In a time where filmmakers and storytellers are rallying to catch up Boy’s Love narratives with the vast collections of mainstream media, there seems to be a growing intent across the community to fill up each classic romance trope with a BL entry of their own.
From meet-cutes to fake dating, online flirtations to “sharing a bed” scenarios, each new series that adds to the growing library of LGBTQ+ stories take up their own respective places in the wide, yet seemingly overflowing, genre of romantic comedy.
Under the category of “best friends to lovers,” a web series rose in popularity to tell its own version of the familiar but beloved trope, centered around the beautiful and too-real intricacies of gay love. Enter, Ben and Jim.
Ben X Jim is a series that showcases the blooming love story between two good friends who would ultimately find comfort and solace in each other’s company, as their friendship grows deeper within the shrinking confines of their neighborhood. The two gravitate closer together as they grapple with the reality of the national quarantine, pushing them to confront their growing feelings.
The series itself is among the more successful entries to the growing BL wave, with YouTube episodes that exceed a million in viewership each, and a second season that’s already being eagerly devoured by its loyal fanbase, despite its exclusive streaming on the GMovies platform that requires viewers to pay a certain amount. Its success is certainly in line with the growing popularity of stories centered around boy’s love, but its unique form of storytelling takes all the credit for the series’ loyal, and ever-growing fanbase.
We caught up with Ben and Jim themselves, actors Teejay Marquez and Jerome Ponce, as they share their appreciation for the warm welcome into the world of Boy’s Love, and their excitement for the recently-released second season.
“I felt so much excitement knowing that I will be portraying Ben again and I know this time Ben is so much different from the first season because now my character is more mature than before. Preparation wise, actually, [it’s] more of internalizing the changes in my character,” shared Marquez.
On discussing the next season, Ponce also eagerly teased what to expect from his portrayal of Jim, “I can’t help but be super excited! Because we know there [are] a lot of stories not told or rather, perspectives. Like this season, it’s Jimson “Jim” Alcantara’s POV. It’s different in a way [that] it’s not the first season’s Jimson Alcantara who is the eye candy or that matinee guy for someone—but the one who is eager and willing to give everything.”
The Boy’s Love genre is by no means too crowded or too overused, especially considering the decades of straight-only content present in mainstream media. But it’s also apparent that there has been a multitude of BL stories in recent years, specifically during the quarantine, that aim to fill in the gaps of representation within our society.
In a genre that’s getting increasingly popular and competitive in viewership and storytelling, Marquez and Ponce believe that it’s the unique relatability of Ben and Jim’s story that equated to its success:
“I think the reason that makes Ben X Jim resonate well with the viewers is because of the uniqueness, the lightness and the ‘feel good’ story,” shared Marquez.
Ponce then emphasized that it’s the heartwarming story of a childhood crush liking you back (which all of us have probably fantasized over) that gave Ben X Jim its own respective corner in the hearts of the viewers. It’s the beautiful portrayal of the universal desire to be loved back by your first love that marked the series’ rightful place in the genre.
But, of course, for these two young actors, signing on to a project like this was a risk on its own, given the conservative nature of Philippine media and the Filipino audience. Looking back on his initial thoughts on the project, Marquez admitted to feeling fearful before the big “yes”:
“Well, at first there is fear that this kind of genre will not be embraced and accepted easily, especially here in the Philippines. But surprisingly, the fans show us how excited and happy they are with Ben X Jim. It’s really overwhelming how fans supported us from Season 1 up to now in BXJ Forever.”
The support from BXJ fans is definitely one that no one anticipated, especially by this degree and intensity, much like how BL series that came before the new series have amassed unbelievable following across the globe.
In fact, fans of the series showed so much love to the tandem that Regal Entertainment released official merchandise to allow them to feel a little bit closer to the Ben X Jim universe at all times, with special shirts and hoodies to match designed by acclaimed veteran designer Avel Bacudio, a success that represents how the series championed the message of the universality of love and respect among every single individual amidst our differences.
In his anticipation for the merchandise, Ponce animatedly expressed how eager he was to see fans get a hold of their own piece of the series: “I was so happy for the supporters and viewers who really loved the series! And I hope they would really love the merch because I love it and will definitely have them all!”
Now that the second season is fully streaming online, the two leading actors are set to work on a few more projects apart before possibly coming together for a third season. Marquez teased us with a new film alongside Adrienne Vergara and Fino Herrera under the direction of Direk Joey Reyes, while Ponce shared his upcoming series Gen Z, and his excitement to hang out with his co-lead outside of work as good friends.
We’re definitely eager to see more efforts to drive stories like this forward to the world, even just to fulfill our own personal fantasies of finding out that our first love has also been in love with us after all this time. But, sadly for the rest of us, this remains to be a fragment of our imagination, only seen in romantic comedies like that of Ben X Jim.
Thankfully, the whole first season of the series is up on YouTube for free, and the second season, Ben X Jim Forever, is on Upstream through GMovies.
Let the kilig and the heart-crushing envy commence.
Photography by Stephen Capuchino
Featuring Ben x Jim merchandise designed by Avel Bacudio
Cover layout by Bhernn Saenz
With thanks to Aiz Domingo at Regal Films Entertainment