Netflix’s Queer Eye is brilliant in so many ways - here are 10 of them
PUBLISHED: 10:41 28 March 2018 | UPDATED: 10:41 28 March 2018
Netflix’s reboot of the makeover show blends gay rights with moisturiser, police brutality with scatter cushions and racism with guacamole - it shouldn’t work, but it absolutely does. Queer Eye is an antidote to almost every horrible thing. Here’s why you have to watch it.
I was overjoyed when I heard that there was set to be a revival of the 2003 show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and after I watched it – and loved it – even more delighted to hear that the Fab Five will be back for a second season.
Now simply answering to the name Queer Eye, the show features five ludicrously handsome and suave gay men who act like practical superheroes: while they can’t shoot webs or fly, they can take a hideous bedsit and make it beautiful and take an unkempt man and make him gorgeous. That’s the kind of superpower I’m interested in.
The show is a rollercoaster ride which takes you from unadulterated joy to laughter to nodding in agreement to wracking sobs that leave you emotionally exhausted: in short, this is the show to binge-watch if you’re feeling under the weather and glum. It’s like an emotional express train to happiness. I love it.
In a nutshell, the premise of the series is that five LGBT men sashay into the lives of a poor soul in dire need of a physical, spiritual and actual makeover and make their lives fabulous within a matter of days: Antoni Porowski is in charge of food and wine, Jonathan Van Ness (I LOVE HIM, “yaaas, Queen! Werk!”) is in charge of grooming, Tan France attends to fashion, Bobby Berk declutters and glorifies homes and culture expert Karamo Brown has the job of having the difficult conversations. He’s like a beautiful shot of social awareness in the arm.
The team descend on a man – not necessarily straight – who is in need of their help and proceed to take over his life like gay bulls in a shop that sells tasteless straight china, yet they somehow manage to entirely change someone’s entire life without once being anything other than charming, well-mannered, empathic and kind. They leave joy and understanding in their wake.
The men they visit in the communities in and around Atlanta, Georgia, are from a wide range of backgrounds and sometimes have beliefs which are contrary to those held by the team, but they manage to segue from buying a mattress to having a serious discussion about the far right’s condemnation of homosexuality without it seeming trite or ill-conceived. It manages to be fun without being frivolous, serious without preaching, a makeover show where everyone looks better at the end but the bigger deal is that they feel better about themselves.
On screen, Antoni, Jonathan, Tan, Bobby and Karamo are buying scatter cushions, new trousers and skincare regimes but what they’re actually selling is confidence. It’s my favourite Netflix series this year bar none.
Here are 10 reasons to watch Queer Eye (more available on application)
1) Because it attacks prejudice: At all times we are told that being gay has nothing to do with how you look, what things you like doing or how you speak – the only difference between people who are gay and people who are straight is who they respectively find attractive. The point is that being gay is totally normal.
2) Because it’s not just about making a man look better: Although the show DOES make every man who the team help look better, it’s far more about changing lives, minds and preconceptions (of participants and viewers). All the beard trimming and fairy lights in the garden hide a far deeper message: that we are all the same and what brings us together is far stronger than what divides us.
3) Because it will make you feel better: Watching people be kind to people who really need kindness is hugely uplifting and if there’s one thing the world needs a bit more of, it’s love and acceptance. And as an added bonus, Jonathan Van Ness is hilarious: “Don’t talk to your hair like that!”
4) Because it doesn’t rely on lazy stereotypes: The show makes it clear that being gay is far more than the stereotype still bandied about by lots of people who think gay men are just about rainbows, musicals and flamboyant camp, kind of like fabulous gay accessories. Being gay isn’t a box-ticking exercise, people’s sexuality is a part of who someone is, it’s doesn’t define them. The team make it clear that gay men and women exist across all landscapes and that one-dimensional representations are neither helpful nor accurate. All too often, gay men or women are portrayed on screen as the victims of bullying but Queer Eye gives viewers the clear message that there are happy ever endings for gay people and it’s everyone’s right to live their best life. Preach.
5) Because it’s emotional: The men that the team visit all feel forgotten, to an extent, and the Fab Five bring them back to life and to living. No one talks about weight or looks, when it comes to house or personal make-overs the superficials are glossed over in favour of the bigger deal, the emotions. Men being told on television that it’s OK to be lonely, to be sad, to be scared? That’s not something you see every day, is it? Think about it: when was the last time you saw a group of men all together being nice to each other? And for the viewer, it’s like a cross between DIY SOS and How to Look Good Naked with a side serving of stereotype-bashing.
6) Because the Fab Five are fearless: I remember one of my relatives asking me which of my lesbian friends was “the husband” in her relationship. In the very first episode of this reboot, Tom the lonely dump-truck driver from Georgia who looks a bit like a tobacco-stained Santa asked pretty much the same question of design specialist Bobby Berk, who has been married to husband Dewey for more than five years. Tom isn’t being malicious, it’s just that ‘gay’ isn’t part of his life – by the end of his time with the make-over team, Bobby has five GBFFs and knows better than to the kind of questions that make the LGBT community collectively sigh.
7) Because of Karamo Brown: The man is just exceptional. He was the first openly-gay African American to appear on reality TV in America (The Real World: Philadelphia in 2005, MTV), his last straight relationship aged 15 resulted in a son who he had no idea about until the child was 10 (he immediately took full custody of son Jason and later adopted Jason’s half-brother, Chris), he dedicated 10 years to being a social worker, he worked under the Obama Administration to create policy and legislation to support LGBT young people, he formed his own non-profit organisation which aims to combat the stigma associated with HIV and LGBT African American men. And, as shallow as it is, Karamo is insanely hot – he looks as if he’s been manufactured in a factory of hotness. He is hotter than the surface of the sun.
8) Because of episode five: Father-of-six Bobby is a devout Christian who has been brought up to believe that homosexuality is wrong. However, he invites the five men into his house and tells them that he wants them to feel welcome: “You’ve taught me so much about loving somebody who has come from a different background from me, that has a different world view htan me, who has a different story.” SOB.
9) Because the advice given is practical: The five don’t roll up in their glass carriage, take Georgian men to New York Fashion Show and teach them how to cook Heston Blumenthal’s Perfect Chilli Con Carne which requires 10 different chilli powders, nine of which have to be bought from different suppliers online, two bottles of red wine, a litre of Jack Daniels and a pressure cooker – they take them to Target to go shopping and teach them how to grill cheese. Aspirational, in the true sense of the word.
10) Because it makes it crystal clear that men showing their vulnerable is important: Society is so stuck on the idea that ‘being a man’ means men must absorb the impact of anything which is thrown at them and be both physically and emotionally strong despite the circumstances that it can be difficult for men to accept that they can be upset. Women do not have the monopoly on showing their feelings and ‘toxic masculinity’ has been shown to be deadly and emotionally damaging. Queer Eye takes this assumption of what ‘manliness’ is and turns it upside down, it’s about making men’s lives happier and healthier without asking them to change who they are. And that’s groundbreaking.