Loud Murmurs 小声喧哗

S4 E7 “Word of Honor” — A beautiful queer fantasy for straight eyes

April 30, 2021 Loud Murmurs 小声喧哗
Loud Murmurs 小声喧哗
S4 E7 “Word of Honor” — A beautiful queer fantasy for straight eyes
Show Notes

In this episode, host Afra talks to Viola Zhou and A-Liang about the hit Chinese fantasy period series Word of Honor. It’s your classic wuxia story but with a delicious twist — it centers around two incredibly handsome men who find soul mates in each other, but never quite fall in love. 

“Word of Honor” became an internet sensation and cultural phenomenon in China and Southeast Asia. The show’s international fans write long critical essays and guides explaining terms and references specific to Chinese culture.  

What makes the show such a hit? How does it challenge and enforce gender norms? Is this queerbaiting in the Chinese context? 


Viola Zhou is a writer covering tech, Chinese society, and internet culture at Vice. 

A-Liang is a PhD student at Kings College, researching Chinese danmei culture. 

2:14 Our own experience with the genre of danmei. 

6:15 Why the show “Word of Honor” appeals to so many international audiences.

12:44 What makes the character Zhou Xu so easy to fall for? How did the actor portraying Zhou Xu become the “wife” of the entire Chinese internet? What is “nisu” culture? How does the character subvert rigid gender stereotypes? 

18:32 Our favorate, most memorable scenes from the show, portrayal of same-sex love in the Chinese context 

23:56 Why is there such a huge market and appetite for subtle gay dramas adapted from boys’ love webnovels? How is this related to China’s burgeoning feminist movement? 

25:50 Our issues with the female characters in the show, how they reflect the patriarchal values of wuxia classics, the marginalization of women who challenge men’s authority 

29:29 How straight guys react to “Word of Honor” 

31:58 The problem with the show’s ending, its Han-centric values, and why the character Zhou Xu’s internal logic is flawed. How the show deals with politics and authority.  

43:14 The role of Chinese poetry in “Word of Honor” and the subtle political values reflected in Chinese poetry. 

50:10 Criticisms of the danmei genre. Is danmei an appropriation of queer culture? How does danmei interact with LGBTQ communities in the real world? 


Boys Keep Flirting With Each Other on Chinese TV But Never Fall in Love by Viola Zhou 


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