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Netflix’s Queer Eye is soothing for the soul

After an exhausting week filled with long days and short showers, I fell into my couch, ready to glue my eyes to any TV show mindless enough to put my brain on standby. Netflix quickly proffered its latest tribute: Queer Eye, the rebooted makeover show about a group of five gay men eager to turn other men’s lives around.

In it, I found much more than easy entertainment. Queer Eye is filled with love and good intentions. It’s so soothing, in fact, it feels like a rejuvenating face mask for the soul — in that it probably won’t do as much it professes, but for now, it’s just enough.

The premise is simple: the group (dubbed the Fab 5) find men in need of a little help and guide them in the areas of fashion, grooming, interior design, food, and culture. The original show — Queer Eye for the Straight Guy — was aired in 2003 to cultivate tolerance, one of the Fab 5 declares in the first rebooted episode. But now? They’re working towards acceptance.

It’s a noble goal, and one the show probably won’t get for the LGBT community as a whole; its queerness is limited to cis gay men, and its “wokeness” is a little sleepier than it would have you believe. But that doesn’t really matter, because the acceptance Queer Eye pushes more than anything is the acceptance of self.

In the pilot episode, the Fab 5 works with a 57-year-old man who repeatedly describes himself as ugly. The group rebuts his insecurities, showering him in compliments while teaching him the power of self-confidence.

The Fab 5’s purpose is to teach self-love and acceptance

In another episode, a closeted gay man tells them he dresses in baggy clothing so as not to look too effeminate or too gay. The Fab 5 recounts their own personal experiences to highlight the importance of embracing who you are despite society’s hang-ups.

Sometimes, the healing even extends to members of the Fab 5. One episode that sticks out centres on a Trump-supporting cop, Cory, whose friend (another cop) thinks it will be funny to fake pulling the team over by means of introduction. Karamo, the only black member of the Fab 5, is driving — and his body stiffens the moment the cop starts acting strange.

Later, Karamo brings this up with Cory, telling him how he was terrified he would be dragged away by the cop. Cory acknowledges this, and the two share a small moment listening to the other’s anxieties about police brutality. Nothing is particularly gained — no system is fixed — but Karamo seems eased by the small interaction.

Queer Eye tackles big issues in small ways

And that’s more the point of Queer Eye. The show tackles big issues in small ways — ways that will help heal individuals while not necessarily taking massive strides for society as whole.

By the end of every episode, the men that the Fab 5 help look genuinely relieved for the emotional weight the group lifts off their chests. And, sure, nothing big may have changed. The men probably won’t keep grooming their beards, and their newfound guacamole skills won’t ease their relationship woes, but Queer Eye leaves you with the feeling that maybe the men have learned to love themselves and the people around them just a little bit more.

It’s a small peace in a world of big anxiety, and that’s a blessing this tired girl won’t be shunning any time soon.

Author | Julia Breakey

Julia Breakey
Julia is a UCT film graduate with a passion for dogs, media, and dog-centric media. If she's not gushing about the new television show that you need to watch, she's rewatching The Good Place (which you need to watch). More

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