YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


Popular Vietnamese series tackles gay issues

September 10, 2004|From Associated Press

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — A homosexual killer is leading police on a harrowing journey into an underworld they never knew existed. It's up to officer Lan to solve the case before another victim is found, but he must first confront his own prejudices against a gay brother he refuses to accept.

It sounds like a hot new Hollywood teaser -- only it's in Vietnamese.

Vietnam's favorite TV show, "The Crime Police," opens its new season this month by tackling a taboo topic and offering a lesson about tolerance. The plot is groundbreaking for this communist country where sex is mentioned only in whispers, homosexuality is still largely considered a disease and the state tightly controls publishing and broadcasting.

The 10-episode story line is adapted from an award-winning novel titled "Mot The Gioi Khong Co Dan Ba," or "A World Without Women," which took Vietnam by surprise in 2000 when it became the first book to address gay issues in a serious manner.

Author Bui Anh Tan, 38, believes Vietnam is finally ready to see the topic discussed on national television.

"I think the society will have to accept the reality," he said. "They cannot deny it because it already exists and it will exist."

Physical closeness between men -- walking hand-in-hand or sitting with arms draped around each other -- is socially acceptable in Vietnamese culture, but homosexuality is ranked by some as a "social evil" alongside prostitution and drug abuse.

The TV plot follows homophobic officer Lan as he tries to unravel three similar murders of young gay men. Lan struggles with the crimes and eventually seeks help from a journalist who writes about gay issues.

Meanwhile, Lan's own gay brother, whom he beat and drove off, falls in love with another officer investigating the murders.

Before catching the killer, Lan eventually becomes more understanding and welcomes his brother home, hoping he will leave the police officer and marry a woman but agreeing to accept him regardless of whom he chooses as a partner.

It's an ending that Tan didn't have for the first two editions of his book.

The People's Police Publishing House, under the government's Ministry of Public Security, altered his original conclusion so that Lan's brother returns home and decides to live as a straight man.

Tan said he fought hard for his original ending to appear in the book's recently released third edition, and believes his victory shows how attitudes are changing.

The author is a police officer who became interested in Vietnam's gay underworld while reporting on crime for the police newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City.

Los Angeles Times Articles