The Effect started out as an innocuous campus romance, just like many other Thai BL dramas. The main character is a university freshman, who develops a connection with a popular older student after idolizing him from afar. However, a scandalous turn of events happens halfway through the series, taking the story in a much darker and more sinister direction.
I thought The Effect was your typical BL story until the shocking twist derailed all my expectations. The second half of the series left me feeling uncomfortable, provoked, and extremely conflicted. Maybe some viewers will respond better to its heavy-handed social commentary, but I cannot say that I actually enjoyed this drama.
The Effect Summary
The Effect โลกออนร้าย
Around 3 hours
Dark and disturbing
Around 60 minutes
Shin is a shy and sensitive university freshman who never had any close friends. During a class project, he is acquainted with Bright and Ter, befriending them despite their very different personalities. While Bright is very cheeky and sociable, Ter is more serious and studious. Shin enjoys their company and spends a lot of time with them, working on their project together.
Before an exam, Shin is forbidden from entering the classroom because he didn't wear a tie in his school uniform, which goes against the dress code. As he searches for his missing tie, Shin runs into an older student named Keng. This popular university senior, also the school's ambassador for their marketing campaigns, is kind enough to lend Shin his tie. The friendly gesture from a total stranger marks the beginning of their newfound friendship.
Keng takes a strong interest in the young university student, mentoring him with class assignments. Shin is shy and flustered around Keng, which only encourages him to be more assertive with his advances. As Keng and Shin spend time together, Bright and Ter notice their friend's absence from the group meetings. They observe that Keng has been monopolizing a lot of Shin's time lately.
Keng is part of the photography club and introduces Shin to his circle of friends. Among them is Man, a suspicious student who immediately dislikes Shin upon meeting him. It turns out Man has a massive crush on Keng, but was rejected by his friend after a failed love confession. Although Keng insists that he isn't interested in guys, Man remains convinced that his friend is in the closet. His suspicions become stronger after witnessing Keng's intimate interactions with Shin.
Man begins following Keng and Shin, taking secret photographs whenever he sees them together. He then uploads these pictures online in an attempt to out his friend. One of the pictures captures Shin and Keng in a very compromising position, which sparks a lot of malicious gossip around campus. These rumours fester around the school, leading to a series of unanticipated events with catastrophic consequences.
The Effect Cast
Shin James Prapatthorn Chakkhuchan (ประพัฒน์ธรณ์ จักขุจันทร์) James Instagram
Shin is a university freshman with a quiet and timid personality. He didn't have a lot of friends before starting university. However, he got close to Bright and Ter during a class project. Shin has expressed a lot of admiration for Keng, looking up to him as a role model. He is amazed when Keng takes an interest in him after a chance encounter.
Keng Oat Chakrit Boonsing (โอ๊ต ชาคริต) Oat Instagram
Keng is a university senior and a member of the photography club. He is the school ambassador and his face is used in many of its promotional materials. Keng is studying business management, although his parents wanted him to study engineering instead. Keng's family life is quite stressful, especially with his father's constant disapproval.
Yacht Surat Permpoonsavat (สุรัตน์ เพิ่มพูลสวัสดิ์)
Tie Sukij Norasingh (สุกิจ นรสิงห์)
Mike Weerapat Nimanong (วีรภัทร นิ่มอนงค์)
The Effect Review
Drama Review Score: 4.8
Oh god, I really was not in the mood to watch something as depressing as The Effect. It's my fault for choosing dramas randomly without any research, but I thought I was tuning in for a short, sweet BL romance to cap off the evening. Instead, I was shocked, confused, and then mortified over an intense story that felt excruciatingly distressing.
Let's be clear that The Effect is not a BL drama, although the series is certainly set up like one to lull you into a false sense of security. The first episode plays out like many love stories in the genre, relying on familiar tropes that we have seen many times before. If you watch more closely, you may recognize a few red flags that are there as ominous foreshadowing. The veil drops by the end of the second episode, where the story takes a dark and sinister turn with deeply horrific consequences.
The main character in The Effect gets raped by the man who is perceived to be his love interest. You will be disturbed watching his helpless body literally dragged across the floor, as he fails to escape his assailant's violent wrath. He is beaten, bruised, and brutalized by his rapist, who performs this senseless act while justifying it as "love". The victim is so badly hurt that he has to be hospitalized, and his subsequent trauma runs so deep that he tries to commit suicide. Both his rape and his suicide attempt are shown in graphic details, fully highlighting the ugliness of the events.
I believe stories that explore rape, sexual assault, and abusive trauma are extremely important. The voices of victims and survivors need to be promoted instead of diminished. However, I also believe their stories must be handled responsibly and sensitively, which didn't seem evident in this series. The Effect goes overboard in sensationalizing the trauma. The rape, the suicide attempt, and the emotional turmoil felt like gruesome spectacles instead of critical social commentary. Its intention is to shock and provoke rather than educate and inform.
The Effect offers an extremely negative portrayal of their gay characters. Keng is a predatory rapist who attacks straight men because he can't control his deranged sexual impulses. Man is a jealous, emotionally manipulative schemer obsessed over his crush. These toxic tropes have been used by homophobes for many decades, meant to dehumanize gay men as evil, mentally unstable villains. The Effect gives credibility to this messaging with its lopsided portrayal of LGBT characters. We needed more than a three-second moment of a same-sex couple holding hands to offset the three-hour narrative of homophobic stereotypes.
With such a sensitive subject matter, The Effect is bound to be polarizing. Other viewers might respond better to this series than me, taking away more powerful interpretations from the narrative. Personally, I am quite conflicted over how I feel about The Effect, unsure of its true intentions due to the ambiguous storytelling. My gut tells me that it was sensationalizing mental trauma and perpetuating homophobia. Maybe I misread it terribly, but this drama is too triggering for me and I have no desire to rewatch it for closer analysis.
The Effect Episodes
The Effect has a total of 3 episodes. Each episode is around 60 minutes long. This is a middle-length BL drama, and you can finish the entire series in around 3 hours.