alright so originally i wrote this for twitter, but i felt like tumblr could benefit from it too. today we're finally getting the long awaited "deconstruction of racism in the danmei fandom" post. and lemme preface this by saying- i'm chinese-american. i'm nblm. i do, in fact, have the cultural and historical background to know what i am talking about. so let's get into it.
this is gonna be a long post, because we have a lot to talk about. first, racism doesn't have to be as blatant as calling me a chink, or saying all asians look the same, or not wanting to consume asian media, or making ching chong jokes.racism can be as subtle towards asians as it can towards any other race. if you think i shouldn't have to say that, join the club, bc same.
second, racism towards asians, especially in the west, has a long history of being overlooked and accepted. now, let's talk about how racism dictates some of the takes you see in the fandom. firstly, what originally inspired this thread- the mxtx rumors and the jokes being made about her and censorship. now, obvs some ppl are gonna say that they were just jokes made in poor taste. and, sure. but they were jokes made in poor taste, steeped in racism. the jokes being made about mxtx going to jail happen bc ppl do not view her as a real person. not rlly. she’s an author, sure, the author of one of their favorite novels, but she’s not, like. a person with thoughts and feelings and a life. and that sort of casual lack of humanhood and agency given to danmei authors is rooted in the severely racist dehumanization of asians that’s prevalent in the west. this is something that can be seen other places, too- a good example being when parasite was notably nominated for every oscar category *except* the acting ones.
it's this lack of personhood, this lack of agency, that allows ppl to have takes like "censorship isn't actually bad, and here's why". yes, this is a real take that i saw. this take argues that the cql is better than mdzs, bc it is "softer and less graphic". in general, a lot of ppl have the take that mxtx's works in particular are too graphic, with problematic sexual elements. now, i've talked before about how that's a homophobic take bc gay relationships should also be allowed to be messy. but it's also deeply entrenched in racism. it's why white gays can have the take "this is Problematique and here's why" and claim it's not homophobic.
racism against asians has long since created a trend of sexualizing them- thinking asian men are sexy while also removing their sexual agency. asian men can be sexy, but they can't actually *have sex*. not explicitly. there's a historical, real world element to this. "not fats no femmes no asians" could definitely be seen on ppls grindr profiles, back in the day. asians can be sexy, sure. look at kpop boys. but they can't be sexual. they’re infantilized. they have to remain pure and wholesome, or they're dragged as problematic and homophobic and fetishizing, a word that's thrown around so often it's practically lost meaning. fetishizing is my ex-bf telling me i'm sexy bc* i'm asian, it’s bl/yaoi fans approaching a gay couple on the bus and gushing over how "cute and yaoi they are." fetishizing is *not* showing your 2 male main charas having explicit sex. if it is, then every white fan in danmei is fetishizing asians.
but i digress- back to the point about racism. the fact that ppl can argue about censorship shows that they, as a whole, aren't considering the ramifications of censorship on the literal country it exists in, and it's citizens. i, obvs, do not live in china. but i've got relatives who do, and who did. i've got relatives who fled china. not everything is about you and the media you want to consume. and then, of course, there's the casual racism. the everyday racism. the racism that lies in things like saying all the names are too similar and it's hard to keep track of them. the racism in saying things like "i'm just here to have fun,,,like sure, i'd persevere through dostoevsky, but this is danmei", as if danmei is somehow inferior, as if danmei isn't meant to be critically engaged with, as if danmei doesn’t tackle and critically explore some of the deepest and darkest issues.
asian media is often presented that way, from kung fu movies to danmei. there is a type of racism, of eurocentrism, that exists in the belief that western media has deeper, more engaging morals. asian media is more "fun". asian media is almost entirely based on morals and deep thought, it's just not based in western ones. for example, two of my favorite authors are haruki murakami and kazuo ishiguro. both are japanese authors, who's works i've heard westerners describe as weird and without a point, when in fact they are simply telling stories with innately eastern asian morals and teachings. it's the same type of racism that causes ppl to make jokes about asian food, to not view it as a craft the same way they do french food. it's asian- it must be "less than", be inferior, be inherently not worth as much.
casual racism about asians is normalized, which isn't a word i use often. it’s normalized to the point where ppl don’t even realize they have that sort of implicit bias, and we know ppl don’t rlly come on the internet to think critically. but unintentional racism is still racism. it still has an impact, still does damage. ppl need to think intentionally and critically in how they consume and interact with media not made for them, but they don’t, instead choosing to come in with their preexisting biases, and bc of that, it's easy for fandom members to dismiss the cultural concerns of chinese ppl within the fandom. it's easy, for example, to say "calling them martial brothers is incest apologism", ignoring the inherent cultural roots of martial brothers.
now, we're gonna get in to the current "drama". i do not ship chengxian. i think that even bears repeating. i Do Not ship chengxian. i have written them, in a modern au, as adopted brothers. but there is a real historical and culture relevance to the idea of martial brothers, of community, that westerners willfully refuse to hear, claiming instead that "you're disregarding adopted families!" no. that's not what's happening at all. what's happening is ppl are refusing to look at their own, western bias, and placing western values on an eastern idea. community raising of children, community family bonds without being adopted families, is important in east asian culture. there is a long history of community being whats important, and ppl don't get that you can be a "communal/community family" without being considered familial. jyl choosing to view wwx as her brother, bc he is a martial brother, and chengxian being in love, are things that can technically coexist. whether or not you choose to perceive them as such, refusing to acknowledge the real history of martial brothers, and scremaing "incest apologism" whenever someone tries to explain it, is inherently racist. it's you assuming you know my culture better than me. it's you assuming your western ideas are the only ones that exist. which is, at its core, the basis for most racism in the danmei fandom.
most racism in the danmei fandom comes from this idea that casual racism against asians isn't *really* racism, and therefore asians don't *really* get to have a say, and it shouldn't matter anyway bc we're lucky you're even engaging with danmei, with asian content, since it's shallow and inferior anyway. the racism comes from a place of moral superiority, of ownership, of this assumption that westerners are entitled to not just consume danmei but also bring their western lens and apply it to something that was never written for them in the first place.
I cannot recommend these light/web novels enough. For English readers who have never read Chinese/ Korean/ Japanese works and are still on the fence, think of these as good as officially published books. Well-written with good characterization, plot, and worldbuilding, these all have the capability of touching the reader’s heart and gripping you with its premise. Not to mention having manhua/ manhua/ webcomic/ manga and/or donghua/ anime adaptations, you will not regret experiencing these reading materials. With the exception of The Villainess Reverses the Hourglass and Overlord (you'll need to do some Googling, etc to find those translations), do look these stories up on novelupdates(dot)com.
The Scum Villain's Self-Saving System by Mò Xiāng Tóngxiù (MXTX) - XIANXIA, LGBTQ, NSFW
A transmigration story where a millennial gets isekai-ed into a badly written stallion (harem) novel series that he hate-reads, except the body the Main Character (MC) possesses is the cannon fodder trash villain fated to be dismembered by the Male Lead (ML)—aka the protagonist—as revenge for all the abuse the ML had underwent in the past under him. Armed with the knowledge of events in the novel series, the MC sets out to get himself into the good graces of the ML by treating the disciple more kindly this time and protecting him, although he does not realize he is on the path of unknowingly "bending" the ML where, instead of being the yandere demon cultivator with his 3,000 harem love interests, the innocent and pure ML grows to be a gay, yandere demon cultivator obsessed with his Shizun (teacher/master). The ML continues to pine after him until the MC finally comes into the understanding of how much he had hurt his beloved disciple and reciprocates his feelings in the end, saving the world. It's a wonderful, snarky deconstruction of transmigration stories, with humorous jabs at the BL tropes and misunderstandings galore. You will laugh and perhaps even cry bitter tears at certain scenes, but you will not regret reading. As MXTX's first novel, perhaps that is the reason why this story is a hidden gem compared to her other stories—but her MC in this story is just so dang relatable and likable.
The Reader and Protagonist Definitely Have to Be in True Love by Tuí - NSFW, LGBTQ, FANTASY
Another transmigration (isekai) story, except our millennial this time is a big fan of the novel series, who happens to be deaf and has a complex where he cannot express his emotions freely due to past social trauma. In an effort to be noticed by the author, he criticizes and trash-talks each update, writing the complete opposite of the awe and excitement he feels. Except, this time, the author had noticed his trolling "criticism" on their latest work about a harem protagonist that can take on the form of each of the eight races, replying directly with a simple "...Got it." From then on, the MC is horrified that the lighthearted hero's journey has become a dark and edgy tragedy where the ML is betrayed by all of his companions and allies and is driven to destroy the very same world he'd once tried to protect. When the MC is officially summoned into the novel series, he resolutely tries to guide the ML through all the plot points with his knowledge and a unique ability (where he can restore himself back to his original condition upon midnight), also unknowingly "bending" the ML and causing the "blackened" heart of the ML to fall in love with him instead. It's cute, it's funny, it's touching, and it has its tragic moments—but you cannot deny the chemistry between the reader and the protagonist. A must-read!
The Villainess Reverses the Hourglass by San Sobi - ROMANCE, FANTASY, TIME-TRAVEL
Being given a second lease on life, the Female Lead (FL) is a wonderfully witty anti-hero who sets out to take advantage of time-travelling back into her past where she can slowly change her fate and strike at those who had wronged her in the future she wishes to change. The main reason why she was mistreated was that she is the beautiful daughter of a prostitute and with her lack of education, coupled with the neglect and machinations of her adopted noble family, they all led to her wrongful execution. Armed with the knowledge of the future, she sets out to correct the mistakes she'd made in the past, correcting her reputation, and is no longer willing to be the lamb led to the slaughter. It's a wonderful and satisfying revenge story, where the FL is refreshingly cunning and wicked in the good sense. You cannot help but root for her. Not to mention, there is plenty of scheming and politics—which leads to a satisfying ML candidate this time who genuinely comes to respect, admire, and cherish her for not just her beauty but also for her brains. Another must-read!
The Founder of Diabolism/ Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation/ Mo Dao Zu Shi by MXTX - XIANXIA, LGBTQ, NSFW
Perhaps the most infamous of MXTX's works, this is a fantasy story of a cultivator who is feared by the world for creating an unorthodox demonic path in the cultivation world and is tragically slain to prevent his rise in terror. Resurrected thirteen years later in the body of a "maniac," the troublemaker MC reunites with the cool and refined cultivator from his past (the ML). And together, they will solve mysteries of the spiritual world and form an unlikely bond. I'm not doing it justice with this summary, but it is highly recommended. Not only are you immersed in the Chinese fantasy world elements, the characters are well-fleshed out and while it does have its lighthearted moments, you will cry bitterly at certain melancholic instances. At the end of it all, you get the refreshing feeling that they are soulmates destined to belong to each other no matter the world or the eras.
Heaven Official's Blessing by MXTX - XIANXIA, LGBTQ, (NSFW?)
The basic premise is that the MC is a tragic and humiliated god who has ascended many times, yet he is constantly forced to undergo tribulation after tribulation. The ML is the "feared Ghost King" who is in love with him (due to reasons in the past that I will not spoil) and accompanies the MC under a different identity, providing him company and trying to get closer to the god whom he wishes to cherish and has always believed in all this time. What I will say is that from the glimpses I've read, there is incredible characterizations, foreshadowing, and beautiful imagery. This is an exemplary work of the xianxia genre with Chinese folk and martial fantasy elements, not to mention a deeply touching romance with a love that has lasted a lifetime. The ML is so devoted to the MC, your heartstrings will be tugged by the depth of how much the ML cares for the MC. There is a reason why it is hyped as much as MDZS. (To Be Read; recommended regardless)
Female General Eldest Princess by 请君莫笑/PLEASE DON’T LAUGH - DRAMA, ROMANCE, CROSSDRESSING, MILITARY, LGBTQ
Take what you know of the Ballad of Mulan, and then chuck that out of the window. The premise is that to take revenge for her family and an entire village who had their lives cut short, the FL takes the name of her younger twin brother to enlist in the military, vowing to kill every single Hun under the sky. As she rises up the ranks and becomes renowned, she meets the other FL: the strategic eldest Princess, who is protecting herself and her eight-year old brother (the Crown Prince) for survival. This is a slow burn wlw tale of two young women of two different social economic classes who have come to feel affection for one another. The FL is a strong, compelling badass general while the other FL (the princess) is such a clever schemer. There’s a lot of political court intrigue and a few battle scenes—as you would expect from a military story—and it’s overall an amazingly conceived writing style and plot. The atmosphere is great and it hooks you in the more that you read.
The Husky and His White Cat Shizun by Meatbun Doesn't Eat Meat - NSFW, XIANXIA, LGBTQ
Be. Prepared. To. Cry. Bitter. Tears. You will be fooled by its intentionally lighthearted summary, expecting a warm and fluffy love story. While it does have those moments, this is an immensely well-written premise with characters you will immensely love, despise, feel sorry for, and feel other such strong emotions for. The basic premise is that, through certain misunderstandings and the fact that he's figuratively like a husky in mentality, the MC ascends the world originally as a powerful tyrant—choosing to humiliate his Shizun whose cold facade he wants to shatter and out of misplaced grudges. It isn't until later he realizes the error of his ways and experiences character growth when he essentially travels back in time (MC 2.0) to instead treasure his Shizun, now realizing the depth of his Shizun’s feelings for him and wishing to cherish and respect him this time to make up for all the transgressions he had inflicted upon him in another timeline. This is ultimately a story of redemption. The writing is fantastic and it's so atmospheric, with gripping characterizations and character growth. However much suffering you will feel from the angst and the despicable MC 0.5, you will feel like you cannot put the story down.
Overlord by Kugane Maruyama - FANTASY, ACTION/ ADVENTURE
A Dark isekai story where the MC finds himself trapped in the world of his favorite game. Fortunately, he is a highly-leveled undead and is basically an OP badass who can easily squash all the now-sentient NPCs because of his game stats. What makes this story stand out is its brilliant lore/ worldbuilding, its humor, and the fact that the MC is a merciless anti-hero whom everyone erroneously assumes to be an all-powerful sage/ strategist or such. There is an obvious deconstruction of the isekai premise, with some D&D inspirations; there is a reason why the Overlord light novel series is widely beloved by its fans. I would argue this series was a trailblazer in its time, with unique characterizations. There are plenty of hilarious misunderstandings and you cannot help but feel exhilarated whenever he and his allies crush whomever stands in his way toward, funnily enough, world domination.
Ok, so I’ve seen people wondering how many translations of 2HA are out there and where to read them, so I’m trying to do a comprehensive list:
[UPDATED June 27th 2021]
Raws on JJWXC (Chapters 133, 141, 142, 150, 151, 156, 185, 188, 189, 196, 208, 209, 242, 243, 247, 254, 267 and 294 are locked, but this is still the best way to support Meatbun and it’s only a dozen dollars)
English guide to JJWXC
Chapter 1-155 [ongoing]: GoogleFolder (one file for 10 chapters, no download allowed). Main translator Chapters 1-140: Rynn, main translator chapters 141-onwards: Suika, editor: Jun, translator of author’s notes: peri (1-71) and Liyou (72-140), This is generally considered the main translation. The GoogleFolder was emptied, the translation is now available via the Carrd.
Chapters 1-4 [dropped]: Index, by Luka.
Chapters 52-69 [dropped?]: GoogleFile for chapters 52-59, GoogleFile for chapters 60-69, by ABCDummy1.
Chapters 179, 185, 208, 209, 242, 243 (part 3), 279: Main GoogleFolder (deleted) / Wattpad by fukthestars ;
Chapter 279 [only]: Tumblr / GoogleFile, by @lihua-bai / senchafloat; DELETED BY AUTHOR
Chapter 294 [only]: GoogleFile, by yuka_cchii. Proof of purchase is required.
@milkmynk is also translating some scenes.
Chapter 312, GoogleFile, by sanqians ;
Chapters 313-318: GoogleFile, by yuka_cchii. Proof of purchase is required. ;
Chapters 319-321: GoogleFile, by llwy_jmoon ;
Chapters 322-341: GoogleFile for 322-330, GoogleFile for 331-341, by @danteriordan ;
Chapters 343-346: GoogleFile, by sanqians ;
Chapters 343-350: GoogleFile, by yuka_cchii. Proof of purchase is required ;
Edited machine translations
Chapters 110-350 [done?], GoogleFolder, by Mel ;
Chapters 1-8 [ongoing]: Index, by @translations-by-aiimee
Chapters 1-350 [complete, but regular updates], by me ^^ (credited as @merelhyn, my main blog): old GoogleFolder redirecting to NEW FOLDER (password-protected, password in pinned post of my blog); the translation is split into two files (with an epub and a pdf version for each), one regrouping all chapters which have been human translated (so the MTL will not get cleaned-up more), and one regrouping the chapters for which no human translation exists for now, which get regularly corrected.