“Queer Eye” is not all that progressive. It’s just a basic makeover show featuring queer representation that is digestible enough to not offend the straights in its audience.
Netflix’s reboot of “Queer Eye” has been praised up and down by nearly everyone since its first season premiered in Feb. 2018. While the show might not be outwardly offensive, it is not the progressive, revolutionary programming it frames itself as. When it comes down to it, “Queer Eye” is yet another basic makeover show meant to perpetuate the idea that a three-day visit and a change of clothes can change someone’s life.
The show may be named “Queer Eye,” but the diversity in terms of queer representation is minimal. For a show to have “queer” in its name but have a cast of only cis-gay men is comical. The spectrum of queerness goes beyond this group of five gay men placed together by producers.
This issue of only having a cast of men could be ignored if the people “Queer Eye” cast as makeover contestants were men, but the show likes to task the Fab Five to help everyone. Where the identities of these men come to the foreground are the episodes in which they attempt to tell the female contestants how to fit into their ideas of femininity. The worst example of this is in the “From Hunter to Huntee” episode in which they tell a woman in rural Missouri what it means to be beautiful.
Not only is “huntee” a botched misspelling of “hunty,” but this is also a word that originated in the ball/drag scene, not among well-off homosexuals with a Netflix show. It feels wrong to have this word donated to a rural, gun-loving, straight Missouri woman and every other straight person indulging in this utopian fantastical TV show. It is bad enough that CNN says “shade” and Katy Perry says “wig”; why must “hunty” be lost to the straights?
Ignoring the etymological concerns, “From Hunter to Huntee” puts forth this idea that gay men can instruct a straight woman as to what femininity is and how to navigate society. This entire episode feels poorly thought out, including the scene at the restaurant where Antoni acts shocked that Jody has not been there before. The Fab Five’s berating of Jody’s way of life comes across as incredibly elitist and not progressive for a show that tries to solve political debates in basically every episode.
The awkward mix of politics and reality TV nonsense is felt strongest from a scene in “From Hunter to Huntee” where Jody and Tan solve the issue of gun control in a literal forty-nine-second conversation that takes place in a J Crew. This milquetoast take on politics is an incredibly annoying plot point that appears regularly on “Queer Eye” because the producers like to act as if one or two short conversations in a car will solve whatever issue the show will claim is at the root of the contestant’s problems. Maybe these conversations would mean more if the Fab Five were more solid in their beliefs, but it seems each of them are so eager to reach moderation.
Talking about the nonsensical politics in “From Hunter to Huntee” is only one reason why this show is not all that. A whole other conversation can be had about Tan’s French tuck having no French or legitimate fashion origins. Another conversation can be had about the only black member of the Fab Five, Karamo, being given the elusive role of “culture.”
“Queer Eye” is not revolutionary or socially progressive. Too many episodes feature this group of metropolitan, pretentious gays going to rural towns and telling contestants that their way of life sucks for this show to continue acting like it is even close to forward thinking. “Queer Eye” might not be horrible, offensive programming, but it is much less queer and far more conservative than it likes to claim itself as.