On Wednesday, Netflix released their revival of the groundbreaking 2003 reality series Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, and you really shouldn’t binge it. Sure, it’s very similar in premise; a ‘Fab Five’ group of queer men band together to help other, mostly straight, men change their lives for the better using their gay superpowers, but it’s been retooled for 2018. The revival drops the 2003’s original title ‘For The Straight Guy’ in favor of the cleaner and more all-encompassing Queer Eye, but more noticeably, the new gang moves from New York to the far-more-Red Atlanta, Georgia… you still shouldn’t binge it.
Instead, you should take in all eight episodes with the same meditative care the production had in making one of the most thoughtful reality shows I’ve seen in quite some time. The show is almost identical in the original’s hyper-reality TV tendencies, which were innovative then, but today is particularly Bravo-tacky, but the conversation is noticeably different. We’re different in 2018. Queer Eye knows that in America tensions are high, and no one is really up for another pointless conversation with straight conservatives.
But this isn’t Vice News Tonight. This isn’t a CNN Roundtable Discussion, or even a damn Facebook Thread. And instead of taking some sort of position of authority on social politics, Netflix’s Queer Eye stays in its glossy, reality TV lane. Though, it just so happens that its lane is a deeply Purple and human show that faces huge subjects like police brutality, religion, and even homophobic gay men with more grace and heart than more serious documentary shows.
Queer Eye sets out to makeover deeply straight lives though fashion, food, and grooming but inadvertently — or perhaps naturally — teaches the show’s ‘Fab Five’ some revealing truths about their own lives. With Jonathan Van Ness on Grooming, Antoni Porowski on food, Tan France on fashion, Karamo Brown on culture, and Bobby Berk on design, the team gleefully renovate several straight (and a few queer!) men. Every makeover, the boys end up learning something deeper about how they’ve struggled to resolve differences themselves.
I’m speaking, almost specifically about episode three of the show, where the gay, black culture-guru, Karamo, comes face-to-face with a red-hatted Trump Supporting Georgia Cop, and is inadvertently emotionally triggered by the show’s own production. With Karamo in the driver’s seat, they’re pulled over by a cop as a joke (who turns out to be a friend of the man they’re making over), and it ends up opening a much greater conversation about the levels of hurt felt by Karamo and the Black community at large. Spoilers, it ends softly and sweetly, like every episode, but that’s the point.
Through fluffy, nothing-but-happy-endings reality TV, Queer Eye may end up enlightening not just the straight people getting makeovers, but impacting the queer individuals watching who see some of the conversations that transpire over the season as an impossible, futile task. There’s nothing wrong with taking comfort in the hope that finding resolution with our disagreeing neighbors is possible in our own backyard.
The Atlanta, GA setting brings an extra layer of depth. Seeing the men travel to Little Five Points, Ponce City Market, and all the way out to Marietta Diner makes for a more intimate viewing experience, living in Atlanta. We’re surrounded by diversity at every corner, from Buckhead to College Park, and we’re living our true selves doing it.
Don’t binge all eight episodes of Queer Eye, because if you do, you’ll end up like me and be so emotionally exhausted from crying every. Single. Episode. There’s so much to unpack about this show, and I pray that it creates as lasting an impact as the original, because it’s so necessary right now. Like one of the show’s leads, Tan, said in the first episode, “The original show was about fighting for tolerance, and our fight is for acceptance.”
Tyler Scruggs is a writer and musician living in Atlanta with his partner Mark. When he’s not churning out internet content, he’s paying too much for coffee and buying movie tickets week in advance. Feel free to validate him on Instagram (@Scruggernaut), Twitter (@TylerScruggs), or on Scruff (you'll know it when you see it).