Ever since the show rebooted earlier this year, Queer Eye has grown into its own phenomenon of positivity and empowerment. Hosted by five gay men of varying backgrounds and expertise referred to as the Fab Five, this reality television show features men nominated by friends or family to receive a life makeover. Often, these episodes incorporate compelling emotional breakthroughs that tackle weighty personal baggage related to romance, self-worth, or loneliness, all while still maintaining an approachable and warm atmosphere.
Inherent in the show’s premise, though, is the representation of gay men as multifaceted and talented individuals as well as the motive to normalize gay culture. The first season, based in Georgia, had moments of tension derived from straight men’s lack of exposure to gay culture.
Queer Eye leans towards embracing these tricky situations to create moments of learning and vulnerability in the face of differing lifestyles and ideologies.
After an extremely successful first season, Netflix recently announced June 15th as the release date for the second season.
Anticipation runs high for the next season, especially as Queer Eye’s popularity within entertainment has grown readily visible. The Fab Five has accumulated a mass following, with each member having over 600,000 followers on Instagram.
It is common to see them support each other and playfully interact on social media, while news outlets regularly report on them. However, as the Fab Five catapult into ever-growing prominence as celebrities, we as an audience are more prone to simplifying Queer Eye’s progress as an exceptional gay representation instead of understanding and discussing its problematic areas.
Yaz Lancaster, a Black and non-binary NYU graduate student, describes a conversation about the show with a friend who is a Southeast Asian member of the LGBTQ+ community: “He didn’t like the show because it was ‘too white’ and because it had an ableist mindset to it—that if these guys simply listened to all the advice of the Fab Five, their lives would be better, that they were choosing to be unhappy and that these simple actions would make them happy.”
Lancaster similarly grapples with the show, in that they can see the good intentions and have felt moved by the transformations but cannot reconcile the dissonance that comes from “[using] gayness to navigate and fix the issues with masculinity in straight white men.”
In the midst of celebrity culture, we collectively recall a watered-down, marketable version of Queer Eye and lose sight of these larger, necessary discussions about it. With an issue as broad and complicated as gay representation, one television show cannot singlehandedly fix decades worth of lack, nor can it get everything completely right in its first season.
What matters with groundbreaking entertainment like Queer Eye is the restlessness of both the show and its audience to continue moving forward. The Fab Five revealed that this next season will include women and trans people, reflecting the show’s desire for innovation. This move towards more diversity is hopefully another exciting step forward that can spark the discussion required for progress.