After binge watching my way through the entire first season of the gay China web drama series 上瘾 (Addicted aka Heroin), I can finally understand why the gay high school drama was such a massive hit in mainland China.
Just like the millions of swooning Chinese fangirls who’ve fallen victim to the addictive power of上瘾 (Addicted), I too have found myself so enamoured with the show’s charm that it has taken every ounce of my willpower to write this review instead of binge watch my way through the web series a second time!
Overall Synopsis (No Spoilers)
Set against the backdrop of a second-rate high school in China,上瘾 (Addicted) is a classic coming-of-age tale based on a popular novel that focuses on a motley crew of teenagers as they navigate their way through friendships and relationships whilst figuring out their own identities and sexualities.
The bulk of the series focuses on the relationship between its 2 handsome male leads, both of whom are portrayed as ‘straight-acting’ as possible and devoid of any stereotypical gay attributes.
Firstly, there is the stubborn, introverted and intelligent Bai Luo Yin. Ably played by 22-year old Chinese actor Xu Wei Zhou, Bai Luo Yin is the embodiment of the popular archetype of the brooding broken male. Bai Luo Yin comes from an impoverished background and was abandoned by his mum at a very young age. As a result, he bears a deep grudge against his mother and rebukes her attempts at reconciling with him years later.
Then there is the extroverted, impulsive and reckless Gu Hai. Charismatically portrayed by 24-year old Johnny Huang Jing Yu, Gu Hai is the complete polar opposite of Bai Luo Yin. Born into a wealthy family, Gu Hai’s mum passed away when he was very young and he blames his dad for her death. Thus, Gu Hai objects strongly to his father’s impending second marriage and in an act of rebelliousness, leaves home and coincidentally transfers himself into the same school as Bai Luo Yin.
上瘾 (Addicted) then closely examines the development of the relationship between Bai Luo Yin and Gu Hai, as they progress from frenemies to best friends before finally getting together to become the cutest gay onscreen couple Asian audiences have ever seen.
Along the way, the two protagonists must contend with the unique complications that accompanies a gay relationship, as well as the common issues that plague any romantic relationship such as jealousy and psychotic ex-girlfriends.
Review (No Spoilers)
Instead of banking on the theatrics of the drama and depression usually associated with gay dramas, 上瘾 (Addicted) opts for a more light-hearted direction by following the tried and tested route of having its romantic leads antagonise each other first before they get together. Relying on the age old cliche of opposites attract, the conflicting personalities of the two protagonists result in an arresting chemistry between the two lead actors and therein lies the show’s simple charm. There are no distracting side plots and no overly dramatic sequences orchestrated to turn on the waterworks of its audiences. Instead, 上瘾 (Addicted) manages to somewhat accurately depict teenage love in all of it’s awkward but simple splendour. Gay or straight, audiences will undoubtedly swoon at the many sweet romantic gestures and OTP moments peppered regularly throughout the series:
Heterosexual audiences uncomfortable with gay love scenes will be glad to know that there are currently no uncut versions being circulated online. In other words, all the intimate scenes shown in the trailers have been edited out and there’s heavy speculation that the director’s cut will only be made available when the DVD comes out. So while it’s a bit of a downer for gay viewers, 上瘾 (Addicted) does intentionally play to every gay man’s secret romantic fantasy of living alone in a posh apartment with their gay partner and that in itself should be sufficient to appease the voyeuristic appetites of gay audiences.
Season 1 does however, end on a rather abrupt note and with Chinese censors taking active steps against gay dramas, there’s a strong fear among fans that the second season of 上瘾 (Addicted) might not materialise. However, the show’s writer has reassured fans that regardless of what moves the Chinese regulators make, the filming of the second season of上瘾 (Addicted) will proceed as planned.
If that’s indeed the case, the second, and possibly third season of上瘾 (Addicted) promises to be darker and it remains to be seen whether the director will be able to retain the show’s simplistic charm when the series takes on heavier elements.
Overall, 上瘾 (Addicted) is an impeccable concoction of humour and earnest emotions. Well-paced and well-acted,上瘾 (Addicted)’s underlying charm arises from its ability to capture the essence of fervent and youthful love.
More than just a gay drama; the themes of teenage love and friendships that this web series deals with is one that has universal appeal. This is perhaps best evidenced from the fact that the bulk of the show’s fans are actually young female fans. So if you still haven’t caught 上瘾 (Addicted aka Heroin) yet, you might want to start right about now!
And if this incredibly positive review still hasn’t convinced you to jump on the 上瘾 (Addicted) bandwagon, watching the trailer below might just do the trick instead:
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