‘Queer Eye’ Gives American Masculinity a Much-Needed Makeover

February 18, 2018 | By Brent Almond | LGBT STUFF, POP CULTURE

Queer Eye on Netflix Toxic Masculinity

The epidemic of toxic masculinity in our country is at a tipping point: serial school shootings; countless #MeToo perpetrators; a no-apologies, pussy-grabbing, saber-rattling president. And the paths to a remedy are complicated and met with resistance at every turn. But might I suggest — as a respite from the violence, misogyny, and bluster — the new version of Queer Eye?

The original Queer Eye (née for the Straight Guy) was a cultural phenomenon that aired from 2003-2007. It was part of the pop culture wave started by Ellen then Will & Grace that contributed to greater, more positive visibility for lesbian and gay Americans.

As reboots are in vogue, Netflix has brought the series back to fabulous life with an all-new cast and new batch of scruffy makeover subjects. With the same set of experts (in Food & Wine, Fashion, Culture, Design, and Grooming) the season’s trailer boasts, “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.”

Being the long-out gay that I am, I went into this with low expectations on such a lofty claim. Yet as I binged through the season, my cynicism faded, side-eye giving way to tears.

Queer Eye on Netflix Toxic Masculinity

The new Fab 5: Bobby (Design), Karamo (Culture), Antoni (Food & Wine), Jonathan (Grooming), Tan (Fashion)

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Changing Hairstyles, Hearts & Minds

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Heartstrings get pulled right out the gate. Episode 1 (“You Can’t Fix Ugly”) features an aging truck driver set in his lonely, monotonous ways. He’s as country as they come, living for his worn out recliner and redneck margaritas. Yet by the end, the Fab 5 break through his crusty exterior, resulting in genuine gratitude and affection expressed between this disparate group of men.

But it was Episode 4 (“To Gay or Not Too Gay”) that elicited the biggest, snottiest response from me. A.J. is a mostly-closeted gay man who regrets never having come out to his now-deceased father. He shares an intensely intimate exchange with Karamo over what it’s like to be Black and gay in the American South. This is surpassed later on when he reads a coming out letter he’d written to his dead father. It’s gut-wrenching and cathartic and something so many men in this country need, regardless of their geography, race, religion, or sexuality.

Each of the eight episodes has a “moment” — an interchange between one or all of the Fab 5 and the featured straight guy. A moment where bravado and stoicism and humor — and every other form of male emotional deflection — are broken down. I’m sure there was some scripting involved, but damn if it doesn’t seem 100% spontaneous and real.

Queer Eye, while not without faults, is clearly much more than cocktails, moisturizer, and throw pillows. The subjects open themselves up in ways our society categorically discourages. Toxic masculinity — or at least the effects of it — isn’t always expressed aggressively or overtly. Each of these men are victims of this toxicity’s effects on our culture, whether it manifests itself as isolation and loneliness, fear of intimacy and physical touch, emotional suppression, or homophobia.

Queer Eye on Netflix Toxic Masculinity .

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Come for the Feels, Stay for the Fierceness

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Lest you think the show is eight hours straight of non-stop male bonding, worry not. There’s still an endless litany of quick quips, helpful tips, and gasp-inducing metamorphoses of straights and their man caves. And yes, sometimes the stereotypes flare a little strong, even for my taste. Let’s just say that if you were to take a shot every time someone said “YAAAASS!” you’d be plastered halfway through an episode.

I’d like to think the Fab 5 could transform anyone. There are several world leaders — one in particular comes to mind — that could use an epic makeover. While I’m not holding my breath for 45 to suddenly become reflective or let someone take a whack at that ‘do, I’ll settle for the Queer Eye guys working their fierce, gay, masculine magic, one everyday man at a time.

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4 responses to “‘Queer Eye’ Gives American Masculinity a Much-Needed Makeover”

  1. Josh says:

    My wife and I just started watching this show and I wholeheartedly agree with you. While we’re straight, we are also of a marriage and mind that wants to be open to other types of lifestyle as curiosity and learning. This show is a wonder and an emotional release for me–I’m sure my wife as well-that learning about a certain culture can be influenced through an educational TV show…even if it’s a reality type. I plan on saving this version of the show under my Pinterest as I’ve catalogued cultural understanding in all races, forms, and beliefs (which is a never ending task).
    I’m curious, what do you think the difference is between the 1st season and this new reboot? If someone never seen nor heard of this concept, which season would you recommend first? I can’t decide if I were to recommend the 2nd reboot season as a way to inform what’s happening currently, then have a critical thinking discussion in comparison to first season, or just let the viewer go through season 1 and 2 in appropriate sequence.

    • Brent Almond says:

      Josh:
      I’d just recommend this new season unless someone is really curious about the original. I honestly can’t recall how different the original was, other than there not being as many emotional scenes with the makeover subjects.

      And just to clarify something, being gay isn’t a lifestyle, culture, or belief. While there are certain things labeled as stereotypically gay, LGBTQ people exist in every country, and are of every race, religion, gender, age, and culture. Being gay is a sexual orientation — who someone is attracted to.

      On the show, I see the makeover subjects learning the most when they just get to know these guys and vice versa. These 5 particular guys are experts in their given field, but not all gay men are stylish or good cooks or good dressers. I challenge you to get to know some LGBTQ people in your every day life. Build a friendship and a level of trust. That’s the best way to educate yourself.

      Thanks!
      Brent

  2. […] Brent Almond was a skeptic, but he now believes Netflix’s “Queer Eye Gives American Masculinity a Much-Needed Makeover.” […]

  3. Uldis says:

    Thanks so much for the post. Really Cool.

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