- Though weighed down by script-writing that largely fails to address important social issues TharnType presents a major watershed moment for the Thai BL romance genre.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Major spoilers in the review
A few days ago, GMMTV announced their follow up to the 2019 hit boys love series “TharnType The Series” titled, “TharnType The Series 2: 7 years of love” which will be released in the latter half of 2020.
“7 years of love” will feature much of the same cast as its predecessor, TharnType, which is a cause of joy for fans of the now cannon flagship couple, Mew Suppasit Jongcheveevat (“Tharn”) and Gulf Kanawut Traipipattanapong (“Type”).
This sequel is expected to closely follow the third installment from the original novel, of the same name, which was written by popular Thai author, Khun Mame.
In this second installment of the drama adaptation, Tharn and Type, our leads, have been together for seven years and have both graduated and are working adults. Viewers can expect Tharn and Type to face relationship hurdles in the form of a love rival for Tharn, jealous confrontation, as well as the possible separation of the duo.
Fans of both the novel and the series have therefore geared up for a truckload of angst and misunderstandings in this sequel, as well as a large helping of author Mame’s trademark steamy love scenes.
In the spirit of the announcement of 7 Years of love, I believe now is a good time to explore in some depth the initial installment of TharnType The Series, which was my first venture into the Thai BL Romance genre, with a view to examining what made the series work and evaluating some of the valid criticisms leveled at the script-writing by both fans and critics.
The first installment of TharnType is set in the now familiar universe of a Thai University. Freshmen, Tharn, a music major, and Type, a sports major, were roommates who initially had a budding friendship. On discovering that his roommate, Tharn was gay, Type who is prejudiced against gay people begins a juvenile crusade to force Tharn to move out of the shared dorm room.
The scene is thus set for conflict as Tharn, who justifiably believes that he has done nothing wrong, refuses to move on principle. After suffering Type’s antics, Tharn begins his counter and seeks to teach Type a lesson by pretending to fulfil some of Type’s worst fears about gay people. Fueled partly by his crush on Type and partly by anger, Tharn thus begins his sexually aggressive revenge campaign.
Unbeknownst to Tharn, Type’s prejudice stems from his past childhood sexual trauma, the effects of which Tharn triggers through his actions. While resolving these issues as well as other conflicts including the appearance of numerous love rivals, the two, first begin a casual sexual relationship which eventually grows into love.
The response to the first three or so episodes of TharnType was explosive. Viewers who were not abreast with the novel and were thus unprepared for the storyline poured a raft of criticisms at the show primarily aimed at the script for two main reasons: the first being a lack of consent in several scenes in the early episodes and secondly, the use of sexual trauma as a device to justify Type’s homophobia.
Indeed, the depiction of consent in the early episodes were a cause of concern. I recall being incensed at scenes where Tharn approached Type while latter was asleep or drunk, and essentially defenseless, to either show his affection as demanded by his unrequited love or to exact his revenge by pretending to have assaulted Type. Though Tharn did not sexually assault Type in the true sense of the word, the depiction nevertheless left a sour taste in one’s mouth.
Given issues in Thai society where members of LGTBQ+ communities are vulnerable to abuse and the broader concerns as it pertains to LGBTQ+ societies worldwide, the criticisms following the broadcast of the initial episodes were valid.
In reality gay men are often depicted as sexual deviants and, in the show, Type through his language and his entire world view furthered that perception. Additionally, Tharn’s poorly conceived revenge, which took the form of a staged sexual assault, added yet another nail into the coffin by visually solidifying the perception of gay men as predators.
Yet the show offered no real rebuttal to the initial negative impressions it had created. One had the sense, even after several episodes, that while Type had begun to view Tharn favorably he still held the broader LGBTQ+ world in contempt.
While this loose end was finally addressed in the special episode aired at the end of the series, I note that in the 12 actual episodes of TharnType these negative perceptions were never truly confronted.
Further, I think we can all agree that under any and all circumstances homophobia is unacceptable.
Though according to the story Type may have been abused as a child by one person who happened to also be gay, the crimes of one individual cannot and must not be used as a broad brush to paint all others of a specific social group. As previously stated, while Type eventually sheds his perceptions after 13 episodes, the idea that there can be “valid reasons” for homophobia or discrimination is never truly disabused.
Indeed, conflict between Tharn and Type was necessary to jump start their relationship and lead the characters to recognize their feelings for one another, but the show’s handling of important social issues felt cavalier and shortsighted.
Accordingly, despite Type’s long redemption arc, the author and scriptwriter cannot truly escape the critique that this story was written by a non-LGBTQ+ person to satisfy other non-LGBTQ+ persons without much regard or understanding of real important issues that influence same-sex relationships in Thailand or elsewhere.
At this point you are probably wondering why after such a critique of the opening episodes one would even continue watching this series. However, there are very good reasons to do so.
In the first place, the chemistry between the leads is electric. Mew and Gulf prepared for their respective roles by participating in a workshop aimed at building the compatibility of the actors in the series. Their hard work behind the scenes was thoroughly displayed on screen as the chemistry between the leads was palpable.
Despite being hamstrung by BL drama tropes and occasionally stilted dialogue, it was clear from scenes involving the main leads, that both actors are truly dedicated to their craft and that the personalities of their characters were well researched and understood.
Secondly, Type’s redemption arc was truly satisfying. The adaptation does not rush viewers to the end as some dramas are wont to do, by suddenly providing a fully fleshed out character. Instead we see steady changes in Type’s personality after each confrontation with Tharn and after each major conflict is resolved.
We are given the chance to see both Type and Tharn make mistakes, reflect, accept critique and then change their past behavior based on feedback. At the end of the day we are left with mature well-rounded characters, particularly with Type developing from a prejudiced immature young man into one that knows how to openly love another in a same-sex relationship.
We also see positive examples of acceptance as demonstrated by Tharn’s loving family and Type’s mother, as well as positive displays of friendship through Type’s best friend Techno, who often served as sounding board for Type and provided many light-hearted moments.
However, perhaps TharnType’s greatest triumph was that much of the furor over the script writing caused viewers to discuss the pertinent social issues they may have overlooked, pause and reflect on their own personal conceptions and maybe learn something about their own views concerning the LGBTQ+ community as whole.
At the end of the day, TharnType is a heartwarming story of personal growth, acceptance, perseverance, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
Personally, TharnType was a great introduction to the world of Thai BL dramas and I look forward to what the second installment has to offer.
Do let me know if you have watched or intend to watch TharnType and share your thoughts in the comments below.
Watch full episodes of TharnType via official links here
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