Online Arts Editor Helena Raymond-Hayling reviews the Netflix revival of the early 2000's reality TV show, Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, where the 'fab five', a team of five gay men, are let loose on a man whose style, home decor and self-confidence is desperately in need of a lift.
Reality TV, particularly makeover and lifestyle shows, have been notoriously little more than humiliation-porn for the sadistic streak in us viewers. 10 Years Younger, The Biggest Loser and How Clean is Your House are just examples of programmes in an era that operate on a similar premise: using the insecurities of their victim and those of their viewers to shame the ugly, overweight or unhygienic person before them. This is all done under the the guise of a confidence boost, laid down by by some self-righteous fashionista.
Queer Eye explores the negative consequences of toxic masculinity, allowing [the] men the fab five meet to let their guard down
From what I had heard of the previous incarnation, Queer Eye for a Straight Guy, I had low hopes for Queer Eye. I'd been expecting cringeworthy caricatures fitting the flamboyant gay man-bitch trope, who roast some hapless bloke's tragic haircut and bad taste in budget-store polo shirts, all in the name of 'self improvement'.
I could not have been more wrong. Queer Eye is delightful, and is so much more than than the makeover shows I have come to expect and dismiss in disdain. The chemistry among the fab five is charming, each tackling a different aspect of their man-project's life.
Tan, the pragmatic and mature 'style' expert, coaxes the cargo shorts and boring plaid shirts from the hands of his fashion-blind pupils. He helps Joe, a reclusive and unsuccessful comedian who has recently lost over 100lb, feel less conscious of his recently slimmed-down body. Tan eases Joe's discomfort in wearing clothes that fit him properly, by making suitable allowances for him and helping him to find clothes in which he not only looks good, but feels confident, sexy and sharp.
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Jonathan, the fabulously feline 'grooming' expert, gives the men a sharp haircut, tidies up some unsightly neck-beards, but also emphasises practicing self-care through grooming, with a load of encouraging yas queens thrown in for good measure. For devout Christian and devoted dad-of-six, Bobby, Jonathan does not push an unrealistic beauty routine, but helps Bobby to find a few minutes in his busy day to take some time out to look after himself.
Super gorgeous and ever so cool is Antoni, Queer Eye's food guru. He teaches the men how to cook nutritious meals and to prepare a few entertaining staples, as many of the men wish to host their friends and plan parties, but are at a loss at where to begin. For lonely truck-driver and Mexican food lover Tom, Antoni teaches him to make a simple guacamole, which he uses as a creamy and sophisticated way to woo a special lady in his life.
Bobby covers design, and remodels the homes of the men on the show. He is practical, and emphasises the importance of how their house should make them feel good, and be comfortable to live in. Devastatingly delicious Karamo tackles 'culture', by giving the men kind words of encouragement, and through little pep talks uncovering the reasons why they may be withdrawn or lonely, and getting to the root of their lack of confidence.
The two have a very emotional discussion about racism and the abuse of power by the police in the USA, and form a truly touching bond through dismantling their preconceptions of one another.
What's so amazing about this show is incredibly its ability to tackle some really complex issues whilst being so lighthearted and funny. Karamo expresses his anxiety about being a black man around the police with Cory, who is himself a police officer. The two have a very emotional discussion about racism and the abuse of power by the police in the USA, and form a truly touching bond through dismantling their preconceptions of one another.
The fab five ... offer an alternative way to soothe the wounds of toxic masculinity: with love, respect, and plentiful group hugs
Another episode covers the story of painfully private AJ, who is in a happy relationship with a man but is riddled with guilt after not coming out before his father passed away. AJ and is consumed with anxiety about disappointing his stepmother in telling her that he is gay, and is cautious of being recognised as a gay man, hiding behind a carefully curated hypermasculine persona. Queer Eye explores the negative consequences of toxic masculinity, allowing AJ and the other men the fab five meet to let their guard down and explore their emotions.
In a time where ideas about masculinity are evolving so fast, men don't have to look much further than Reddit or YouTube to find people offering solutions to problems and preying on their insecurities. Masculinity is packaged by everyone from fitness fanatics to men's rights activists and the alt-right. This flavour of masculinity is to shy away from emotional awareness, self-care and self-love, and men's mental health continues to suffer for it. But what the fab five and Queer Eye have to offer is an alternative way to soothe the wounds of toxic masculinity: with love, respect, and plentiful group hugs. This show is hilarious and incredibly silly but also exceptionally wholesome, and will have you in tears of joy.