BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

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BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby Guest » April 13th, 2018, 1:11 am

I've been binging A LOT of BL Manga/Manhwa and Webcomics over the past 4 months and I've been thinking recently about whether there are less harmful tropes and more subversive elements in Webcomics on sites like here that feature queer male relationships than in the BL manga of Japan. Even without reading BL manga, it's obvious that a lot of BL webcomics are heavily influenced by BL manga and borrow elements from it (including using the term BL instead of Gay or LGBT), and a lot of problematic tropes are still reproduced like rape. But I feel like there are a lot more versatile couples, characters that feel like actual guys, and reliance on the uke-seme formula(like both gender and who tops and bottoms) in BL webcomics made by non-Japanese creators than in BL manga I've read. Not saying a lot of BL and Yaoi cliches aren't present in a lot of BL webcomics, they ARE, just not the extent as where those tropes originated from!

Do you think there are less harmful tropes in the Webcomics on here or Tapastic than in BL manga? Or does a lot of the same toxicity gets repeated on here too?
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby AltCat » April 13th, 2018, 8:02 am

Just by considering about 96% of the covers here seem to follow the formula of a personal-space-imposing character clasping the wrist of a queasy looking one. I'd say no.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby eishiya » April 13th, 2018, 9:19 am

I agree with your assessment. There is more diversity, but it's still drowning in a sea of tropey stuff, though at least there's less (unaddressed) abuse.
Something to consider is that many authors who set out to avoid the toxic BL tropes often don't mark their comics as BL, because BL is so strongly associated with those tropes. When you want to read about fetishized gay boys in a relationship that only becomes "real" after they have sex, you want BL. If you want human male characters who develop a relationship, then you're looking for gay romance. This parallels the situation in Japan, where geikomi is what you seek if you want to read about gay men acting like gay men (though geikomi has its share of pure porn as well).
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby MK_Wizard » April 13th, 2018, 9:44 am

I having nothing against a fantasy, but I don't like oversaturation of any genre. Diversity is a precious thing especially in the arts. Plus, I don't feel comfortable using stereotypes for anything. I prefer to make characters act natural and not let things like race, gender or in this case, orientation predetermine personalities or what kind of love life the character will have. I think it's important to show that same gender relationships deal with many of the same issues as opposite ones do and they do don't always have fairy tale endings. Nobody should settle for someone who treats them bad and abusive relationships of all kinds need to be made aware and taken seriously. If all love is precious, all of it should be treated as such and not just given away to someone who treats you like a doormat or worse yet, a punching bag. Lastly, not everything about a character who's gay is about them being gay. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet without a man or woman. They need to be interesting and fleshed out not just be the guy/girl who's gay.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby StanleyComics » April 13th, 2018, 12:23 pm

There are some comics with some less harmful tropes in here, I do believe so. For instance, I follow a comic, which has a more realistic view of a homosexual relationship, where there's an absence of insta-love, rape themes, unrealistic depictions, such as presenting a toxic relationship as natural and desirable. It takes place in a university setting, so it has a pretty western feel to it. But it's also kind of like a high school drama. There are still some annoying tropes, of course, but the story seems a step or two more relatable than most trope-filled BL manga comics. That's only one example of such a comic on here (I don't know if it's okay for me to reveal the title though, since I don't know if this free promo on my end is permitted on this thread or not). Of course, a lot of comics here that have BL themes use these tropes one way or another, but there are lots of comics here, which depict a romantic LGBT story. Of course, there's always going to be a problematic aspect, usually something that brings the drama, but there's no escaping that, I fear. But there are probably comics here, that use these tropes, but twist them in a way that make them more of a conflict device, rather than something to romanticize over. Like if one of the guys or girls is being too pushy or borderline abusive, it could be shown as a negative, which hinders their relationship in a way, and is a problem that needs resolving through the story. Or the relationship just doesn't work out in the end.
Personally, for my story, I'm using elements of a gay relationship, but I plan on taking it a different rout, where the characters don't necessarily fall in love and live happily ever after, rather their relationship is a plot device to bring conflict into the main story, which is not about the romance at all.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby kayotics » April 13th, 2018, 10:05 pm

I have complex feelings on the issue of negative tropes in BL. I don't personally read a TON of it myself, but part of that is because I'm queer and find it frustrating to read comics that completely fetishize gay relationships. Specifically gay male relationships.

You're not alone in thinking that there's a lot of unaddressed abuse in BL comics. I have a few friends and former classmates of mine who actively make BL (one of them is usually on the front page of this site, actually), and they also find that frustrating, but use BL as a means to try and change bad tropes within the genre. They avoid abusive sexual relationships, OR they talk about abuse in a very frank and open way that dissects why a relationship is abusive. I couldn't tell you how widespread that movement is, though, since I don't actively read BL and I'm not familiar with what some other BL authors do.

I think it's also worth saying that BL is not really made for lgbtq people. It seems a lot of the people who try to dissect some of those negative tropes are lgbtq+ themselves and want to see something that isn't so harmful. But as a general rule, I'd argue that BL is directed toward women and generally created by women.

There's things that I like and that I don't like about BL as a genre. For one, I'm not a huge fan of the community around it, because I don't love seeing the fangirling around a gay relationship. There's still a lot of hate that comes with being gay, something I have to live with and deal with in my everyday life living as a queer person. But there's good things too. I know a lot of people from my age range didn't discover that they were gay themselves except through seeing gay relationships in webcomics or in fanfiction. I think there's a lot of undue negativity around BL, which might stem from homophobia or from sexism toward a female fanbase. I'm not saying the genre is perfect (clearly it's not), but I think a lot of the criticism stems from hate rather than actual problems with the tropes within it. Webcomics communities are really saturated with BL, but considering that it's much harder to find any gay representation in published comics, maybe that saturation is a reasonable retaliation to physical publishing.

I'm also not a gay man, so I can't speak to that specific experience. I know I have a few gay male friends who find BL really troubling and are really tired of seeing the fetishization of gay relationships in fiction.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby mitchellbravo » April 14th, 2018, 1:20 pm

eishiya wrote: (though geikomi has its share of pure porn as well).

Please tell me this is a Japanization* of "gay comics" !!!!



*I forget the term for when a phrase is just the English phrase with Japanese phonemes
oly: we draw stories about imaginary people
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby Otto Gruenwald » October 18th, 2018, 1:44 pm

Ahahaha are you for real? Harmful tropes? What, do the words jump off the page and attack you?
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby bmacbride » October 18th, 2018, 4:23 pm

A lot of great points already made in this thread. As a gay person, BL comics and manga aren't usually very appealing to me at all, unless there's something super unique about them. But in that case, that usually means a transcendence from BL into something more mature and well thought out. A huge problem I have with BL (or, something that makes the genre extremely unappealing for me personally) is the abundance of underage or very young characters (or characters that are meant to look that way) in gratuitous sexual relationships or situations. On the one hand, it's important for young people on the LGBT spectrum to make and consume media that reflects their feelings and struggles. On the other hand, many of the explicit BL works I see aren't created by or for people the same age as the characters portrayed in the work. Which I guess I don't personally understand or find appealing or tasteful. What kind of sense does it make to tag your work 18+ when you're a 25-year-old drawing smut between 16-year-olds...?
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby bmacbride » October 18th, 2018, 4:26 pm

Otto Gruenwald wrote:Ahahaha are you for real? Harmful tropes? What, do the words jump off the page and attack you?


Are you saying you don't understand how tropes and themes in media can effect people in negative ways? Media is consumed and internalized by humans, it's not released into a vacuum.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby kytri » October 19th, 2018, 8:53 pm

I don't know that western BL Webcomics are any less tropey than BL manga. I think in both cases the more niche stuff get's buried under the more cliche stuff, and in the case of manga the cliche stuff is more likely to get translated because it's more popular.

As a gay trans man I have kind of mixed feelings about this kind of stuff. There's definitely some dodgy tropes going on but I also have a soft spot for trash media. I kind of view most BL the same way I'd view a trashy romance novel. Most of it's not for me. Occasionally something is such a weird mess it very much is for me. I definitely wish there was more variety or that the variety was at least easier to dig up.

I'm hesitant to come down too harshly on the more problematic aspects of BL though. I read a lot of yaoi manga as a teen and it kind of provided a safer way to access m/m content when I hadn't yet realized I was trans, and the cliches don't stand out when you've never seen them before.

Also as an author who makes queer content I worry a lot that I'd be way more successful if I just made a cookie cutter BL comic.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby MIDOxRI » May 9th, 2019, 4:12 am

From what I understand the main divider between geikomi and bl is that bl is more focused on the "romance" aspect, and as such it's considered for women because they're the ones into romance *eyeroll*, and geikomi is more about just sex, so it's for many man who don't care about relationships or whatever. But in actuality both men and women in Japan make and read both, depending on their personal tastes etc, tho it's true most of the creators/consumers of geikomi are men and bl tend to be women but from what I've read some titles have a more balanced reader ratio, so it's not that clear cut. And both definitely feature a lot of bad tropes.

If you read a wider range of manga and not just bl, you will likely find the same harmful tropes. Tho I think it's improves with time (like, older mangas are more cringy as on average and newer might be less so), but those show more issues that Japanese society might have in general rather than specifically imaginary gay people, some might call it cultural difference, which to extent it might be...

While historically homosexuality in Japan was not unusual or frowned upon, (until the West came along with their Western sensibilities in the 19th century or so, and then it actually became illegal, along with a bunch of other things.) It WAS affected by their system of class or social hierarchy, which like, affects everything. My point being, at least some of the tropes, the uke-seme thing maybe?, are typically considered to have historical roots in Japan, going centuries back.

In addition, some "gay stereotypes" western people often see in bl manga are actually...western gay stereotypes. The Japanese don't necessarily have them. For example, a lot of westerners find the characters feminine, but if you look at romance manga in general, the men are often the same in hetero romance as well. There's actually pretty bad stereotypes of gay people that appear even in like, mainstream shounen manga, but they're different from the western ones so western people typically don't realise those characters are supposedly gay, they're just thought of as comedic relief, which they are, but it's bad you guys. I was like ಠ益ಠ when I learned that's what it was.

That's not to say I think these tropes you talk about are good or whatever, I'm just saying things are a bit more nuanced and are a part of a bigger underlying issue rather then "gross girls find abusive men sexy".

Also, assuming you don't speak Japanese, it's likely you're reading what people want and CHOOSE to translate, rather than all bl ever, so it actually could be more indicative of what the English market wants than actually what's out there in Japan. Which is also a point for thought.

(Some of those points seems worth considering when discussing the topic but damn that's long and barely related to the initial question ;A; )
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby Ivyoverdose » May 9th, 2019, 10:13 pm

i would say there are alot of tropes in alot of bl, I myself are planning on using some of these tropes, but in a way (hopefully) can come off as creepy (as there is a horror theme to the story that i don't want to seem normal)
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby Seve » May 10th, 2019, 10:16 am

My main comic is a romance between guys (mostly to be free to indulge in autobiographical content without coming out of the closet. Most of my characters are bi, pan or demi though) and I also work in a NSFW side comic, so I have read plenty to get a good idea of the good, the bad, the ugly and the plain rapey in order to make my comics as real as possible, and let me tell you there's a lot of wholesome comics that feature a relationship between two males without the negative aspects of Japanese, Korean or Chinese comics. Many of them label themselves as BL, but I think it's just to get to a wider audience, some of them tackle the LGBTQA problematics brilliantly.

Most of them I read in Tapas. I'll leave some of my favorites here, please take a look at them if you have the time.
This Is Not Fiction
Heartstopper
Long Exposure (this one also deals with other serious topics like domestic violence and bullying)
A Matter of Life and Death > this is full manga style but the story is interesting and even though the author often jokes with the gay tropes and gaybait, the focus of the plot is set elsewere.
Check! Please
Autophobia (here on SJ too) > this I think it's the best, most real I've read. It's just amazing.
A Love Unafraid (here on SJ too) >uses the BL tag but the story is a fantasy romance.

Of course, there are all done by amateur authors, or at least they started like that (some of them went pro). It's hard to think of a Japanese, Korean or Chinese comic that hasn't at least once toyed with the limits of consent, but if you want I believe Guang Xiang is the most sincere, sweet comic out there. Tamen de Gushi and Heesu in Class 2 are also pretty mellow and keeps things real.

I think the concept of shady consent is present in every aspect of the underground Japanese culture though, I think the message is "they say no but in the bottom they love it" and just roll with it in comics, series and porn as a way of escaping the social restraints they grew up with without entirely giving in. But that's just my opinion.
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Re: BL Manga, BL Webcomics and Harmful Tropes

Postby Mordecai » May 14th, 2019, 9:44 pm

What I don't like about bl is that they don't talk about the struggles that gay people go through. The manga tries to fantasize gay love, and the manga does not show the ups and downs in a relationship.
It's hard for me to get into.
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