Friday, May 29, 2020

The Unsung Heroes of BL: The Enabling Best Friends

To say that fans of BL (Boys' Love) series watch them for the couples is to state the obvious. After all, BL fans are notorious for being ultra-passionate shippers of their favorite pairs, an activity that spills over to real life. Nowadays, such composite names as MewGulf, TayNew, MaxTul, and BrightWin trend whenever a new episode or a new fan-made video of them comes out. It doesn't take much effort to find articles online on these and many other BL couples.

But one aspect of BL series that has not gotten as much appreciation as it should have is the role of supporting characters. Not secondary couples, who can sometimes even outshine the lead couples (WinTeam, anyone?), but the friends who rotate around the main couple and range from being mere observers to being true enablers. In many ways, they're the viewers' surrogates, that's why we cheer them on when they go out of their way to help the couple get together or strengthen their relationship, or if they're just fierce, protective friends who've got our main characters' backs. Aside from the sadly rarer "supporting parents," these "enabling best friends" are the true unsung heroes of BL series. (Note: we use enabling in the positive sense of the word here). Here, I'd like to highlight five of them, ranked by their overall impact on the main couple's relationship and general well-being.

Honorable Mentions:

Team ("Until We Meet Again") - I love that scene in the library where he tells off Alex for bugging Pharm. That's a true friend right there.

Fai ("Together With Me: The Next Chapter") - There are many times in the series when she seems like the only sensible member of the group, and she doesn't hold back in making that clear and helping rein her friends in.

Knot ("Sotus") - That heart-to-heart conversation that he has with Arthit is short but it's a critical turnaround point for the latter.

Kae ("Why R U?") - He'd probably be in my top five if he qualified as a best friend. That scene with Fighter's father is priceless.

He Cheng En ("HIStory2: Boundary Crossing") - What can I say: making Qiu Zi Xuan choose between the two drinks was a smooth move.


5. THE FAIRY ANGEL GANG - Montri, Hippo, No. 1, No. 2 ("2 MOONS 2")

Actors: Phee Pikulngern, Sathitpong Taiworachot, Jirayu Sutthisat, Jirawat Sutthisat

Usually, the best friends are straight or masculine gay/bi males. It's refreshing to see more effeminate characters, who usually play less flattering roles (example: Green in "2gether the Series"), being so proactive in helping the main couple.

Most Significant Act of Friendship: They didn't do too much to help the relationship between their friend Wayo and Phana progress, but who didn't fall in love with them when they fought for Wayo against his defamers? That scene where they confront the other group in the dance studio, showing their solidarity with Wayo, is powerful stuff. We can easily argue that if they hadn't done that, Wayo wouldn't have been in the right state of mind to be in a relationship with Phana.


Actor: Yacht Surat Permpoonsavat

The first scene that we seen Pond in sets him up quickly as a perverted clown and doesn't give us much confidence in him at the onset. He's still the perverted clown until the end of the series but no one can say that he isn't a fiercely loyal friend. He also shows a sweeter and more mature side in a nice scene with his girlfriend ChaAim. I'm glad he found a girl who sees him for who he really is, unlike Ae, who really should start treating him more nicely.

Most Significant Act of Friendship: It's really the small things with Pond. There's putting the condoms in Ae's bag and being in Pete's corner almost immediately. Whatever advice he gave Pete to get him ready to fully consummate his relationship with Ae for the first time, it definitely worked.


Actor: White Nawat Phumphothingam

Even as we're cheering him on through his own struggles with love, we're also loving him for so selflessly, unconditionally accepting Third's love for Khai and helping Third through his problems.

Most Significant Act of Friendship: He's quick to act as soon as he discovers Third's feelings for Khai. He helps Third concoct the plan that gets Third to stay in Khai's apartment. But really, it's his unwavering support of Third through it all that makes him the best friend that everyone would like to have.


Actor: Mild Suttinut Uengtrakul

Like Pond, he's the none-too-serious best friend who's often affectionately bullied by the lead character, but it's clear from the very start that he's more consistently reliable and level-headed. Without being as obvious about it as Pond is, he's really the greatest TharnType shipper...even if he does occasionally feel awkward around their cloying sweetness (something that amusingly extends to real life when Mild is around MewGulf).

Most Significant Act of Friendship: There's a lot to choose from, from telling Type all the things that Tharn has been doing for him to being there as solid back-up during the final confrontation with Lhong. But I'll argue, maybe quite controversially, that Techno's single most important act that moves the TharnType relationship forward is him telling Type that his roommate Tharn is gay. He obviously does not do that out of spite for Tharn or for gays, just out of concern for Type and how much worse it would be if Type found out another way. We wouldn't have had the riveting love story that we had had it not been for Techno's well-intentioned intervention.


Actress: Maengmum Tanshi Bumrungkit

I've said before that most best friends are males. How great is it then to have a strong female as the ultimate BL series best friend? From start to finish (all the way into "Together With Me: The Next Chapter," though she has her own problems to deal with there), she's KornKnock's biggest shipper. Think about it: she's there both the first and last times that the couple is in their hometown. When she's in her kilig state, so are we. And, more importantly, she's their fiercest protector.

Most Significant Act of Friendship: She's the foil to the unbelievably diabolical Plern Pleng, making it her mission to investigate her and reveal her true face to Knock, even risking her own safety in at least one instance. She rallies their other friends to help defeat Plern Pleng, while being sickeningly fashionable the whole time. Plern Pleng didn't really stand a chance against her.

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