‘The Untamed’ cracked seemingly permanent cultural barriers
We aren’t the only ones obsessed with The Untamed. It’s become a global phenomenon. Only four months after its first airing on Chinese streaming service, Tencent, the series had 6.5 billion views and is still ranked as one of the most popular dramas.
The fervor over The Untamed was only amplified when the series continued to draw audiences as the series was released globally, pulling huge audiences in Thailand, South Korea, the U.S., and Europe.
What’s so impactful about The Untamed?
If you’ve somehow missed The Untamed, it’s a fantasy drama based on the web novel Mo Dao Zu Shi. Starring both Wang Yibo and Xiao Zhan, the story follows two soulmates, Wei Wuxian (Xiao Zhan) and Lan Wangji (Wang Yibo) as they take on an inter-clan rivalry and uncover mysteries from the past.
The cinematography and performances by the actors in The Untamed are astounding, but what drew in fans of the novel was that the story falls into the boy love genre, a censored topic in China. Mo Dao Zu Shi fans were riled up over the series before it even released, as rumors circled that the series was going to take the homosexual relationship between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji and turn them both straight.
Somehow, despite the censorship issues, the producers of The Untamed got it right. Unable to blatantly portray the romantic love between Wei Wuxian and Lan Wangji, they shifted to convey the relationship as a brotherly bond. Viewers can take the smoldering looks and symbolism as they wish.
Bringing a controversial topic to a new audience
In China, homosexuality is still controversial. On December 31st, 2015, China outright banned depictions of gay people on television, and in 2018 the popular series Guardian was pulled off the video-hosting service Youku for its gay undertones.
Knowing this, The Untamed had to be especially careful. That care paid off in extraordinary dividends, by drawing in viewers that wouldn’t even think of consuming queer content. Those viewers had the opportunity to see the love between Lan Wangji and Wei Wuxian, and root for the pair to be together (it’s impossible not to).
The expansion into opening minds around queer culture is important in the U.S., of course, but even more vital in countries where persecution around the LGBTQ+ communities is a rampant and pervasive part of the culture.
Opening up interest in Chinese culture
The Untamed’s success in western countries has driven a newfound interest in the cultural differences between China and other countries. Audiences are seeking to learn more about everything from the significance of a headband to the personal lives of the stars.
As more and more people consume the show (typically as quickly as possible!), the interest in the culture and the community around it grows. The Untamed is bridging the gap between China and the rest of the world, forging a cultural growth that can be found on both sides.
Asian content is becoming the next big thing
While we can’t give The Untamed all the credit for the uptick in Asian content making its way onto our TVs, it certainly did contribute. Netflix has already signed agreements with two South Korean production companies to release dozens of new series and movies through the streaming giant, and that’s just the beginning.
The growth towards opening up minds and hearts towards acceptance of other cultures and lifestyles is something that unwittingly or not, The Untamed has played a huge part in. We can’t wait to see what new series it will lead us to fall in love with!
The Untamed is currently streaming on Netflix.
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