Entertainment » Television

Not Just for the Straight Guy: 'Queer Eye' Reboots & Rebrands Itself on Netflix

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Saturday Feb 10, 2018

It's been over a decade since the hit makeover show "Queer Eye," once known by its longer title "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," ended its five season run on Bravo. A lot has changed since it went off the airwaves in 2007, including the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" measure and the legalization of same-sex marriage in the U.S. Rebooted and rebranded, the second iteration of "Queer Eye," which hits Netflix on Feb. 7, offers something more substantial than just hair care tips or clothing advice. The new Fab 5 wants their viewers to know beauty isn't only skin deep.

In the weeks leading up to the rebooted "Queer Eye," series creator David Collins promised the new series will push the envelope when it comes to a number of social issues, including LGBTQ rights and the Black Lives Matter movement.

"It's a new time with a new audience," he told Entertainment Weekly in December. "If the original round was about tolerance, this time it is about acceptance.

"If you think about the original five, we definitely weren't going to be talking about that Tan [France] is married to a Mormon cowboy, let alone that he's Muslim," Collins added. "So it's those authentic moments that really pay off in this new version of 'Queer Eye.'"

The first "Queer Eye," which debuted in July 2003, gained notoriety for "normalizing" gay life thanks to its Fab Five - five men who were openly gay and not ashamed of their sexuality were in the homes of millions of Americans across the country. Though 2003 may not seem that long ago, the U.S.'s views on LGBTQ people were starkly different than today and marriage equality was still a dream - it wasn't until 2004 that Massachusetts became the first state to recognize same-sex marriage.

From left to right: Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown and Jonathan Van Ness in a scene from "Queer Eye." Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix

In the show, the Fab Five took over the lives of (usually) slobby straight men, making them and their homes over while teaching them life skills. That format is still the case for the rebooted "Queer Eye," which features a brand new crew. The new Fab Five is made up of Karamo Brown (culture), Jonathan Van Ness (grooming), Tan France (fashion), Antoni Porowski (food and wine), and Bobby Berk (design). Unlike the first series, which was set in New York City, Netflix's version finds the Fab Five heading down South - specifically, Georgia, which doesn't have the best track record when it comes to LGBTQ equality and protection.

Collins may be hyping up the new "Queer Eye" as the "woke" version of the show but the new Fab Five only scratch the surface of what could be a provoking unscripted series. That doesn't mean "Queer Eye" is bad or not worth your time - it's an enjoyable and easy watch that's fully entertaining.

In a few moments throughout the eight episodes provided for review, "Queer Eye" edges up to discussing important issues but avoids getting in to the weeds. The new show lacks the political bite it promises - if you're looking for a deep discussion about LGBTQ rights by five proud gay men with Trump-supporting police officers from Georgia this isn't it.

One of the most interesting moments from the show comes in the third episode when straight guy Cory - the aforementioned Trump-supporting cop - and Karamo are bonding while driving in car alone together. Earlier in the episode, Cory's friend, also a police officer, pulls the Fab Five over while Karamo, a black man, is driving. Though the incident ends up being a gag, it's a tense moment that finds Karamo worried about how he'll be treated by the authorities. It later serves as a talking point when Karamo expresses his feelings over the faux pull over.

Cory Waldrop, left, with Tan France on "Queer Eye." Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix

"The perception right now, especially between black people and cops - it's tension," Karamo says, adding that when he was pulled over he was "freaking out."

"I thought, 'This is going to be that incident when I get dragged out of the car,'" he continues. "...My whole thing is, obviously not all black people want to be lumped in one category as criminals, which sometimes we feel that way."

"And all police officers don't want to be lumped into being the bad guy," Cory says. "I get stereotyped because of that 10% shown on the media of being excessive or killing a black guy that didn't need to have deadly force used upon him."

Cory then recalls a recent nearby incident about a cop kicking a man in the face after he was handcuffed.

"There was nothing that makes it alright," he said.

"I got to tell you just even hearing you acknowledging that the officer that used force should never have just heals me and gives me a little bit of relief," Karamo tells Cory. "All I ever hear usually is cops sticking together, saying, 'What about us?' And it is true, what about you all? But it's also like, what about us? We're both dealing with the same pain on two different ends. But none of us are acknowledging it."

Karamo Brown, left, and Jonathan Van Ness in "Queer Eye." Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix.

"It does go both ways and I'm glad you feel that way," Cory responds. "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 you and I just did, things would be a lot better in society. Everyone wants to talk but nobody wants to listen."

In his confessional later, Karamo says, "The beauty with what is happening here is that I am open and I'm going to stay open because I need him to learn from me and I need to learn from.

"Right now our country seems to bet getting worse and worse and worse and it has to start somewhere and I'm not saying a conversation with one police officer and one gay guy is going to solve problems but maybe it can open up eyes to something more," he adds.

Indeed, Karamo is right - it's a start and an admirable effort with a moving payoff. But these moments come far and few between in "Queer Eye."

In the fourth episode the Fab Five make over civil engineer AJ, who is gay. AJ is shy and not out to his stepmother, who was married to his late father. Part of the episode finds the Fab Five guiding AJ, who has kept his life and boyfriend separate from his family, into feeling comfortable with talking with his stepmom. Though the episode is touching, it also has a concerning moment when AJ is speaking with Tan about his conservative style. AJ gets anxious when Tan explains his fashion plans for him.

AJ Brown, left with Karamo Brown on "Queer Eye." Photo credit: Courtesy of Netflix

Tan says he wants AJ to dress younger and "dress sexy, feel sexy"

"Just don't make me look feminine - or just some regular guy on the street. Keep me original still," AJ says.

"I want to mention one word that you just mentioned: 'feminine,'" Tan says. "Why are you concerned about that? And it's a concern a lot of gay guys [have]."

"A lot of my friends they live more free with what they wear and I just couldn't do it," AJ responds.

"...You being your true self isn't going to offend anybody," Tan says. "It's very unlikely people are going to cause you an issue just be cur being yourself. And if their concerned that's ton them - your happy."

Though Tan's advice is sound, it doesn't go far enough in correcting AJ that there really isn't anything wrong with dressing "feminine." Again, a commendable moment but one that doesn't quiet go there.

"Queer Eye" is a well-meaning reboot that can be easily binge-watched - the new Fab Five hold their own and are all thoroughly charismatic. It's also a cathartic experience, with almost every episode in the season ending in tears and the men expressing their admiration and respect for the Fab Five, proving the country has indeed come a long way when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Netflix's "Queer Eye" may not the remedy to solve America's deeply rooted divide but it does provide hope, proving even straight cis white men from the most conservative parts of the U.S. appreciate a fierce makeover, honey.


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