In this article, I offer three possible reasons why Black Lotus and similar yaoi manga are popular among yaoi and boy’s love circles and groups.
Disclaimer: I am a man who enjoys yaoi
Warning: Spoiler warnings will be given where they are deemed appropriate.
Female Fantasy by removing the female from the equation
It’s undeniable that majority of BL readers consist of females. The market for yaoi was originally after all that of “written by women and for women”. This is in no way an attempt to start a gender war. Regardless, the fact remains that by removing women from the equation, it guarantees female audiences a risk-free and guilt-free erotic, fantasization of certain scenarios that societal conventions might not allow them to, especially in our growing feministic society where placing a woman in a scenario where she is week, meek and maltreated is a seemingly taboo action.
Therefore, in this scenes, stories like Black Lotus acts as a digital sandbox for women to explore their fantasies without risks of feeling like they are being anti-feminists.
because it provides me with a guide to better understand my sexual dilemmas, ranked 9
This motive is directly lifted from an ncbi journal entitled Loving the love of boys: Motives for consuming yaoi media by Zsilla from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6002055/
Although this study merely focuses in the motivation behind reading yaoi, it also gives us an insight as to why consumers consume this media. Remember, this motive ranked 9 in the study presented.
This is in no way meant to belittle those who read yaoi for this reason. Whatever your motives for reading is, exploring your sexuality is a perfectly valid motive. Doing so where others take the risk even offers the benefits of “no harm done” especially since only fictional characters are involved.
By the way as a spoiler to non-novel readers, a lot of unofficial translations often mistakenly use “madam” and “she” when referring to the main uke. Make of that as you will. But I believe some of these are not unintentional mistakes in subject-verb agreement as this have been repeated in multiple translations by different authors especially on wattpad.
It is not merely an error in translation but a subconscious desire to substitute the uke with the female gender. Whether or not you also accept this conclusion is entirely up to you.
Overcoming Adversity, a strong independent woman epitomized by a strong enduring uke
Many women today fantasizes and indeed espouses the virtues of being a strong independent woman who surmounts and endures a challenge before her.
In an article published in ncbi entitled College Women’s Feminist Identity: A Multidimensional Analysis with Implications for Coping with Sexism by Leaper and Arlas (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3062025/), it can be quoted that a sexist event can be confronted by two strategies as quoted below:
A direct way of dealing with a sexist event is to confront the perpetrator. Confronting is a problem-focused coping strategy whereby the source of the stress is directly addressed. Deciding to confront a perpetrator begins with a cognitive appraisal of the relative interpersonal benefits (e.g., reducing recurrence) and costs (e.g., retribution) of taking this action
While this is not apparent in the earlier parts of the story, it will be in the future. The desire for retribution for the oppressed and weak, for those victims of injustices are so ingrained that when abusive semes get their comeuppance, we cheer for them.
LIGHT SPOILER WARNING
- In kiss me liar for example, Keith eventually regretted his actions and was punished for his maltreatment, much like how Gu Yansheng also got his just rewards when the uke finally stood up for himself.
END SPOILER WARNING
There is nothing wrong with this and in fact, it even applies to non gender issues. Even in movies and stories unrelated to yaoi and BL we cheer when the evil character (protagonist or antagonist alike get their just desserts.
Transformative and believable character development for mental health
In Black Lotus, the main character undergoes a transformative character development worthy of aspiration. From shy, meek to submissive, he gradually found his confidence until he eventually gained or regained his lost beauty and sparkle.
While the initial overarching theme of the story screams mental toxicity and the condonation of abusive relationships, there is a prevailing focus on mental health.
Indeed, the story even touches on actual key concepts in mental health.
Psychodynamic therapies are narrative in the degree to which they depend on early life stories to understand a current narrative, revealing problems faced by the client in adulthood.
The above quote is lifted from Understanding the Person through Narrative by Hall and Powell (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3169914/)
This teaches us that in understanding ourselves, understanding key narrative elements play a crucial role in not just as a narrative process but a therapeutic one.
That is to say in understanding the past and exploring past traumas, even just a retelling and reremembrance of it is an act that helps with coping with certain issues in our lives.
This is not restricted to Black Lotus.
Soft spoilers Ahead
In Yours to Claim for example, Yahwi’s childhood plays a direct role in his ideals and ways of handling relationships in the present. In Black lotus, it is the same in that Gu Yansheng’s remembrance of a past childhood trauma is an integral part of his treatment of our dear uke.
With this in mind, I think it is a worthwhile endeavor to follow the character’s development and at the same time gives we the audiences a chance to reflect on our own past traumas and experiences and how they relate to our current way thinking and doing things.
Bonus: A peek into the world of nobility, the glamour of power and status, how it bedazzles us
Most of the popular korean comics seemed to revolve around rich families and their issues. There’s always a rich president from a powerful company.
And that is very telling to our fascination with the world that only so few of the population know about.
For some, it becomes a fascinating fantasy to imagine that even these seemingly “perfect” families have their own issues, rivalries and problems much like how everyone else does in the world.
This is also the reason why the movie Parasite was so successful. For all their glamour it reveals that even the rich are indeed just as clueless or indeed much more so than the “peasants” they often looked down upon.
Although these media are mostly made for female audiences, much of the insights and lessons learned can be applied to all forms of genders and circumstances. Black Lotus and even Kiss Me Liar might start off as seemingly toxic at first, but there is a gradual, well thought out character development that permeates throughout each and every new scenes.
There are social commentaries even in the simplest of interactions (particularly in how Gu Yansheng’s mother conducts business for example, or the familial interactions in Black Lotus tying companies and business fortunes through marriage). So don’t be so quick to dismiss these pieces of work as mere trivialities. For underneath the glamour wrapped in suffocating toxicity lies layers upon layers of social commentaries that may even get us to know ourselves a little bit better as we read along.
With all these reasons, Black Lotus is a definite must read even for non BL fans. It will start out slow but it will be worth it. So how about it? Give it a chance? To those still reading it, what are your thoughts? And finally to those who dropped it out of frustration, would you be willing to give it another chance?