Written by 10:09 World

Can Japan’s First Same-Sex Dating Reality Show Change Hearts and Minds?

Japan is the only country among the world’s wealthiest democracies that has not legalized same-sex unions. Few celebrities are openly gay. Conservative groups oppose legislative efforts to protect the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

But now, Netflix is introducing the country’s first same-sex dating reality series.

Over 10 episodes of “The Boyfriend,” which will be available in 190 countries beginning on July 9, a group of nine men gather in a luxury beach house outside Tokyo. The format evokes Japan’s most popular romantic reality show, “Terrace House,” with its assembly of clean cut and exceedingly polite cast members, overseen by a panel of jovial commentators.

The vibe is wholesome and mostly chaste. The men, who range in age from 22 to 36, operate a coffee truck during the day and cook dinner at night, with occasional forays outside for dates. One of the biggest (among very few) conflicts of the series revolves around the cost of buying raw chicken to make protein shakes for a club dancer who is trying to maintain his physique. Sex rarely comes up, and friendship and self-improvement feature as prominently as romance.

In Japan, the handful of openly gay and transgender performers who regularly appear on television are typically flamboyant, effeminate comic foils who are shoehorned into exaggerated stereotypes. With “The Boyfriend,” Dai Ota, the executive producer, said he wanted to “portray same-sex relationships as they really are.”

Mr. Ota, who was also a producer of “Terrace House,” which was made by Fuji TV and licensed and distributed globally by Netflix, said he had avoided “the approach of ‘let’s include people who cause problems.’”

“The Boyfriend,” he said, represents diversity in another way — with cast members of South Korean, Taiwanese and multiethnic heritages.


Last modified: 2 July 2024