wipe the tears from your queer eye, the best show on tv is back
Brace yourself, the fab five have returned and these are their best bits.
When season one of Queer Eye was released by Netflix in February this queer’s eyes nearly rolled out of his skull. A reboot of Queer Eye For The Straight Guy felt entirely unnecessary and frankly insulting. Weren’t we beyond the lazy stereotypes of gay men being fashion fairies who could transform frumpy straights with a flick of their limp wrists? The original show had been a triumph for the gay movement simply by existing. Gay men on television interacting with straight men, bridging the divide with wit and grace, was all we could hope for. To resurrect that in today’s world would be a step backwards.
Plus, I wasn’t thrilled because, well, the only thing my closet is good for is hiding in. God knows it hasn’t got any good clothes. My boyfriend literally begs me to wear any other shirts than the handful I keep in constant rotation. Portraying gay people as handsome, stylish, fashion-forward paragons feels like a personal attack. Then I watched the new Queer Eye.
The five Queer Eye guys represent a healthy cross-section of the community. Yes, all of them take care of themselves and are undeniably photogenic but you wouldn’t want to take advice on looking good from anyone else. It would have been easy to play to the crowd by showing just Masc4Masc, toxic bromos but these are just gay men comfortable with themselves. I was hooked from the first episode.
Now I can't leave the house without muttering “Spray, sashay, walk away.” For those not au fait with Queer Eye-ese this means spraying aftershave in the air, walking (sassily) through the cloud, and heading fragrantly out to face the world. But the most important aspects of Queer Eye were not in the aesthetics of redressing the outside of some poor scruffy schlub. While well-fitting shirts with rolled-up sleeves played their part in fixing the lives of those appearing on the show, most of the big scenes dealt with emotional issues which were beyond just clothes. It is, to coin a phrase, what’s on the inside that counts.
The show generally sticks to a rigid formula. Fans have even created a workout game to go with all the beats of the show. When someone cries they do 10 push-ups. I prefer to chug rosé every time I see someone wearing shoes without socks. Each presenter has their own special power; there’s Antoni (FOOD!), Tan (CLOTHES!), Bobby (DESIGN!), and Jonathan (GROOMING!). It was Karamo Brown (CULTURE!) who stole the show and our hearts in the first season though: instead of taking his charge to the opera or ballet he would drive them around town for a heart-to-heart. Cameras in the car captured the resulting tears. In one chat with a white Southern cop, Brown managed to heal the rift between the black and blue communities. Okay, he didn’t fix race relations in the United States, but it was an honest discussion of how each side feels trapped in the situation. It wasn’t just the people on screen weeping.
Now Netflix has dropped another batch of episodes on us. Join me as I roll up my shirt sleeves, smash an avocado on toast, and watch the most “Sha-mazing” thing on TV. These are the highlights that will leave you screaming out for more episodes to binge-watch.
1) Mamma Do Preach
This season sees the Queer Eye guys 'do' a woman for the first time. Tammye (“Call me Mamma”) is a Georgia peach of a woman. Cancer survivor, teacher, community helper, and usher in her church. There must be a God, because Mamma comes from a town called Gay. For their first female, the Queer Eye team abandons their usual procedure like it was a pair of socks and sandals. Giving Mamma a makeover barely features. This opening episode is nothing less than Queer Eye versus religion. Step aside 2,000 years of theology, the fab five are writing a new gospel.
While Mamma does get a haircut and new dress, the main focus of the episode is her gay son. He feels rejected by the church, just as Mamma once rejected him. Mamma has learned to love her son but can she convince their church to do likewise? The friends of Jesus have not always been chummy with the friends of Dorothy. If you watch the end of this episode without tears in your eyes you are the Devil himself.
2) Be Honest
Queer Eye screams the Pride mantra of “Be Yourself!” They are all about being honest with yourself and others. So what happens when they meet someone who is, to put it kindly, a compulsive bullshitter? They get out the torture gear.
Ari, who either has or has not got a job and may or may not have graduated from college, is taken back to the Queer Eye loft and hooked up to a lie detector machine. With wires attached to his various appendages he is subjected to a barrage of questions as they try to figure out who he really is. I won't reveal all, but there might be more going on here than something a simple French-tuck on a shirt can cure.
3) Clothes Maketh The Man
Queer Eye tells us that there is a difference between vanity and self-care. Sometimes it takes a gay man giving you a facial that gets caught in your beard to realise it's okay to look good. It's amazing to see the difference a pair of skinny jeans can make to a person's confidence.
The best fashion moment of the series comes when Skyler, a trans man, talks about why he doesn't have a well-fitting suit. The fear that the tailor will run a hand up his inside leg and ask awkward questions means he once panicked and fled a fitting room. The team brings in a clothes specialist who creates a safe space for trans people and gets Skyler the suit he dreams of. The episode begins with the team watching the surgery to have Skyler's breasts removed and it’s like watching a birth, or re-birth. By the end of the episode they look on with parental pride as Skyler struts his stuff in his new manly clothes.
4) Cooking Made Overly Simple
Antoni has become an internet sensation. Step aside Delia, the gays have a new Home Economics teacher. Antoni's role is to force people who have mouldy fridges to try eating something that is at least supposed to be green. Because his students have no experience at all with cooking, Antoni provides recipes so basic they have become memes. His fondness for avocado had become suspicious by the end of the first season. Was he sponsored by the avocado marketing board?
Here he breaks out new and exotic ingredients. Did you know that if you put eggs in a frying pan and stir them a bit you can make an omelette? If you put edible things in a blender then you're pretty much bound to end up with a dip. At least Antoni is 'of the moment' when he offers up a grilled peach for a dinner party. Call Me By Your Name will be keeping Georgia peach farms in business for years to come. His choice to not cook anything in one episode feels like his first step into self-awareness.
5) Turn That Frown Upside Down
The heart-to-heart chat between the fashion failure and Karamo Brown is always the emotional heart of Queer Eye episodes. Karamo's main role in the first season is to get the target of the makeover into the truck and drive them around until they burst into tears. He is less of a culture expert than a therapist with a crying fetish.
Season two sees Karamo up his game. While many still face the emotional showdown in the truck, one hippy handyman gets taught acrobatics as a life skill. Karamo takes him to learn aerial arts, which involves hanging upside-down from lengths of coloured fabric. You might think it's hard to learn self-truths when all your blood is rushing to your head but Karamo knows his business. Tied up and strung from the ceiling is perfect for indoctrination. “Failure isn’t the opposite of success, it’s part of it!” Karamo chants at his trapped student, invoking the wise words of his nan. “When you feel like you’re slipping, push harder.” If it's true of aerial art, it must be true of life.
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