Queer Eye is reality television at its most saccharine, yet its honest approach to human decency and fundamental emotional change has seen the Fab Five become an immovable part of our modern culture. There's just something about them that appeals to everyone in the best of ways whether you’re straight, queer, or anywhere inbetween.
Emerging in the wake of Trump's presidency in the midst of a nation embroiled by political divide, this slice of fabulous positivity sought to break boundaries and repair rifts across a country that seemed intent on sabotaging itself. Where you were from or what you stood for didn't matter, only that you needed help and the people who cared for you most made that clear. It was sweet, refreshing, and continues to be a magnetic watch on Netflix.
While it can be easy to dismiss the wholesome nature of Queer Eye as sentimental pandering, it has managed to circumvent that wicked sweetness with such a wide range of voices and locales spread across its myriad seasons. Liberal, conservative, and centrist parts of America are viewed from a new light, and not the rigid political bastions we often see presented in the mainstream media.
Texas is often said to be all about guns, cowboys, bigotry, and jumping aboard the Trump Train, but Queer Eye seeks to invade this space and present it as something more, a place where people from all walks of life reside and try to live their best possible existence. I’ve only been to a handful of States, but outside of games and literature I haven’t seen a show depict so many places with such contemporary honesty. Of course, we see plenty of fanciful camera angles and a focus on queer walks of life, but just as much time is spent delving into the homes of struggling mothers, anxious young men, and trans people who call Texas their home despite the baggage that comes with its legacy.
I started the sixth season earlier this week and was immediately bowled over. It was both a solid reminder that my current dose of hormones makes me an emotional mess and that Antoni, Tan, Bobby, Karamo, and Jonathan are yet to reach their peak. There is just something special about watching four gay men and a non-binary queen enrich the lives of people who aren’t even aware they need help, highlighting familial struggles and self-esteem issues that have long remained hidden under a veil of insecurity. As human beings we all want to be better, and Queer Eye examines that mantra time and time again with untold success.
This is especially true for LGBTQ+ people, which the show often places front and centre with a level of nuanced fluidity that I never would have fathomed even a handful of years ago. I remember the original Queer Eye For A Straight Guy on Channel 4, which essentially featured a handful of gay men leaning into stereotypes while demonising straight people in a way that seldom helped their cause. It was likely a fault of the production climate at the time that the finished product seemed so problematic, and even watching a few short minutes of it today leaves me wanting to hide in the nearest closet. I’m so glad things are getting better.
A highlight of this new season is ‘Angel Gets Her Wings’ which focuses on a transgender woman who doesn’t wish to be a cliched symbol of femininity. Having come out a few short years ago, Angel is a gorgeous powerlifter who has found confidence in her athletic ability and a community that cares about her. Her partner supports her transition, her gym is a queer haven, and the majority of her family is there to help them flourish in this newfound identity. But like most trans people, doubts linger and dysphoria can pin her down with no conceivable means of escape. I’m still trapped in this place, but seeing Queer Eye examine it in such a sharp and accurate way had me tearing up about how much the show managed to understand the struggles that so many transgender people face.
Coming out as an adult means you are often working or studying while adjusting to a whole new lifestyle. You’re learning how to dress, behave, speak, and abide by cisnormative social constraints just to be gendered correctly, while also chasing healthcare that for so many is out of reach. Lots ofpeople in the queer community harm themselves or worse as a result of situations they sometimes have no control over, and it’s a broken system far from being fixed. Queer Eye doesn’t delve too deep into the political weeds, since Angel’s story is relatively positive in the grand scheme of things, yet her struggles are relatable to people like me and those who are trying to find themselves in a world that moves so fast.
As an athlete she often wears tight gym clothes that cling to her figure, manifesting a fear that her arms, thighs, and other areas are too muscular to ever be considered feminine. The same can be said for her face and hair, which she admits will throw her into a dysphoric anxiety attack whenever the idea of applying make-up or trying to be who she wants to be is ever even entertained. In situations like you often need to be pushed, or have someone hold your hand and tell you that happiness is possible even if it’s only through a few small yet meaningful changes. Jonathan and Tan show just that, uncovering beauty that was always present, but just hidden away waiting to be presented in a whole new context.
I’m not sure about other trans people, but the euphoria that comes from walking in front of a mirror when wearing a flowing dress or a sexy outfit for the first time is unmatched. You’ll erupt into a fountain of smiles for a few brief seconds as the person in the reflection is you. Not a dysphoric window into the past filled with depression and regret, but a glimpse into a future where you can finally be happy. Queer Eye allows me to relive this magic through the joy of other people, while I’m continuing to chase that high again and again in my own life.
It’s unbridled positivity, a temporary respite in a world where our rights are continually questioned and harassment remains a common problem for transgender people. We need representation, we need support, and we need shows like Queer Eye to present us as an aspect of societal normalcy that isn’t to be oogled as some form of oddity. We are just people, wanting to live, fall in love, and be happy in a climate that feels set against us achieving just that. Sure, it’s overly saccharine and idyllic, but that’s okay.
I have a soft spot for queer stories that are messy, genuine, and exist outside the realm of hetero- and cisnormative acceptance – and so do many other creators – but the mainstream often needs a guiding hand, or a slap on the wrist to show them what is right and wrong. My mum watches Queer Eye, and while she accepts who I am, there’s a handful of doubts between us that I’ll never be the daughter I want her to see me as.
Queer Eye offers a sanitised perspective on such a mindset, and could serve to change the approach of so many people who still need to show their active support for trans people. I’m delighted the Fab Five was able to help Angel find herself, and perhaps this show will act as a catalyst to many others to do just that. If any of you are reading this please come to my flat for cocktails.
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