Going From Drab to Fab

Review of Netflix's 'Queer Eye'

Left to Right: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Antoni Porowski, Jonathon Van Ness, and Tan France. CREDIT: GAVIN BOND/NETFLIX

Queer Eye on Netflix is a reboot of the 2003 show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (later shortened to Queer Eye) that premiered on the network Bravo. The reboot follows the same premise as its predecessor. Men receive a makeover by the Fab Five — five gay men with expertise in one of the following: fashion, food, personal grooming, culture, and interior design. These five men are Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Jonathon Van Ness, Karamo Brown, and Bobby Berk, respectively. 

Each episode follows a new man who goes on a journey from drab to fab. They each receive more than just a new wardrobe and style advice, but also lessons of self-love and self-care. With reality TV, there are episodes that seem almost like fillers. However, Queer Eye seems to combat that by offering genuine small truths. Not only do participants walk away with little truths and kernels of hope, but it extends past the screen towards the viewers. 

In 2003, the word "queer" brought to mind gay men. However, 2018 queerness has evolved to apply to all aspects of the LGBTQ community. The title of the show is misleading, especially when applied to the progression of the queer community. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was revolutionary for its time. The concept of five gay men on television was unheard of. The Netflix reboot has applied that same formula in 2018 while keeping the name. The concept of a show titled Queer Eye in 2018 brings to mind all aspects queerness, such as gender non-conforming persons, pansexual individuals, and transgender men/women. Although the series breaks down barriers with each episode, the title itself is dated. The title may be an homage to its predecessor, but the cast consists solely of one aspect of queerness.  The series isn't an accurate representation of the full spectrum regarding the term "queer", however, naming the show Cisgender Gay Male Eye may have seemed too much of a mouthful for the average television viewer.

Queer Eye is more than its misleading title; it's a reality show that actively promotes diversity and various aspects of gayness through the experiences of the Fab Five team. They rely on one another to create the perfect makeover of the participating man's life. It is a show where intersectionality is witnessed and social commentary cannot be left unsaid. The reboot portrays more diversity than its predecessor, with two of the five members of the team coming from non-white backgrounds. Although this seems like a small stride compared to the previous cast, it is a great improvement. 

Although each episode deserves its own merit, three episodes go the distance in exploring and promoting diversity. "Saving Sasquatch" (S0102) displays a moment of real unity. Tan France, a Pakistani-Muslim, and their newest project, Neal Reddy, a Hindu-Indian, share a moment in the closet over a simple cricket ball. These two men from different backgrounds realize ways in which they are very much in common. "Dega Don't" (S01E03) portrays a nerve-wracking scene where Karamo, while driving the team to meet their newest project, is pulled over by a cop. This is one of the first moments in the series where Karamo's blackness is discussed. The episode pushes it a bit further whereas the team assists a man who is perceived to be a very avid Trump supporter. "To Gay or Not Too Gay" (S01E04) discusses black masculinity and black queerness. Best said in George Johnsons' article, "Fear of the State, Fear of my Home: To Be Black and Queer in America":

Living in my truth as a black queer person comes with the understanding that I may also be quickening my death.

There is a real fear in being both. However, this episode is one of pure celebration and exaltation. By the end of each episode, the participating man is left in a better place compared to the beginning of the pre-Fab Five journey. 

There are so many moments of learning offered throughout the series that one cannot help but finish the show feeling refreshed, hopeful, and with a greater appreciation for the Fab Five and their mission:

The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.

Queer Eye's cast may have changed, as well as the world around it, but the message of the show continues to be that of love, self-care, and overall betterment. These five men simply being themselves and helping others reach their fabulous potential inspire those around them to do the same, like their predecessors before them. What sets this cast apart from the previous is its willingness to further push the envelope through engaging dialogue interspersed with an updated playlist and styling advice for the modern individual.