As entertainment it's tedious, unimaginative, almost insultingly stupid and strangely crude - as a cultural statement does nobody any favors
'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy': Network: Bravo; Genera: makeover; Content Rating: TV-PG; Classification: Contemporary (Star range: 1 - 4)
Season Reviewed: series
For those that have been living like a lizard under a rock for the past year, the ambitiously titled 'Queer Eye for the Straight Guy' puts a slob straight guy in the hands of 5 gay ones, each of them specializing in a different area of life-changing. All the talk about the 5 co-hosts being gay is a nice diversion from the point. 'Queer Eye' is designed for the express purpose of reeling in the Oprah Demographic. A powerful TV market that likes makeover shows, but more than that, the success of the demographic is based on the idea that women don't necessarily want to see strong, witty, independent women on TV as much as they want to see men making fools of themselves. That, and the idea that the only way to really be a man is to get in touch with your feminine side. 'Queer Eye' is an unmistakable but admittedly clever spin on this type of show. Gay and Straight, a lot of men end up looking like fools here.
First and foremost, the show is painfully unfunny an evolutionary leap down from being just not funny. In this regard, the show's gimmick is essential, because 5 straight guys could never get away with acting this silly. Otherwise, the show is a routine bore and at a full hour an overly long one. All that after an intro that is so wildly over the top in its attempt to exude fabulousness it is an unintentionally laughable. They've got a couple of bizarre, interesting tips on how to fab things up if you're in a jam and need to improvise with household items which they showcase at the tail end of the episodes. However, that's the least of what 'Queer Eye' is about. We're supposed to laugh at their wacky antics, possibly hiss Carson for hogging the spotlight with his crass one-liners and root for their out-and-proud flamboyantly over-the-top homosexuality. We're supposed to think that watching this show will make people more "tolerant".
I like that 'Queer Eye' comes from a place that treats homosexuality less like a sexuality and more like a culture with larger things on it's mind. It has a mission and proclaims loudly that the reason the stereotype of the gay man being well groomed and possessing excellent, feminine-like fashion sense is because it's true. Problem is, speaking from a TV landscape point of view - we've seen this all before. A show that showed gay men with beer guts, fixing cars, wearing wife-beater shirts and voting Republican - now that would have been bold and daring.
But like everyone else about this show the gay men are designed to be easily recognizable to the drive-by viewer. The 'Law & Order' school of casting. Their entire world seems to revolve around being gay to the point that the show makes this an issue and the series, overall, into a fad. In the process they manage to package and commercialize the gay culture, siphon off from the straight culture and disperse it out into the mainstream. The end result being that the culture gets homogenized for the sake of a reality TV fad until it no longer as a uniqueness and identity of its own and guys like Carson are standing out on a street corner screaming to get noticed for how wacky they are - and, nightmarishly, nobody cares.
As I said the straight men and women are equally represented. Slob men learn the value of vanity, materialism, makeup and hair and women get to achieve their dream of changing their man. Hell, we could have gotten this on 'Lizzie McGuire'. The women on the show are particularly peculiar. It's unclear why they didn't just turn tail and run at the first sight of their boyfriend's nasty apartments and avoid this entire mess. In the much-talked-about wedding proposal episodes (there will surely be more) we're supposed to swoon over how sweet it is that these women accept a proposal after the guys have cleaned themselves up and become a total walking fraud of their former selves. Well, nobody said that the heterosexual relationship promoted individuality either.
So in the end we're left with nothing we hadn't already seen or heard from the start. That and a few odd household tips. 'Queer Eye' is merely a cog in a perpetual wheel of clichés bounding around trying to make everybody feel good about themselves in the simplest possible ways. As entertainment it's tedious, unimaginative, almost insultingly stupid and strangely crude.
* / 4
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