Format: Web Series
Movie Rated: 16+
Genre: Lifestyle, Reality-TV
Digital Premiere Date: 5 June 2020
Sure, reality TV is no prestige television, but god knows that it’s addictive. And if you’re done with the semi-nude hot-bods stuck in a villa by the beach, or just the same old singing competition in different formats, then the least reality TV can provide is feel-good uplifting content. Queer Eye (now in its fifth season of the ‘Straight Guy’ version reboot) is what we should probably call ‘prestige reality TV’ because it is one of the most wholesome experiences that you can have watching real people and their stories. And it’s got makeovers… help me, God, because it feels like Christmas in this lockdown.
Not much has changed over the last four seasons, not even in that detour to Japan. This time, the ‘fab 5’ are in Philadelphia. To give the completely clueless a little insight, ‘Queer Eye’ is about regular people who are helped in dealing with personal issues, embracing their inner (and outer beauty), and getting a wholesome makeover by five men, all of whom don’t necessarily label themselves on the queer spectrum. There’s sweet Bobby, who is in charge of changing up the chosen one’s living space, the stylish Tan, who fixes the wardrobe, sensitive Antoni who gives advice (and a few lessons) on cooking, perky Jonathan who looks into grooming, and finally, the wise Karamo who is just the therapist we all need. The forty-something minute's episode usually starts with the boys evaluating the person’s life via testimonials and tapes, and at the end, the person is transformed, with a newfound respect for themselves and their life.
Where Queer Eye becomes different from the run-of-the-mill makeover shows is this: that it doesn’t pick up people off the street who ‘just need a makeover desperately,’ because the show isn’t judgemental. It’s not about whiny or bitchy or spoilt brides just trying to freeload through their special day, because in these people’s lives, every day is meant to be special. Why? Because they are special. A gay pastor who tries to promote inclusivity and diversity at church, a formerly homeless man now feeds the needy, a young kid puts all her drive and passion into saving the environment, a paediatrician balances her work and home life, a devoted wife gives all to help her husband during a tough time… these are just a few of the people who aren’t just the subjects of the Queer Eye makeover, but the deserving recipients of the chance of a lifetime.
If you aren’t, however, someone who isn’t familiar with the ethos of the show already, then be assured that season five is at par with the seasons that made you fall in love with the gang before. The lesson is still empowerment in self-love and self-acceptance. And who better than the five most empathetic hosts to see that through. To diminish the value of a simple paint job to someone’s room, a good piece of furniture that relaxes you after a rough day, the right shade of lipstick or heels for a very tall woman, would be doing this theme a huge disservice. As we see at the end of every episode, the final reveal (no matter how small or big it is) means loads to the person in concern, and their closest family and friends. And do we not deserve something that essentially celebrates these little joys of life that help you create even bigger ones? At its core, Queer Eye is part of a larger movement which celebrates individuality and social transformation, and the show does a great job in packaging that narrative in a pink and feathered giftbox.
While we can’t evaluate performances in Queer Eye, there are certain quirks and witticisms that differentiate each of the Fab 5, thus making them a great team. In the fourth season, it was revealed that Antoni Porowski had a sour relationship with his mother. This really comes through in the episodes of season 5 where you can see him visibly emotional during reconciliations. Meanwhile, Jonathan is obviously all of the show’s energy wrapped into one with on-the-pur catchphrases aplenty. Karamo still remains the guy who wears the slogan t-shirts that we all want to make our own statements by. But aside from the frivolity and fun of going shopping, there’s also a great emotional intensity to the show where people often discuss their innermost hopes and fears, their dark pasts and their tumultuous journeys. This is the time where the gang’s understanding and empathetic nature really shines through. Even if you don’t watch the first few seasons to catch up, you can still sense the difficult and gruelling journeys these boys have had in just having to acknowledge their identities, and then, of course, sharing them with the world.
Nominated by families and friends, the people chosen this time around are definitely more diverse than previous seasons. Not to mention, there is something small and powerful to learn from each of their journeys. The show’s biggest strength still lies in how Tan, Jonathan, Antoni, Karamo and Bobby so seamlessly create a new look (and life) for the person by giving their special twists to their own departments but still as a team. There are also personal moments of catharsis in some episodes where one of them may find more resonance than the other, which reminds us that this show is still about real people with real struggles. But it’s still light, sunny and positive. Each section is divided by an inspirational quote by important public and historical figures, constantly reminding us to value ourselves but not judge others. The format and theme is such that Queer Eye has the potential to keep running for an unforeseeable future.
At a basic level, Queer Eye is a makeover show which promotes upgrading your look and lifestyle to feel better. This isn’t a bad message in the modern world, not at all. But it is not one that is universally accepted either. If the viewer sees the larger picture that the show fits in, there is little to see as a drawback here.
Music and Other Departments
Unlike the Japanese Holiday, there is plenty to look at in beautiful Philly in this season. If I can say so, the look and feel of this season is as ‘gorgeous’ and ‘fabulous’ as Jonathan’s styling tips. There’s plenty of fashion to try and emulate, and enough of those peppy dance numbers to let your inner freak fly at the next party.
Did I Enjoy It?
Yes! The Queer Eye gang is one that you’d want to be friends with. This is a heartening warm hug of a binge-watch.
Do I Recommend It?
Yes! The lockdown is an uncertain time where not all of us are feeling like the best versions of ourselves nor are we finding reasons to do so. If any show can give you a sliver of motivation to love yourself more at this time (like this one does), I’d be a fool to not recommend it.