We are living in a world where differences are highlighted more than similarities. It has made conversations about things that matter very polarized, and understanding seems to be a pipe dream for everyone. That is why it is essential for people to be reminded that there are more things that we all share rather than things that keep us apart.
It is with this premise that Netflix’s Queer Eye is born.
The new Queer Eye is hosted by five gay guys known as the Fab 5, each of them having specific expertise. Antoni Porowski is the show’s resident food and wine expert. He helps the “heroes” to prepare food for themselves and their families. Jonathan Van Ness, the grooming expert, helps the chosen heroes to establish a day-to-day grooming routine to take care of their bodies. The heroes are dressed and improved in the fashion aspect by Tan France, and their homes/spaces were renovated and redesigned by Bobby Berk to suit their needs. Karamo Brown is the life coach that helps the heroes overcome their fear and build more confidence in them.
In hindsight, the premise of the show is very stereotypical. The roles of the Fab 5, the fashion expert, interior designer, and hair stylist, in particular, are the stereotypical roles given to gays and members of the LGBTQ community.
When you think of fashion, style, and design, the first thing that comes to your mind is that either women or gay guys do it. That’s why the show, to an extent, is perpetuating a narrative that fashion experts and groomers and interior designers are gay people.
True enough. However, the little stereotyping that happens in the show is compensated by the conversations that happen every episode. In a way, through the help of these “gay fashionista” or “gay hairstylist” or “gay interior designer,” people will start to realize that these aspects of human lives are necessary for everyone – even for straight guys.
In most of the episodes, the show has seen heroes who are adamant of wearing certain types of clothing because they think they think that dressing up a certain way is a way for them to either be comfortable or otherwise they might be seen as less masculine. But their minds change in the end, always. After Tan France makes them understand that dressing up doesn’t need to be loud or obnoxious for it to be appropriate or hip or in trend, the heroes, in most cases, embrace the change.
It is with this kind of narrative that Queer Eye aims to affect the same change to their audience. While not everyone will become “heroes,” everyone will still be getting the same fashion, grooming, food, interior design, and culture advice from the Fab 5. By this, the conversation is extended from that of between the Fab 5 and the heroes to the show and its audience.
The conversation does not end at that, however. Real issues are being tackled in the show, and as the hosts in recent interviews claim, most of those conversations are not produced nor directed. Meaning, the message that gay people can contribute something in the society is a narrative that organically happens in the show.
In one episode in the first season of Queer Eye, the Fab 5 were stopped by a police officer as they drive to the new hero. Tan France and Karamo Brown, both POCs, had echoed how they feared for their lives when that happened. While the entire thing was just orchestrated by production, the hosts were not briefed about it, and thus their reactions were genuinely organic.
Karamo later said to the hero, which was a police officer, that he was honestly hesitant to have a conversation with him because he was a cop. This conversation led to a discussion on the reality that black people are facing right now in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. As the police officer apologized on behalf of all the cops in America for their atrocities against POCs, Karamo felt like it was a form of “healing” for him.
In another episode, the Fab 5 was tasked to make over a devout Christian black woman and the community center of her church. During the episode, Bobby Berk refused to get inside the church because “he might break down” and because he “promised myself that I would never get inside another church again.”
Berk’s life story is eerily similar to most gay men. At the age of 15, Bobby, who was raised in a very religious family, ran away from his home because he was gay. He said that the church consistently taught him that gays are an abomination and being one is a sin.
In the end, Bobby had an emotional conversation with Mama Tammy, who also had a gay son, and made them learn the lesson of acceptance and love – an experience that the show has successfully translated for its audience to learn from.
Five gay guys helping straight people make their lives better is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the conversations that organically happen that make shows like Queer Eye necessary. We need more Fab 5 in the entertainment industry, and we need more Queer Eyes to open the world’s minds to the reality other people are living.
It is in the hope that through these shows, people will learn a thing or two about tolerance and acceptance – that more things keep us together than pull us apart.
The third season of Queer Eye was released by Netflix on March 15, 2019. /apr