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First, let’s define these terms and how they will be used in this article before entering the discourse.

Fanservice – The Urban Dictionary has a different definition than I will use. It was once used to describe the use of scantily clad persons, characters, or sexual scenes inserted into anime or live-action shows that don’t advance the plot and appear to titillate the audience. For example, Lucy from the anime FairyTale is often seen in short shorts and tight shirts, showing off cleavage even though she’s learning to use magic. They dress her provocatively or have her eat suggestively to sexualize her for male audiences.

Currently, a widely used definition agreed to by fans and by the Y-Industry & K-Pop – Celebrities & Idols, usually, but not always of the same sex, who flirt, touch, & otherwise intimate they are in a relationship related to their current working partner. (My definition) examples would be flirtatious bandmates or series Y (YAOI)-series partners’ provocative & flirtatious behavior outside of the series’ filming.

Queerbaiting: queerbaiting (from Google uses Oxford Languages)


noun: queerbaiting; noun: queer-baiting

  1. The incorporation of (apparently) gay characters or same-sex relationships into a film, television show, etc., as a means of appealing to gay and bisexual audiences while maintaining ambiguity about the characters’ sexuality.” The movie allowed the audience to imagine a romantic relationship between Holmes and Watson, and the fans decided it was guilty of queerbaiting”
  2. Harassment, abuse, or targeted provocation of gay people.


People or fans, if you will, who fantasize that characters, actors, or idols are actually in a homosexual (also, in this example-heterosexual shippers exist) relationship. For example, a shipper might enjoy the interactions between two characters in a show, like Dean and Castiel from Supernatural; the “ship” (as a noun generically ascribed to the relationship) is called Destiel…. combining their names. The effect can also spill over into K-Pop, where you “ship” (as a verb) bandmates. In series Y, the show’s success is built on the chemistry of a pair of lead actors. Not only on-screen as the characters, but in the interactions during fan meetings, in TV spots, and selling products, the fans get a kick out of teasing the pair and watching them flirt with each other.

Shippers, like any other type of fan, can be anywhere on the fandom spectrum. Some shippers know it’s all a fantasy cooked up to entertain the audience and engage with the fans of a show. While other shippers believe that their “ship” is a couple in real-life, living as romantic partners. Some of the latter types can attack the actors/artists or others who state their ship is just a ship or that the actors have a relationship with someone other than their on-screen partner. I believe most fans, as shippers, fall somewhere between these two extremes. 


When discussing queerbaiting this is where things get a bit dicey and dodgy, in my opinion. It’s a fact that queerbaiting exists in Western media. We see examples of it frequently in shows, especially in the US and sometimes in the UK, meant to draw the Shipper’s view and to entice but never commit to showing a homosexual relationship depicted between the two main characters -with it being more depicted as homocentric, but never with confirmation. Using methodology such as this proves that the producers wish to cash in and lure in LGBTQ+ revenue dollars without offending or upsetting mainstream audiences. They also attempt to play the relationship ambiguously by refusing to confirm or deny the “gay” status of the characters.

Whereas Asian BL (Boys Love) content is derived primarily from Japanese media known as YAOI, which has spread throughout Southeast Asia over the past two decades. The contents of YAOI began in fiction and Manga written by women and aimed primarily at an audience of women.

I won’t limit that audience target to women nearer the ‘straight’ side of the spectrum either because, in the beginning, I am sure some of the authors were queer themselves. In addition, I know that some are non-binary, gender fluid, and identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Also, current consumers of YAOI media are not only “straight” women but include people who identify within the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

I will use the terms celeb, idol, and artist interchangeably throughout this piece.

Fan Service:

It seems to be a double-edged sword in the BL and GL industry, which is my primary focus. In Southeastern Asian cultures, it’s different from Hollywood or Western Media, where there is no BL genre, but films or shows marketed as gay, lesbian, trans, or queer content thrive, given the size of their audience. In Western Media, there is a disconnect between an actor, their role, and their personal life. So while an actor may be gay or straight playing a gay character, it’s not assumed or asked if they are gay or in a relationship with their costars. In fact, it could be considered unacceptable even to ask them about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Fans have theories, of course. But it’s not asked of the actors, nor are they encouraged to pretend to be in a relationship with their costar.


Where does the money come from, and how do they get paid?

Many Thai/Japanese/Korean BL/GL actors get paid for their work, acting, and performance. However, it’s not a tremendous amount of money. They receive money from other sources like fan meetings and top-spender events for products marketed to fans. They can also receive money directly from their fan clubs as well.

This (effectively a) sponsorship system would be unusual in Western culture. People don’t usually send presents or money to their favorite celebrity or idol. Fans in the West expect them to get paid well for their work, in addition to being well paid for appearances and endorsements. Your artist might even produce a product that you could buy to support their endeavors. For example, say you like Reece Witherspoon, so you will buy some of her retail clothing lines when she launches her brand of womenswear. The fan also would consider the money spent to attend concerts or conventions as a way to see and interact with their idol.

In Thai BL and BLs or Shows produced in other Southeastern Asian countries, we see a tightly woven parasocial relationship between the fan and the idol/celeb. I hesitate to call it that, but I will for now, for lack of a better term. Fans and their idols have a more intimate connection in these cultures. The artist frequently meets with their fans on break, at work, and at various venues. They not only talk with their fans, but they also engage in full-fledged and meaningful conversation. With this, these celebs get to know their fans as well. They recognize names and even remember stories discussed at an earlier time. This interaction is beneficial to both the fan and the idol. The fans develop a rapport with their favorite by getting to speak casually with them, which makes them feel more vested in their idol’s success.

The fans show up and take pictures, and keep in mind there are some very good photographers that exist in these circles. The celeb gets to know his/her fan base. They can gauge what makes them happy and keeps them coming around. They also get charged by their fans’ energy, feeling more encouraged to keep going when they hit a rough patch. The fans will send food support for work and functions feeding actors and crew. They send gifts, and they send money – more money than you’d believe. The fans buy their idol’s products to get top spender benefits and magazines with their idols featured in them.

However, don’t for a moment think is always a bed of roses for the celeb or idol. Many times there are expectations placed on them to continue the fantasy played by their characters. Most, if not all, are expected to remain “single” to give the fans the opportunity to imagine they can be a possible partner for these people. Or, to be in a ship, they must sell this ship and its special moments because their popularity and income rely on people buying into their chemistry and even imaginary relationships. Shipper fans spend a lot of money and engage with their ship. The ship is expected to tease and tantalize whether a real relationship exists between the pair making up the ship.

Are all shippers bad? I would say no. Many shippers engage in the mutual wink and nod with the artists being ship’d. They know it’s a tease meant not to be taken seriously but to entertain the audience or group of fans. However, there are also die-hard shippers, a lot of them foreign fans outside of Southeast Asia, who aggressively attack anyone who disagrees or thinks their ship isn’t real. Some of these fans can be a major problem to casual fans and even the artists themselves, especially if it leaks that the artists are in a real-life relationship with someone outside of their ship. There becomes this expectation of the fans that they have a right to dictate the terms of the Idol’s private life. When one of the BL/GL actors is found out to be heterosexual, then they are accused of queerbaiting their audience.

This is one of the negatives associated with doing fan service. It can generate belief in a couple so intense that some fans are furious if their ship isn’t real.

BL Couple interacting with Fans

Do I think there are ships that are real? Sure. They exist. But their relationship is not in the public spotlight because what we see is meant to be seen by fans and the agency that represents them.

There are even those BL/GL actors who are actually homophobic and have been called out for speaking negatively about the LGBTQ+ community.

There are numerous straight actors playing BL/GL in a ship with a couple of the same sex. Is that wrong? I would say not really. People who are actors/idols/artists have the right to be just actors and to keep their private lives private. Should more roles be given to people who identify on the LGBTQ+ spectrum in the realm of GL/BL? Absolutely if they are qualified actors and actresses who can fit the character in the script and are comfortable enough in their lives to be “Out” while also playing an LGBTQ+ character. I’m advocating for ability and equality.

However, there are those actors/idols/artists who are gay but closeted in BL/GL because ‘coming’ out could damage their ability to get roles and keep working. That is the sad truth of the BL/GL industry, and even in Hollywood.

For me, I think their real-life partners and their sexual orientation are not the fans’ business unless the artist chooses to step forward and speak openly about it. We, as fans, need to remember that these people have friends and lovers outside of their work. And yet they still maintain time and make the effort to connect with their fans. So please respect their privacy, just as you would anyone else. Don’t out someone’s relationship or status because it could hurt their career. Also, their partner may not want to be in the spotlight and under a microscope. 

Couple communicating with fans……

Choose who to follow, and if you see fan service, realize that some contracts also dictate the levels, and some are just natural chemistry. At the end of the day, they are working with their partner whom hopefully they have a good relationship built upon trust and understanding. That’s all we know.

Sorry for the long tirade, and thanks for listening. I’d love to get a conversation going about this, so drop me a comment, and let’s get talking.



Author jenhg

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Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Kyubin says:

    Although your point is general at the beginning of the article, in the development it’s mainly focused of fan-service in Thaïland in the end, which is quite different than other Asian countries. If we consider the three major sources of BL today, there are Japan, the historic country of BLs productions, Thaïland, which made a real film industry out of this genre, and Korea, which is starting to capitalise a lot on this genre too. There is also Taïwan, in a smaller scale, and the situation there is similar as the one for Thaïland.
    What you wrote is absolutely true for Thaïland I think, but it’s quite different for Japan and Korea.
    The first main difference is regarding your point on the wage. In Japan and Korea, wether they are idols, rookie or seasoned actors, BL actors get paid normally for their work, according to their “value”. Just like for any other production. That’s the budget and the personnal value of an actor that determine how much he will get paid, and they don’t have to rely on other ways to receive money for their work. In addition, in Japan, where it is more developped, they also receive money with the sells of DVDs, goodies, etc.
    Regarding fan-service, it’s also quite different. Contrary to Thaïland, there is not official “shipping” of the main leads actors and they don’t engage in parodic and ambiguous relationships outside of the fictional story of the BL. Only fans do it. Kim Ji Woong and Yoon Seo Bin kind of did it last year I believe, but it’s an exception. Other actors/idols have fan-meeting, but alone, or with their groups, but they don’t put on a show to promote the fictional couple of their characters, or suggest a possible intimate relationship in real life. They do have interwiews together sometimes, but it’s clearly as two actors playing characters in love, with no ambiguity (just like Hagiwara Riku and Yagi Yusei, for example). So for that they are more like Americans or Europeans actors. It might change in the future, with more and more idols taking part in BL and the traditional idol fan-service and fan-shipping taking another dimension mixed with BL. But for now, that’s quite different from the situation in Thaïland.
    One of the problems with queer baiting I think, for all Asia BL productions, is that some of them are not BL actually, but can be categorised more as “men’s love” (bara), and thus appeal more to the homosexual/bisexual public or straight public being interested by it, especially internationally, but this productions are still considered BL ones, and thus, feel more like queer baiting I think.
    That’s a vast subject and it’s nice to write about it.

    • jenhg says:

      It does seem focused on Thailand, I think because I’m the most familiar with the issue as it stands there. I also believe that it is a very similar situation in Pinoy BL as I’ve had discussions with people behind the scenes in that industry as well. Korea is home to BL fanservice in terms of the K-Pop industry but it hasn’t quite culminated into their BL scene yet. I see it rampant in terms of these boy bands and girl bands doing fanservice in the form of games and content when on social media. This is how they make a lot of their money by pushing the narrative that some of their members are in a relationship, thus ensuring more people pay attention, buy merchandise, etc.

      Japan and also China walk a different line when it comes to BL or hinted BL. There is so much queer subtext and bromance that is cashed in but can’t be explicitly said. I’m looking at Xian Zhan and Wang Yibo in Untamed or Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation, or Mo Dau Zu Shi. They were lovely together, but all the behind the scenes, interviews, etc were done to use the power of the ship to sell things.

      In Japan I believe that because, other than the rural areas, there is still a stigma on being perceived as gay, it’s seen as work and the individual actors are promoted who have their own fan base.

      I also think about the issues with Taiwanese actors, looking at the drama created between the two main cast members of HIStory3 – Trapped, Jake Hsu and Chris Wu. The shippers cause management to separate the boys because they were being perceived as an actual couple. So I think Taiwan thinks of it’s BL industry in a similar way as that of Japan.

      I don’t want to sound like I’m negating your points. They are valid. I think sometimes they walk a fine line between light flirting, and fanservice. Especially when media try to feed these moments whether its interviews or suggestive games, they want their shippable sound bytes and moments.

      If we are talking Bara or Queer cinema it’s generally a different audience and expectations. Nobody expects fluffy rom com from Gengoroh Tagame. I think there are some who are not BL, don’t follow the tropes or fit into the niche. I think about directors like Aam Anusorn whose work like Picture Perfect feel more like an art house film involving two characters who fall in love, one gay and one bisexual. Even GMMTV is beginning to break out of the BL genre, like with Not Me. Its a story about political unrest, finding oneself, and doesn’t play into the tropes very often.

      Thanks so very much for writing such a thoughtful response. I’d love to continue the dialog if you have any more to add.

      Hugs. – 💕 Jen

  • Fati says:

    ngl the bitter CactuZS energy is seeping through here and overshadows what valid points you’ve made

    • jenhg says:

      Sorry, I am talking in very general terms here about all ships and shippers. The bitter cactuzs energy you speak of, please comment with examples from the piece. I would like to know how this piece comes across as bitter. I speak of fan service and queerbaiting. I can speak specifics of different couples and the problematic behavior by toxic fans who harass anyone that their idol is close to, especially members of the opposite sex. If you follow bl you will know what I speak of. If you only follow a specific pair, maybe you are unaware of others in the industry. Either way, I’d like to engage in a dialog of ideas because I think it should be discussed. But if the only comment you have is in regards to the specific fandom I belong to and not the piece I have written, it doesn’t sound like our discussion would get very far.

  • Daring to Dream says:

    Fanservice vs QBing is a great topic- thanks for sharing your thoughts- of course- will an obsessed and problematic fan read it and recognize themselves as a problem?

    I will say actors in the US where I am are not immune to crazed fans- whether shipping or not- breaking into hotel rooms, waiting outside their homes, stalking etc.

    There is a dynamic at play in Thai BLs in particular where there are so many shippable couples- that they are pushing the line farther and farther in order to get more gifts/attention/money. I haven’t seen the War of Y series- but it tackled that subject- apparently with mixed reviews.

    There have also been incidents of the actor’s partner getting bullied online and worse for “daring” to be seeing the actor- some of those are a girlfriend of Singto’s and a girlfriend of Bright. It’s a small strange world indeed.

    • jenhg says:

      I know it happens here too, I’m from the southern US, but don’t hold it against me. 🙏😁 And as for the craze, it exists, but there also seems a barrier between fans and artists that Thai artists don’t seem to have. Stalkers and obsessed fans aside, I feel that it can be a benefit to get closer to your idol and know a bit more about each other. It can be good in both directions. As long as both parties know what they signed up for.

      You are probably right about them not recognizing themselves in this piece. To be honest, I have slowed down in my writing schedule so their aren’t as many people reading our content anymore. I was hoping to engage some of the community as I think this is a worthy dialog given all the hub bub surrounding the community. So thank you for sticking with us.

      I am aware of the plethora of shippable couples and how far they are willing to go. I am bothered when they start blatantly manipulating fans for money, where their direct interactions come with dollar tags in them. I also realize that a lot of these actors don’t make that much on making a series. Their income comes from sailing and selling their ship. Its a blurry line with real lives and livelihood on the line.

      I know about Bright and Singto’s girlfriend plus others who have been bullied and harassed by fans. Even friends of the opposite sex are singled out with toxic behavior and vitriol. It’s scary how these fans feel entitled to the actors personal private life. I don’t know if it’s more in BL/GL circles, but since that’s where I park myself mostly, it’s what I see. A lot of foreign fans and younger fans seem to be the primary offenders. I wish there were a little more checks and balances to keep our actors safe from them.

      Thanks for the feedback on the piece. 🙏💕😘- Jen

  • exxuss says:

    Thank you for the clarifications. Makes my journey through the BL universe even more enjoyable.

    • jenhg says:

      Your welcome. Anytime. I hear these words thrown around all the time in BL spaces, and it bothers me that some people are misusing or applying these terms interchangeably depending on how they view the actors/actresses and their behaviors.

  • Thank you for laying out the definitions often heard but seldom understood. It’s nasty what happens when fans attack the young actors. The first time I saw it was the reaction to Toey/Om in Make it Right first and second series. It was a crisis in reality with fans in full belief they were a couple in real life. It doesn’t make me many friends when I drop a comment on a video that the actors are playing characters in a story for us. The Warp Effect sent me flying with roars of laughter, as actors I love, were not so subtle in acting out much of what you said in the article. Let me shut up and share the wonderful article with people around the Internet.

    • jenhg says:

      Thanks for the reply. Yes, it’s quite upsetting to watch people come for those actors with vitriol, especially when they are young. The problem for me isn’t that they believe the couple is real, it’s their actions and comments towards the actors/actresses and others that can be a cause for concern. People are free to ship or believe as long as they don’t harass or attack others, it’s a case of live and let live. But many of them go overboard. They have problematic behavior. I watched part of Warp Effect and yes, they definitely addressed this in a not so subtle way. I think actors/actresses in large companies have a little bit of a buffer around them as their agency dictates the limits of their social interactions with fans and online. But for the smaller agencies they aren’t as insulated.

      Thanks again for reading, engaging and sharing Hugs💕-Jen

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