‘Queer Eye’ reboot not just for the straight guy

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Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service

Netflix’s “Queer Eye.”

By Ashvini Malshe , Columnist

Over the past several weeks, thanks to datafication, I’ve seen Netflix’s “Queer Eye” repeatedly advertised to me on my various social media dashboards.

I’m a consumer of LGBTQ-oriented media, like Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” and “Shadowhunters,” so it makes sense that I’m part of their target demographic.

And indeed, Netflix’s cookies know me well because I absolutely loved this remake of the early 2000s Emmy-winning cult favorite. What I appreciate most is that this time around, it’s not solely concentrated on improving the lives of straight men but queer men as well.

Personally, I hope to see a wide spectrum of gender and sexuality represented if we’re so lucky as to get multiple seasons, and I have no doubt we will.

Originally titled “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” the reboot made me emotional and elated episode after episode, as it’s heavy with themes of self-acceptance, self-love, pride, family, freedom and male vulnerability.

The show is oriented around the “Fab Five” — Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Antoni Porowski and Jonathan Van Ness — who reinvent men all over Atlanta, Georgia, who face various personal crises in the areas of design, culture, fashion, food and grooming, of which they’re all experts in their own right.

While the five gentlemen do focus on improving and evolving aspects of their mentees’ appearances and insecurities, they’re always determined to retain their essential goodness and inherent attractiveness. They emphasize that these are aspects all these men have, however hidden they may be.

It’s wonderfully heartfelt to watch these men mentor individuals struggling with their inner demons, from issues of self-confidence to alienation from the outside world. The breakthroughs they make, as a result, are incredible and especially rewarding to see.

In an opinion column from The Guardian, Penelope Blackmore writes about how this particular reboot of “Queer Eye” may be lending itself to “deconstructing toxic masculinity.” And I believe this to be true; this show focuses on exploring and dissecting masculinity and its nuances.

It also confronts the tough realities of life and death and just how much they negatively affect the men being made over. There was an episode where a young man and his best friend had taken to living in his late grandmother’s house, unable to move on from her death.

The pilot episode encountered the life of a loving grandfather who found himself unattractive after years of emotional heartbreak.

This show creates uplifting experiences that welcome men, including everyone from “gay guys, rednecks, cops and Christians.” The diversity of these people and the commitment and genuineness of the “Fab Five” hold tightly together the beautiful moments where these men can take happiness in who they are while making some much needed changes in their daily lives.

Still, the “Fab Five” make sure to “unpack” stigmas the men may feel, from homophobia to police brutality. They confront these issues with consideration and patience, and it’s refreshing to see both sides of a usually combative coin actually sit down and have an intellectual conversation about these crucial issues, over an aperitif and sangria.

To me, this show is a necessity, especially in this current state of politics where we find our president to have a shameful history of bigotry and offhand chauvinism, much to the detriment of those who are vulnerable and not in the majority in this country.

Specifically, this includes anyone who isn’t white, male, heterosexual, wealthy and powerful.

Knowing this, I stress that “Queer Eye” is not just for a distinct audience. It’s accessible for anyone looking for some type of motivation to pursue a personal renaissance.

The show is for any individual who wants to view men of various backgrounds join together and share laughs and tears in what is truly an impactful attempt at breaking societal beliefs about the hegemony of what a man is and should be.

It turns out there is no right, acceptable framework for a man to fit in. The “Fab Five” themselves reinforce that.

In an interview with the BUILD Series, Bobby Berk, on behalf of the rest of the five, makes an excellent point of saying they “also aren’t just a bunch of gay guys out there going, ‘Hey, we know how to dress better than you, we know how to do hair better, we know how to decorate because we’re gay!’”

Berk affirms that, “We’re just five guys, who’re just coming together to help make somebody better, and not because we’re gay, but just because we’re experts in the fields we happen to be in.”

And it’s this that sets the tone for the show; identity is complex. There is no point focusing on one of the many facets of who you are to feel right. It’s embracing all your unique personal qualities, in the perspective of taking care of yourself and with confidence, that lets you live and thrive with all the freedom you deserve.

Don’t we all deserve that type of freedom?

Ashvini is a senior in LAS.

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