History3 delivers regressive fan service in lieu of a new storyline and it’s as horrible as it sounds
The second installment of HIStory3 for this year is a regressive detour into fan service that has neither the coherence nor the charm of previous storylines.
One thing I usually say about the HIStory series is that it does good queer stories even if it doesn’t do other things right. But HIStory3: Make Our Days Count is not working for me at all. Which is a shame because I was looking forward to it a great deal. However nothing can hide the fact the show is badly written, poorly characterised and has nothing to say.
This story about popular and oblivious Xiang Hao Ting (Wayne Song) who falls for the studious and impoverished highschool student, Yu Xi Gu (Huang Juan Zhi) (whom he used to bully) seems regressive – annoyingly so. HIStory1 was little but cliched Fujoshi baiting and I have been enjoying how the series has been maturing and evolving through HIStory2 and then HIStory3: Trapped, which for all its many many many many flaws was ambitious storytelling with mature leads.
Not that my issue is with the highschool setting itself but with the awful seme-uke “gay for you” nature of the main relationship and its associated stalking, harassment and abuse. I felt like the first few episodes were basically a relationship post on the “Am I The Asshole” reddit. (Yes, Hao Ting, you are the asshole).
I feel so sorry for Xi Gu who just wants to work and study and has this succession of classmates harass, bully, assault, stalk, abuse and finally sexually harass him. Also I have no idea when or why our male lead suddenly decided he liked him; the switch happened suddenly and without much preamble. The romance essentially came out of nowhere and, while I could believe that Meng Shao Fei’s pursuit of Tang Yi in Trapped could easily become a romantic pursuit, a bully swapping relentless harassment for wooing does not work as well. It’s no surprise that Xi Gu assumes that the sudden sexual element to the harassment is merely a new ploy by the boy who has been torturing him.
Of course the other relationship is just as bad, with an older man, Lu Zhi Gang (Thomas Chang), dating a highschool student, Sun Bo Xiang (Wilson Lui). One particularly revealing (and slightly gross conversation) involves the older man denying he has a romantic interest in Xi Gu because he’s far far too young – despite him being the exact age as his boyfriend. No one – even the writers who put that dialogue on the page – seem to have noticed the problem here.
Bo Xiang is headed for heartbreak here and I don’t have sufficient confidence in the writers to give them the benefit of any doubt on how they’ll treat this relationship going forward. Especially since the writers inserted an unnecessarily graphic sex scene between the two of them that, again, felt like fan service rather than a genuine narrative development. Also did I mention he’s still in highschool – gross!
I could argue that the relationship in HIStory2: Right or Wrong was equally as disturbing but there I felt like the show was saying something and had put some thought into the characters and the relationship. The whole thing was both wrong but also quite romantic and it was up to the audience to work out where the line was and whether they were fine with it or not.
I honestly feel like this iteration of HIStory3 was written to a formula containing things people liked about previous HIStory stories and BL generally. They don’t have anything to say, they just pulled elements together as fan service. There is nothing that subtle or interesting about it. It’s a copy and paste job that celebrates the worst of BL while romanticising harassment.
Worse than that, “gay for you” as a plot device has a tendency to whitewash homosexuality out of the picture, something that’s both ironic and frustrating in a series that’s supposed to be dedicated to queer romance stories.
Writing gay love stories without the gay may be a standard element of Yaoi but that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to be evolving past that. And this is where I see this series as mere Fujoshi baiting. And that is a depressingly regressive move from these particular writers.