Friday, October 7, 2016

Why Yaoi: Reason 3

One of the finer aspects of Black Sun
is that Leonard attempts to solve the weirdness
of his life by calling on his religious training: it's
the framework he knows. Modern-thinking Jamal
doesn't care, but he does understand that
Leonard needs a reason that works for him.
With Reason 2, I postulate that yaoi takes gender roles and expectations off the table. Consequently, the plot focuses instead on relationship issues. (For example, all romances deal with the characters' looks. In yaoi, however, looks aren't the point. No matter how often people remark on so-and-so's attractiveness, that person's attractiveness is a side issue, which it never is for women in paperback romances.)

In yaoi, the core relationship's problems carry the weight of the story. Moreover, the solutions to those problems require characters who function within the structure of society.

Reason 3  for why (single) women read yaoi is that in yaoi, a person can contribute to society without necessarily fitting in.

Western romances always seem to skirt the Romeo/Juliet line (even if one believes, as I do, that Shakespeare was being ironic). How far will love take someone away from society's center? How rebellious can the characters be!?

This love=rebellion matrix can be captivating in the short run; ultimately, it becomes rather tedious. Rebellion is so much less interesting than watching people hammer out solutions for themselves within society's bounds (though not always in accordance with them).

If women are indeed networkers, then being told, "Hey, you don't have kids! You don't have a husband! You don't belong!" can be fairly devastating. Although men get told equally fatuous things, historically they could always go off and become explorers or gold-miners or bigamists. Until recently, women had fewer options. In Salem, Massachusetts in the 1600s, not having kids or a current husband could get a woman killed.

For the star-crossed lovers of Just Around the Corner,
the solution isn't, "Let's drink poison and escape!"
The solution is, "Stop whining and graduate!"
Yaoi proves that romance literature can thrive in the absence of children and multiple weddings. Fascinating problems abound! What is the role of confidences in a relationship? Should the love of one's life be a caregiver, a friend, a nurturer, or a fellow needy person? How much of the past should people give up to move forward? Is idealism the best basis for intimacy? Is is okay for people to discard parts of their lives--or parts of their personality--for others? What personalities are compatible? How does one balance family or work needs with a partner's needs? What does it mean to forgive?

And so on.

The great thing about these issues is that they rarely involve the yaoi characters deciding, "Society stinks. Let's go live on an island." The problems can't be answered by throwing out everything society has built. Children and weddings may not be all there is; that doesn't mean they are bad. Characters solve problems by finding balance, harmony--by being decent human beings and working hard. What else does anyone need to do?

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