The meaning-making of Thai Boys’ Love cultural products from the perspectives of international media: A corpus-driven approach

Boys’ Love (BL) is a genre of cultural products which features erotic and romantic relationships between men. This study seeks to examine the meaning-making of Thai BL from the perspectives of international media. Methodologically, corpus-driven discourse analysis is adopted. The 57,336-word corpus consists of coverage from 28 media outlets across 10 countries. It is sourced from content published between 2015 and 2021. The investigation is conducted at the word (keyword analysis), sentence (N-gram analysis) and paragraph (qualitative analysis) levels. Overall, three emerging themes have been captured. First, the strong affection theme regards Thai BL as a lyrical world replete with love and romance, outperforming its Western equivalent because of sensitivity to a romantic ideal known as “love conquers all.” Second, the determinant of audience participation theme considers Thai BL a factor that encourages participation from fandoms. This is exemplified in the cultural phenomenon of fans learning the Thai language in order to comprehend a series without dependence on subtitles. Third, the connection with reality theme treats Thai BL as a reflection of various real-life situations, including LBGT issues in Southeast Asia. This “reality” is comprised of two domains: what is happening in real life and what is missing in real life.