BY JOHN CARTER JR
Whether we like it or not, the people in our life influence our actions, feelings, and belief systems. We are taught an interpretation of right and wrong not only by our parents but from teachers, friends, and other important figures in our life. We are conditioned to partake in the accepted social parameters set by those people. Even people we may not know personally, like famous musicians, content creators, actors, and politicians. All of these have a direct influence on how we perceive the world. This alone is neither negative nor positive. It is simply how humans work. We determine what things are ok to do, be, and even speak about. However, what happens when something about who you are, what you want, or the questions you have are incongruent with those limitations of what is acceptable? What if what you want is specifically the one thing everyone you love despises? This might sound like a typical case of internalized prejudice, this, however, is not that story.
It is Pride, and with its arrival is TMN’s 2023 Pride Month review series, where we will explore various journeys taken by LGBT characters and people through film or television. Our first stop on the Pride review tour is the 2021 Thai BL drama series “Bad Buddy” directed by Noppharnach Chaiwimol.
Starring Korapat Kirdpan (Nanon) as Pran and Pawat Chittsawangdee (Ohm) as Pat. Pat and Pran’s Parents detest each other. Throughout the show, their self-imposed rivalry spills over into the expectations they set for their children. The approval and expectation their parents set for their son explicitly require them to try to outdo the other family’s son in everything. For a while, the boys buy into what their parents teach them. However, after an incident in their childhood in which Pran helps Pat’s sister, their view of each other begins to shift. Sadly although their feelings of understanding each other begin to grow, their expectations of their parents become too daunting and thus, they concede to the pressure for a time.
“Bad Buddy” is a Romeo and Juliet adjacent story. However, unlike in that tragic tale, this story of LGBT love is about overcoming the pressure of the expectations of others. We see this theme throughout the show and the pressure continues to build up when the boys go to college. If they hadn’t already had enough stress from their families, the boys would struggle amongst their own friends as their faculties have been serious rivals for years. Their friend groups would periodically get into fights, and all the while with each confrontation, our two protagonists begin to struggle with their feelings for each other. It is a refreshing take to see an LGBT story about the internal storm of the struggle with desire, not because of their identity but with a more traditional storyline. The way in which the actors convey the deep pains of admiring one another but not being able to act on their feelings is moving and emotionally effective. Both Nanon and Ohm give effective performances that will not only make any BL fan swoon but, moreover, compel an emotionally cathartic experience of their own to flow outward.
Unlike the aforementioned overhyped Shakespeare classic, these boys do not give up on the potential for their shared happiness despite the demands of their family. This elegant love story shows us the resilience of love. It shows us that, while our main men are heartthrobs, it isn’t sexual desire that compels them to love. It is a profound connection that defies everything they were taught was right and wrong. The show really drives home the classic loving idea that getting each other is one of the core fundamentals of true love. Regardless of looks, circumstances, where we come from, or who brought us into the world, it is understanding each other or – at the very least – the desire to understand that can bring about love. They get each other and are less lonely because of it.
The show is filled to the brim with excellent performances in the realm of acting; however, Nanon’s musical contributions to the show cannot be ignored. The music in this show parallels the journey the characters take throughout. Among these delightful musical additions is “Just Friends?” a song about the confusion about the intentions of a friend and whether or not there’s something more between them. This represents the burgeoning feelings of love that both Pat and Pran felt in isolation, worrying whether or not the other felt the same.
It is that “I can see something happening here, can you?” feeling. It is a feeling of anxiety and excitement all at once, with a hint of lament as to the thought that it is all one-sided. However, as the fear is washed away by their shared love, we are greeted by another contribution by Nanon in “Our Song,” which is simply an expression of love and what his personal love is all about. Love is his feelings for him, it is not a predetermined and defined thing that is experienced by everyone. Love is unique to each person who experiences it and for every person it is felt for. It has no limitations or requirements of any action. Love is what you feel for someone and it is the actions in which we choose to express it that are completely up to us. Love is simple but the path to having your love accepted can be hard. Love is the most moving feeling in the world.
“Bad Buddy” is a series that is one of the most beautiful love stories out there. It is comedic, dramatic, and emotionally moving. It is classified as a BL or queer story but it isn’t the flesh vessels the characters live in or the genders they were assigned at birth that is important. It is the understanding they have of each other, the pressure they endure, and the love they share that is most compelling. The series sets a standard for love expressed in not only BL dramas but dramas in general. The music is excellently representative of the journey our characters go on and what a beautiful journey it is. Unlike the doubts brought up in the first song, like many debates online concerning characters, closeted stars, or even the swarming anxiety of doubt caused by second-guessing ourselves with our closest friends, it would be hard to argue that these buddies were “Just Friends.”
I give “Bad Buddy” 10/10 for the way it conveyed love, expectations, and resilience.