“They are starved for it; they watch endless numbers of films about happy and unhappy love stories, they listen to hundreds of trashy songs about love — yet hardly anyone thinks that there is anything that needs to be learned about love.”
– Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving
What can yuri and BL teach us about love? My eyes were opened, surprisingly, by a tweet:
The difference might as well be an entire universe. “Hooking-up” is about passion and desire. That’s the fun part of love; it’s exciting to fall head-over-heels for someone new. “Coming out,” on the other hand, implies responsibility and consequence. There’s no falling into that. More like in order to live honestly with the world, it just has to be done.
It helps to think of BL and yuri are two sides of a coin, not merely in a physiological sense but romantically as well. In fact, as someone who’s read their fair share of both, I believe that BL stories at the core tend to be about infatuation, mystery and power, while yuri is more often about vulnerability.
To wit: Yumi in Maria-sama ga Miteru (the great ur-yuri, if we can name one) doesn’t fall immediately for Sachiko, her lovely and elegant grande sœur. On the contrary, at first she feels intimidated by her, and she isn’t entirely sure that Sachiko isn’t just using her. It’s only after Sachiko opens up to her emotionally that Yumi accepts the rosary that begins their relationship. At four seasons and counting, a whirlwind romance it is not, but the emphasis is always on being communicative with each other.
Compare that to BL works like Gravitation or Loveless. Yuki and Soubi allow themselves to get attached, but their identities hinge on remaining at least somewhat dark and unknowable to their respective pretty-boy lovers. They keep a certain distance, and in fact, that’s what keeps their relationships thrilling for us. It’s that old Mr. Darcy syndrome.
Is either one better than the other? Hard to say. Popular culture certainly favors the BL version of romance. Lately, I’ve been reading self-help books that demonize this in favor of a yuri-esque “slow love.” And it’s true; the game playing that happens in our usual courtships can be soul-draining. There needs to be recalibration.
But I think you need a bit of both. It can’t all be rough sex with leather-clad semes, but neither can we bear a lifetime of tinkly, sad piano music. True happiness in love lies somewhere in between.
About the Guest Author:
2DT is a brilliant, well-respected, and lovely anime blogger who shares his thoughts over at 2-D Teleidoscope. This post came at the perfect time on a fascinating topic, and I cannot thank him enough.