Would you believe me if I told you that I recently discovered a reality show that made me want to move to America?
The show in question is the Netflix original, Queer Eye, a reboot of the popular 2003 Emmy-award winning show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.
Queer Eye revolves around the “Fab Five;” five gay men who are experts in their given lifestyle field. At the beginning of each episode, the Fab Five drive to a new city where someone has nominated a straight man in their life who needs an intervention. The Five then spend the week making over a hapless man. In the original show, they would counsel him on his personal style, spruce up his living space, give him a great haircut, pat him on the head, and send him on his way.
In this newest instalment, Jonathan Van Ness covers grooming, Karamo Brown is all things culture, Antoni Porowski is an expert on cooking and wine, while Bobby Berk oversees interior decor, and Tan France is charged with building a new wardrobe.
In episode one, “You Can’t Fix Ugly,” we meet straight guy Tom, a self-proclaimed “dumb ol’ country boy from Kentucky,” drinking a Jumbo Texas Margarita at a local bar. Tom is bearded, overweight, and seems to be permanently wearing a baseball cap, T-shirt, and shorts. The Fab Five jump into action, Tan finds Tom age-appropriate clothes while Jonathan trims his beard and Bobby renovates his bachelor pad. Antoni teaches Tom how to make guacamole.
After the makeover, the six men sit down to debrief. Tom, freshly made over, starts to cry. He spoke about how much he appreciated the Fab Five’s help.
“I loved their personalities,” Tom said. “I’ve never hung with gay guys before and they were great. They were so open with me and I was open with them.”
This, coming from the butch guy who asked earlier in the episode if Bobby Berk was the “wife” in his relationship with his husband of five years. This moment moved me to tears, which doesn’t often happen watching reality television.
Though the reboot does maintain the same structural components as the original (introduction, intervention, makeover, reveal), it surprised me by going much deeper. The men wrestle with conflicts such as sexuality and religion, the acceptance of oneself and of others, racial tensions, and bigotry. Perhaps most surprising is the way that time and time again, the Fab Five manages to break down barriers with the “straight-guys” that go far beyond skin deep.
In episode 3, “Dega Don’t,” Karamo Brown, the first African-American member of the Fab Five, and redneck “straight-guy” Cory discuss the relationship between black communities and the police. Cory, a cop, enters the conversation noticeably defensive about the actions of his fellow officers. “All police officers don’t want to be lumped into being the bad guy, you know.” But as the conversation continues, you see a compassionate dialogue emerge between the two men.
Corey ends the conversation by stating, “Black lives matter, they weren’t able to be heard, and the police officers weren’t able to be heard. If we could sit down and have a conversation like me and you just did, things would be a lot better, you know, in society. Everybody wants to talk, but nobody wants to listen.”
This conversation pretty much sums up what is so impressive about this new season of Queer Eye. The show has covered meaningful topics including sexuality, religion, coming out, race, and ethnicity with each member of the Fab Five bringing a unique perspective to the conversation.