It’s been nearly 15 years since Queer Eye for the Straight Guy took the world of reality TV by storm. It was the first gay-centric reality show in a time where LGBTQI+ representation on the small screen was mostly on the shoulders of fiction, with shows like Will and Grace. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy presented us with a different makeover show: five gay guys were saving heterosexual men from unmanageable sloppiness.
The subjects were often on the verge of indolence to their own selves, while the Fab 5 were, well, what you’d expect from five gay guys who come to your house to clean up your act. These experts on five different fields (fashion, style, personal grooming, interior design, and culture) were given messy “subjects” and had to turn them into overnight princes. The show was a game-changer in many ways (would we have RuPaul’s Drag Race if it weren’t for it?), but it was also a fruit of its time, with a lot of stereotypes. Cattiness and all.
Although it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, the world has changed quite a bit since 2003. The way we see representation now has varied a lot in the past decade. Now, more than inviting differences, it’s also about forming a broad and accurate mark of what a minority looks like.
The new Queer Eye, with a shorter and more inclusive name, is very much on par with this new idea of representation. Netflix took over the franchise and went through a new casting process to find the late 2010’s Fab 5. As a result, the new cast is not only more diverse (three of them are white, one is black, the other is a British-Pakistani Muslim), but more open to dialogue. Unlike the very Manhattanite original show, focused solely on the “cleanup” process, the Netflix version delves into the Deep South and wants to open minds.
The Fab 5 make a serious effort in not just transforming their subjects into a better version of themselves, but doing it in a way that makes them comfortable. There’s even one episode focused on a family man where he’s taken to Target to buy clothes. Can you even imagine Carson Kressley stepping into a Target at all?
“The original show was fighting for tolerance,” says Tan France, fashion expert on the new iteration. “Our fight is for acceptance.”
This is really an evolution of what we were given in the first try. Where in 2003 there were stereotypically sloppy straight guys, we now get people struggling with their sense of self. Where we saw catty remarks about the wardrobe, now we see the guys snickering along.
Undoubtedly there’s a lot of hidden scripted things going on, as this is still reality TV, but the ultimate message is one of love and acceptance. Of people of different backgrounds meeting up and forging understanding. Really, I’m halfway through the season and it’s been an effort to keep from crying in every episode.
Let Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Tan France and Karamo Brown into your home. Become jealous of their unquestionable fashion sense, their pop culture savoir faire, and their bubbly personalities. And then try to keep from sobbing by the end of each episode.
Come for the insane transformations and design ideas, and stay for the heart.