Back in the early 2000s, we were first introduced to five wonderfully camp and meticulously metrosexual gay men who starred in the now classic reality TV show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Each episode, the Fab Five would prance into the life of an unsuspecting straight man and offer him some much-needed life, personal hygiene and relationship advice. While the makeover show was wildly entertaining, the series was far more enlightened than it first appeared to be. The initial show was a leap for the representation of gay men in mainstream media. Hetrosexual men from middle America, who would have likely been culprits of homophobia, were offered an intimate experience to gain insight into these figures, painted as compassionate and complex individuals. The audience vicariously lived the same experience.
The first episode of the show introduces us to Tom, a self-proclaimed “redneck” who lives in the small town of Georgia. It would be a reasonable assumption that a man of Toms background and social standing would not be a fan of the gays. Yet the bearded man welcomes these men into his home and personal life with open arms. The initial episode conveys a touching exchange between such unlikely acquaintances, the exchange conveys a deconstruction of masculinity, a detoxifying of masculine discourse that can often be harmful and hateful.
The Queer Eye reboot follows the same premise as the original show but the subtext of the series has evolved with the times. Tan, the superbly dressed style expert was quoted saying, “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” Each episode offers a surprising level of authenticity, often ending in grateful tears shed by the participant who has been truly internally and externally changed by the experience. While so many of our reality TV indulgences are steeped in scripted drama, superficiality and alarmingly shallow exchanges, Queer Eye offers viewers a welcome and refreshing level of compassion, fun and wholesomeness. Catch the fab Five in action on Netflix.