One of the most successful drama series in China in the past year is Word of Honour , which depicts the friendship and brotherly love between two male protagonists. Not only has it turned the two little-known leading actors, Gong Jun and Zhang Zhehan, into super idols, it has also received a rating of 8.6 out of 10 from more than 565,000 users on media review platform Douban. It’s just one of the dangai dramas, a type of Chinese drama adapted from boys’ love novels that originated in Japan, that have taken the Chinese television industry by storm in recent years. But viewers may not be able to see anything new in the genre in the near future as calls by authorities for a boycott grow. Has China’s push to ban ‘effeminate’ and ‘sissy’ men claimed its first victim? Used to portray gay relationships by replacing sexual elements with subtext or bromance, dangai dramas are regarded by regulators as “misleading” for younger generations that contribute to “toxic idol worship” amid a broader crackdown on China’s fandom culture since last year. At a national conference on the television and film industry earlier this month, Yang Shuo, who heads the Beijing Municipal Radio and Television Bureau, said his authority has banned the dangai genre in films and TV series completely to “create a clean and healthy cyberspace for the capital city”. Although the authority only has control over content produced in the Beijing municipal area, the ban is set to have a much wider influence as two of China’s three leading broadcast platforms, iQiyi and Youku, are located in Beijing. It follows a directive from the country’s top media regulator a few months ago. In September, the National Radio and Television Administration (NRTA) called for an end to dangai , along with a series of entertainment phenomena including chasing online traffic, sky-high salaries for celebrities and tax evasion. As a highly lucrative form of drama in recent years, dangai comes from a Chinese genre of literature borrowed from Japan — danmei , which revolves around gay men and their romantic relationships, or boys’ love. Boys’ love narratives have proved increasingly popular in Southeast Asia, both within the LGBT community and among heterosexual women. Between 2014 and 2020, 57 series were produced and released in Thailand under the boys’ love genre, the South China Morning Post previously reported. Lu Peng, a researcher from the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, said the boycott is more a result of the alleged social problems dangai dramas have caused than the content itself. “These dramas in the first place were about boys’ love, such as Addicted starring Johnny Huang and Timmy Xu, which was inconsistent with the country’s mainstream ideology and therefore could be described as ‘problematic’, but later such content was replaced with bromance, which has nothing to be blamed for,” he said. “The problems of dangai dramas today mainly lie in the fans, the great online buzz they create and online fights among different rival groups. If the popularity of dangai has led to bad social behaviour, then it’s correct to seek a solution,” Lu added. Authorities are increasingly concerned by China’s zealous fandom landscape, where organised groups of fans devote time and money to boosting their idol’s popularity, including voting online, buying celebrity merchandise and leaving favourable comments on social media. Addicted , a popular 15-episode television drama about the love story between two young men, was abruptly removed from all Chinese video platforms in 2016 after 12 episodes were aired, by the order of the NRTA. Soon after that, China banned television producers from making programmes that “show abnormal sexual relationships and behaviours, such as incest, same-sex relationships, sexual perversion, sexual assault, sexual abuse and sexual violence.” Since then overtly gay elements in dangai have been changed to subtext or disguised as bromance, but the genre remains popular, with several hit shows being produced in recent years including The Untamed in 2019, which made actors Sean Xiao and Wang Yibo into stars. Despite content changes, authorities still want to pull the plug on the genre because it mainly targets teenagers, according to screenwriter Wang Hailin who claimed gay love is sickening and promoting it is tantamount to committing a crime. China’s LGBT community caught up in Xi Jinping’s widening crackdowns “ Danmei is a subculture. Commercialising it and selling it to children and youths is irresponsible, whether it’s the publishers, producers, or broadcast platforms. There are even fan clubs for male couples and celebrities doing charity in the form of male couples [even though they’re not homosexual], which has become a sickening trend,” he said. “While China still lacks sex education, influencing the young ones, whose sexual awareness has yet to be fully developed, with such culture is to some extent a crime,” Wang added. However, to many viewers, dangai is in the government’s crosshairs just because other TV series are of poor quality and can’t generate the same interest or relevance to younger viewers. “If there are all kinds of good series, girls won’t just watch dangai . What we can see now are all those bad dramas that aren’t attractive at all. Dangai instead is attractive because they often have intricate plots and delicate emotions,” said Lily Song, a 20-year-old fan from Shanghai.