managers have demands they deliver to the AR (artists relations liaison) on-set to make their actor client more comfortable and well taken care of. When one makes a demand, the other must make a different one. They are both trying to make their actor the best treated.
We have intra-agency jealousy between Pan and a fellow actor, Pharaoh. It’s obvious that Pan disdains Pharaoh and feels he is not up to Pan’s fame, stature, or level at all. Fueled by his own insecurity, Pan also feels threatened when he sees that Pharaoh wants more roles and more extensive recognition. However, Pan isn’t ready to give up his place as the darling of the agency. In a later scene, Pan even goes as far as to insist that Pharaoh not wear any costumes Pan himself has worn, so there can be no direct comparison between the two of them. To make things even worse, Pharaoh does little to hide his resentment when he sees all of the adoration and valuable fan gifts Pan receives.
Then we have personal jealousy. Pan and Nott are having sex, no strings attached, or so it seems. However, Pan is jealous when he sees another man’s bare chest on Nott’s secret IG story. But the presence of this image is explained away by Nott, and Pan’s jealousy is short-lived. Nott states that it’s just a temporary diversion, unlike their own relationship.
Later in the episode, Nott is jealous of the director from a big studio because he fears that Pan will sleep with or seduce the producer to get a chance to move on to his highly popular network. Nott doesn’t want to be left behind either, so he’s determined to keep their “shipped couple” status alive by “fan service.” Fan Service is a whole different can of worms we will get into a little later on.
We know there are predators in the industry. We’ve all heard the rumors. The people at the top level of networks and agencies that lust after the younger guys trying to break into the industry. We suspect some of the product sponsors themselves of getting a little too comfortable and ‘handsy’ with the actors—the kind of incessant touching that can make your skin crawl. The people behind this anonymity do indeed exist in the industry. It is an unfortunate fact of life that these young men are vulnerable to the advances and demands of these people ‘at the top.’ Conversely, some of these young men sometimes know exactly what they want and are willing to sleep with others to get it.
So when we see the creepy man who owns the skin care company, we know his character is there to personify a “predator” in this series—the people who are willing to use their money, clout, and position to get close to these young men. Sadly, at times even the actors’ managers go along with this violative process because it benefits them as well. I know P’Koon knew what was up when she left Pun alone with that man. Even though it was a restaurant, the man had rented out the entire place for privacy. Knowing the setup from the beginning, she still left Pan alone with this predator. Pan was vulnerable, uncomfortable, and trying to remain calm and friendly. In the later scene, while in the bathtub, Pun is sobbing, trying to scrub himself ‘clean’ as he remembers the touches of others. It hits home, this.
Think about this. Every time you touch a person, how many people touch them in a day?
What are their true intentions? What happens when you can’t pull your hand back or turn away? I know what it’s like to feel that you must endure being touched by someone who makes your skin crawl. It’s not a pleasant experience.
These young men have it so much worse than we do.
Everyone wants something from them.
The absolute truth is their bodies are not our property. While I always love to hug someone, I understand touch can be seen or experienced as very intimate, and even between a fan and celebrity, I feel it’s not appropriate unless initiated by or consented to by the celebrity.
Even the young people who choose to sleep with those in power to get where they want to go are trapped by the weight and power of these men. Men who can make or break their career in Entertainment before it has even started.
We need to do more to protect the vulnerable in this situation. The boys who are underage when they begin filming or are barely legal should be better guarded.
The Elephant in the Room – aka Fan Service
Fan Service is unique to the Y series and movies, especially in Southeastern Asia. The origins of BL (Boys Love) or Y (Yaoi) in film and TV series migrated from its origin in Japan. The original consumers of this media were straight women. That itself is a discussion for another day.
Let’s continue talking about Fan Service and the role it plays so far in War of Y. The first time we see Fan Service so blatantly elucidated is when Nott kisses Pan passionately during the post-awards to take attention away from the other couple and put the focus squarely back on himself and Pan. Nott knows that by kissing him at this fan meetup after the Y Awards, the fan girls will all squeal, and they, as a shipped couple, will gain a boost from fans who believe them to be in a real relationship.
Nott seems to enjoy the benefits of Fan Service, which boosts their visibility to fans and the accompanying adoration. Thinking only in the “now,” he fails to understand that extreme levels of Fan Service can lead to future issues. In his mind, he is giving the fans exactly what they want.
Nott catches Pan off guard during a break. Pan is pissed off, stressed out at shooting, and angry at Nott for making snide comments and helping himself to Pan’s icemaker and ice. Nott starts an Instagram Live without Pan’s consent and starts to hug & kiss him, infuriating Pan. The two fight while on camera and the IG Live is cut short. However, the damage has been done. People are talking, and not in a good way. With comments talking about consent and questioning their relationship, people are worried enough to create a hashtag (#).
Later, Pan finds Nott smoking with a crew member and drags him away. Pan tells Nott to think. Does Nott not see this as a serious issue? Nott comes off as not caring at all. As Pan confronts him with this question, ‘Do you be on a ship forever?’ Pan is already looking to expand beyond BL. What will happen if his worth is only tied to being part of a “shipped” BL couple? Nott is only worried about the now but hands over his phone unhappily so that Pan can fix it from Nott’s own Twitter account. The response effectively counters fans’ initial reactions by stating that they were playing. Sometimes they play that way. However, fans don’t buy it.
This brings up another valid point, though. I have seen many talented actors get stuck in the BL world because they are mostly offered roles with their “shipped” partner portraying another BL couple. This is especially true of those who naturally present more feminine traits as an actor. Managers may not push for their actors to get more challenging roles because it means walking away from an established (shipped) couple with good popularity, generous sponsors, and one that can sell more products.
This problem of being tied together seems applicable only in the Y genre. No one expects Lakorn pairings or any other pairs of actors to stay together for their entire career. And Fan Service ties them together tightly. By feeding their fans sweet moments, the more they can make the fans believe they are a real couple, and the less those fans want to see them paired with anyone else. When that happens, the fans get angry if the pair acts with different partners, as if they are cheating on their original Y-coupled partner. The careers of both actors end up suffering. Absurdly, some fans get truly angry because they believe either of the actors is “cheating” on their former partner or feel they were lied to, and the pair of actors aren’t in a real relationship.
In a Y Series, there is no boundary between acting as the characters in the series versus acting like they are in love outside the series to sell the ‘ship.’ Working with others to help expand their careers should be a healthy and normal progression in an acting career, but when they have to do Fan Service again, this time with the new pairing, we have to start the whole mess over again. This new pairing can also make (ignorant) fans question the actors’ sincerity. Also, the next set of new couples is expected to outdo the last couples’ Fan Service moments as well.
Back to the Story
Predictably, Pan tells Nott to stop commenting and liking his videos online when Pan sees that the big-time producer from a popular network is interested in him. Pan goes further and even tells Nott that he wants him to quit communicating with him entirely. These instructions make Nott angry. It boils down to Pan desperately wanting to move on from their status as a ‘shipped’ couple; Pan is telling Nott to back away from him on social media as well. This leads to more drama where the media questions if the couple is OK. So here, Fan Service gets hate when it’s too much or not enough.
In my opinion, Fan Service is ridiculous. It’s fed by all the people who benefit from it—all the Y Series reactors, the Y Series fans, and people who interview the couple. These people keep fanning the flames of the ‘ship’ by showcasing them not as friends who work together but as actual real-life couples. The games they force the couple to endure can sometimes go to extremes leading to the audience being stuck in stunned disbelief that they, anyone, could put this on television or even before a live audience. However, those very same fans are the ones who want to be titillated and teased with couples touching and more.
My own feelings are conflicted because I pause to think that every time I buy something sponsored by a couple, am I actually damaging the actors’ future potential? The sad truth is that all these companies know that fans’ money is tied to the couple and their Fan Service shipping.
Added in with all these conflicted emotions, our main leads, Nott and Pan, are apparently in a friends-with-benefits scenario. At what point is this activity really just them, for them only, and not for the public or for the sake of acting? These lines are blurred as there is no clear delineation between fantasy and reality. This is bound to cause issues between them as neither are they exclusive with each other. Jealousy and power imbalance can cause problems in any relationship, especially one in the public eye. So what will happen to Pan and Nott?
I’m not sure, but I plan on watching to find out.
With each of the five parts, I will try to talk a little about the issues in the Y Industry raised by this series. And, of course, I’d love to get a dialog going. What are your thoughts so far?