Home News Can Japan’s first gay dating reality show change people’s minds?

Can Japan’s first gay dating reality show change people’s minds?

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Japan is the only The world’s richest democracy have Same-sex unions are not yet legal. Few celebrities Openly gay. Conservative groups Opposition to legislative efforts Protect the LGBTQ community.

But now, Netflix has launched the country’s first same-sex dating reality series.

The 10-episode series, which will be broadcast in 190 countries starting July 9, follows nine men as they gather at a luxurious beachfront villa outside Tokyo. The format of the show is reminiscent of Japan’s most popular romantic reality show, “Terrace House”, with its clean-cut, extremely polite cast and its commentary handled by a team of cheerful commentators.

The vibe is wholesome and mostly innocent. The men, who range in age from 22 to 36, drive coffee trucks by day, cook at night and occasionally go out on dates. One of the biggest (and few) conflicts is the cost of buying raw chicken to make a protein shake for a club dancer who’s trying to stay in shape. Sex is rarely mentioned, and friendship and self-improvement are as important as love.

In Japan, the few openly gay and transgender actors who appear regularly on television are usually flamboyant, effeminate comedy sidekicks shoehorned into exaggerated stereotypes. For “Boyfriend,” executive producer Ohta said he wanted to “portray gay relationships realistically.”

Mr. Ota, who is also a producer of “Terrace House,” produced by Fuji TV and licensed for global distribution by Netflix, said he avoided “the approach of ‘let’s include the people who created the problem.’ ”

He said “Boyfriend” represents diversity in another way – the cast comes from many ethnic backgrounds, including South Korea and Taiwan.

Although Japan lags behind on LGBTQ rights, Mr. Ota said the show is not intended to be overtly political or social commentary. He said the show does not advise actors not to talk about the social challenges of being gay or bisexual in Japan, but during the audition process he reminds potential participants that “ultimately the show will be broadcast live and a wide audience will be able to hear these ideas.”

Soshi Matsuoka, founder of Tokyo-based LGBTQ rights group Fair, who has watched the show, said its very existence “shows how society has changed.” But he said he hopes the actors will talk more openly about their sexuality and the social context of Japan’s LGBTQ community.

While “Boyfriend” may be Japan’s first gay dating reality show, there are a growing number of gay dating shows, including “Ultimatum: Gay Love”, the same applies to Netflix;I kissed a boy” and”I kissed a girl” on the BBC;For the love of DILFS” is available on Apple TV+, and “His manin Korea,

Taiki Takahashi, a gay model and social media influencer who served as the casting director for “Boyfriend,” said he had “high expectations and hopes” for the show.

“I won’t say we can change society,” he said in an interview at Netflix’s Tokyo offices. “But I do hope that many people will feel some kind of impact.”

Takahashi posted auditions on social media and recruited actors from his own network, with about 50 men auditioning. He said he deliberately chose “people who would be liked” and avoided “people who felt pressured to be a certain character because I’m going to be on TV, or because I’m gay, I have to act gay.”

this shadow of”Terrace House” inevitably hangs over “Boyfriend.” The two shows share the same basic format, in which a commentator — Yoshimi Tokui — has returned to the studio, where he joins a group of TV personalities in analyzing the interactions between the men on the show.

At the end of the fifth season of the globally popular Terrace House, a Japanese professional wrestler named Hana Kimura suicideShe left behind several suicide notes and posted ominous messages on Twitter and Instagram before her death.

Her mother, Kyoko Kimura, has filed a lawsuit against Fuji TV and two other production companies, alleging they failed to protect her daughter from defamatory comments and forced her to behave on the show that drew widespread criticism online. Ms. Kimura is seeking nearly $1 million in damages.

Mr. Ota said Netflix had hired mental health experts to counsel the actors “to create a production environment that doesn’t hurt anyone.” Netflix did background checks on each actor, he said, and after the show airs, “if they have even the slightest bit of anxiety, we’ll take care of them.” Netflix did not make any of the actors available for interviews.

Although Polls show Although more than 70% of Japanese people support the legalization of same-sex unions, homosexuals and transgender people still face discrimination and hate speech.

Ms. Kimura, 47, said in a video interview that she knew from her daughter’s experience that young people who are new to the international world “cannot imagine what it’s like to receive hundreds or thousands of defamatory comments every day from around the world.”

“Reality TV itself is dangerous,” she said. “Especially in Japan, few people know in detail about the existence of the LGBTQ community.”

Drag queen Durian Lollobrigida, one of five commentators on “The Boyfriend,” said he wanted to join the show to help “protect” the cast.

“I think it’s not good if the majority of heterosexuals just watch gay men socializing,” said Mr. Lollobrigida, 39. “So I think it’s necessary to have someone there to act as a translator.”

He said that once filming began, he mingled with the other commentators and realized “I didn’t need to worry about any of this stuff.”

Even without explicit political advocacy, Lollobrigida said the show could have a subtle influence on social attitudes. “To fight for various LGBTQ+ rights, of course, it’s important to make noise and protest,” he said. “But at the same time, I think it’s also important to normalize it through entertainment.”

Jennifer Robertson, professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Michigan, said it’s questionable whether the play laid the groundwork for eventual political change. Write frequently About LGBTQ culture in Japan.

She acknowledged that the show’s sweet, low-key actors could be heartwarming. In many ways, Ms. Robertson said, they were an ideal counterpoint to “straight couples bickering about kitchen cleanliness and kids.” In fact, some of them — not just the professional chefs in the show — seemed to be talented home cooks who worked hard to keep the house clean, qualities not often seen in most men in Japan.

But Ms. Robertson added that if the goal was to encourage less tolerant Japanese audiences to be more accepting of gay and bisexual people, then she wondered whether those people would watch a show like “Boyfriend.”

“Being cute on a show to appeal to people who may already support LGBTQ people is not going to advance political approval of same-sex marriage,” she said.

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