Gay sitcom becomes unlikely hit in Vietnam
A sitcom portraying the lives and loves of a group of young gays and lesbians has become an unlikely nationwide hit in conservative, communist-run Vietnam.
By David Eimer, Bangkok (telegraph.co.uk, 4/4/2013)
The first episode of "My Best Gay Friends" has now attracted over one million views on YouTube. The show's success has come as a surprise in Vietnam, where gay and lesbian people face routine discrimination in universities and workplaces and are frequently ridiculed in popular media.
"I've seen many movies and comedies about the homosexual community. The images of homosexuals are very negative and audiences then have an ugly idea of the community," said Dang Khoa, a 21-year-old gay student who wrote and created the series.
While never a criminal offence, as recently as 2002 homosexuality was described as a "social evil" by the rigidly-controlled state press.
Vietbam’s adherence to traditional Confucian morality places family at the centre of society, and ensuring the family line continues is of prime importance. That means most gays and lesbians marry and do not reveal their true sexuality.
Over the last couple of years, though, a growing public debate about homosexuality has emerged, in part because the ruling communist party do not regard it as a challenge to their authority.
Last April, Vietnam's justice minister announced that the government was considering legalising same-sex marriages and that the subject would be raised at this year's National Assembly Congress.
Although the debate has now been delayed to 2014, if the legislation is approved Vietnam would become both the first Asian and communist country to allow same-sex unions.
In August last year, the first-ever Vietnamese gay pride parade took place in the capital Hanoi. Despite being unauthorised, the authorities permitted the march to go ahead.
Now, the success of "My Best Gay Friends", which began showing last year and is largely performed by volunteer gay and lesbian actors, is the surest sign yet that attitudes towards homosexuality are changing.
"I see my life as very normal," said Mr Khoa. That's why I want to bring true images of homosexuals to everyone, to change their perspective on us."