Chinese content ascendent: Everything to know about gay C-drama ‘Guardian’
While K-dramas (Korean dramas) have increased in popularity in the US in recent years, don’t count C-dramas (Chinese dramas) out of the mix. China is bringing forth some truly unique storytelling. Although one of the country’s most popular shows, Guardian faced some major backlash from the government due to the prevalent LGBT+ themes within the series.
For those of you looking for any good sci-fi or LGBT+ stories to binge, here’s what we know about Guardian along with where to watch it.
What is Guardian about?
Guardian is a sci-fi fantasy drama series that takes place on the Earth-like planet Haixing. While there are humans on Haixing, there are also two alien races that cohabitate with humans. The Yashou can shapeshift into plants and animals, preferring to live aboveground. While the Dixing are superpowered beings who live underground. Ten thousand years ago, the Dixing went to war after a depletion of their resources.
Zhao Yunlan then traveled to the past and pretended to be Kunlun, a hero of the faction of the Yashou and humanity. He was able to work with the Black Robe Envoy, a Dixing faction that wanted peace, to end the war. Since then, things have been peaceful between the two races on the planet.
In the present, Zhao Yunlan (Bai Yu) is the hotheaded director of the Special Investigation Department (SID) which investigates unusual cases. During an investigation, Zhao Yunlan meets professor Shen Wei (Zhu Yilong), who proves helpful in these cases. The two men enter a relationship that transcends lifetimes.
Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei’s relationship
Guardian is based on a novel series of the same name by Priest. In the novels, Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei are lovers along with the past lives of Zhao Yunlan as Kunlun whom Shen Wei met thousands of years ago. China, however, has a legal ban depicting LGBT+ relationships on television.
In adapting the book to television, Guardian made the relationship between Zhao Yunlan and Shen Wei platonic, but with a lot of homoerotic undertones. This move is pretty progressive for Chinese television. Fans of the show would talk about the homoerotic subtext using the hashtag “socialist brotherhood” on social media to avoid catching official attention.
Unfortunately, this led to the trouble that Guardian found itself in.
What trouble did Guardian get in?
While the scriptwriters for Guardian made the romance a friendship and the series proved to be very popular, the Chinese government took down the series as part of a content purges of “harmful and vulgar” internet content. Guardian was removed from popular Chinese video streaming platform, Youku, in August 2018. This sparked fury amongst fans of the series, which had accumulated 1.8 billion views during its airtime.
Eventually, Guardian was reuploaded to the streaming platform but with scenes re-edited or outright deleted.
Where can I watch Guardian?
If you live in China, all 40 episodes (albeit re-edited) are available on Youku again. Those who live in South Korea can see Guardian in syndication on Chungwa TV. If you live in the United States, Guardian is available on the streaming service Viki. International fans can also find the complete series with English subtitles on YouTube.
Looking for another C-drama? We highly recommend The Untamed.