HANOI – Vietnam’s first gay sitcom has become a YouTube sensation, racking up millions of views as support for legalising same-sex marriage strengthens within the communist government.
Homosexuality was once seen as a social evil in Vietnam and the success of "My Best Gay Friends", a low-budget series about three people sharing an apartment in southern Ho Chi Minh City, has taken even its creator by surprise.
"I thought it would only interest Vietnam’s gay community – but we’re hearing that parents, grandparents, whole families watch and love the shows and long for new episodes," Huynh Nguyen Dang Khoa, who also stars in the series, told AFP.
From moving out of home to work and relationship trouble, the series details life as a typical perpetually-broke twenty-something in Vietnam – but the characters are mostly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Khoa decided to make the show after hearing about the weird but often very amusing situations faced by a close friend – who also stars in the sitcom – as he came out and began living an openly gay life in Vietnam.
"We didn’t have much money so everyone chipped in – we had a little cash to cover equipment, and buying food for when we were shooting all day," said Khoa, who used his own digital SLR camera to shoot the whole series.
Most of the characters are played by Khoa’s friends – both gay and straight – but Cindy Thai Tai, a well-known transgender singer who was one of the first Vietnamese celebrities to have sex-change surgery, also makes an appearance.
"I wanted to show people that homosexuals have ordinary lives, full of emotion, friends, family – very normal lives," said 22-year-old Khoa, who is himself gay.
While it is not illegal, homosexuality has long been a taboo in Vietnam, where Confucian social mores – with their emphasis on tradition and family – still dominate.
But in a surprise move last year the authoritarian government said it was considering legalising same-sex marriage – a proposal that recently won the support of the Ministry of Health.
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