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The ‘Netflix of queer content’ launches across Asia despite gay sex bans

Reiss Smith January 2, 2020
Two women embracing

Handsome Stewardess is a romantic comedy about a lesbian flight attendant. (GagaOOLala)

A rom-com about a lesbian flight attendant and a steamy romance set in a gay spa are just some of the shows to be found on GagaOOLala, Asia’s first queer-focused steaming service.

The wonderfully-named platform is aiming to become the Netflix of queer Asian content, having recently expanded from a Taiwan-only service into 21 territories.

Founder Jay Lin said that Taiwan’s legalisation of same-sex marriage “allowed us to open that door a little bit wider when persuading sponsors, platforms or government to seeing [LGBT representation] as something that’s beneficial for them as well.”

“And it makes it easier for us to find production and distribution partners outside of Taiwan,” he told Variety.

GagaOOLala launches in countries where gay sex is illegal.

Gay sex remains illegal in a number of the countries that GagaOOLala serves, including Singapore and Brunei.

Some, such as Malaysia, go as far as to censor films that include LGBT+ content, with the Elton John biopic Rocketman a recent victim.

In a separate interview with The Japan Times, Lin explained that his aim is to showcase the depth and breadth of the LGBT+ experience.

“One of the main impetuses for me to create GagaOOLala is to dispel a lot of the myths and misconceptions that a lot of people might have about LGBT people,” he said.

“We’re not all living really tragic lives — we’re entrepreneurs, we’re fathers.”

LGBT+ streaming service ramps up queer Asian representation.

Already more than 280,000 people have subscribed to the service – mostly LGBT+ people, but also including a significant amount of straight women.

So far Lin and his team have not run into any regulatory hurdles, but are aware of the need to be discreet in countries where LGBT+ identities are still policed.

As a result, advertising is done through closed chat groups, social media and by LGBT+ influencers, rather than out in the open.

Originally GagaOOLala featured a library of mostly Western content, but it has steadily branched out into original Asian queer film with the help of its development arm, GOL Studios.

“As we have developed […] we have realised that actually a lot of Asians also want to see Asian faces, and watch Asian stories and watch films take place in places or cities that they’re familiar with,” Lin explained.

More: GagaOOLala, queer film

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