Growing up with an interior designer mother, I watched a lot of TLC. We’re talking What Not To Wear, Trading Spaces, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. If the show had a whiff of Ty Burrell’s hair gel, we tuned in. Even my v basic brothers have a rudimentary appreciation for crown molding and know to check under carpet for original hardwood flooring.
And the only reason I never talked myself into chunky highlights or horizontal stripes is because of Patron Saints of Ladies Whose Friends Aren’t Honest With Them, Stacy and Clinton.
Erryone, me especially, loves a good transformation show and even though it’s a tried and true formula, no show does it quite as charmingly and thoroughly as Netflix’s revamped Queer Eye.
If you, like me, had never seen the OG QE, the premise of the show is five gay men (yup, unironically called the Fab Five) who specialize in different areas of life take an *aggressively* straight man and help him see his full potential. After a week, the men are truly unrecognizable. From their food, home, clothes, grooming, and general demeanor, these men who were once drowning in toxic masculinity are transformed into guys you’d actually not avoid in a bar….usually with a fresh fade and four inches less of a beard.
The show is uniquely compelling for three reasons:
1. The show runners are genuinely lovely souls. You can tell Jonathon, Tan, Karamo, Bobby, and Antoni are sincerely real friends. They do everything with such kindness and selflessness. They’re servant-hearted, and if you’re thinking “Maggie, it’s all fake” then WATCH ONE SINGLE EPISODE AND IF YOU’RE NOT CRYING BECAUSE OF THEIR KINDNESS THEN … idk, honestly your loss.
The Fab Five are never mean-spirited and constantly encouraging. There’s no bitchy cattiness. They’re able to look at a mouth-breathing neckbeard and see the man underneath in a way I obviously can’t if I’m using the term “neckbeard” so liberally.
2. You learn *so much*. Okay, sure, I’ll never need to know how to groom a beard or the function of a pocket square but I learned a boss guac recipe I can’t wait to try out when I get to the States. From simple design tricks to social media, you appreciate that the Fab Five know their sh*t. My dad doesn’t know it yet, but some of his Dad Jeans™ may go missing next time I’m home.
3. QE did the impossible for me. IT LITERALLY HEALED ME.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s the new Gen Z thing to say that things are so pure that it heals your acne, your IBS, and that scar on your leg from where you sat on a curling iron on accident while watching Beverly Hills 90210 when you were in 8th grade, but I really mean it!
Living in Southeast Asia has made me really hardened against Western men because the only ones I see (outside of the NGO sector) are sex-pats. Creepy white men “dating” young nationals or just being suspicious in general. I realized that I just started lumping creepy white men in Southeast Asia for dubious reasons with creepy white men in general and then just men in general. I immediately write off dudes who are in bars or cafes alone, who maintain eye contact for a fraction longer than necessary.
But QE made these men *sympathetic* to me. From the trucker to the recluse app-designer to the 33 year old still living in his parents’ basement to the clueless suburban dad, I started to see them for what they were- just people drowning in insecurity.
The Fab Five care about their craft but care more about what made these men give up on themselves. They’re lonely, isolated, overworked, under-appreciated, or self-loathing. At the end though, they literally see themselves differently. It’s amazingly refreshing to see men show pride in themselves in a way that isn’t cocky or domineering.
In one episode, a guy kept saying “you can’t fix ugly”, and one of the Fab Five stopped him and said something along the lines of “you’re my friend and I never want to hear you say that again.” For maybe the first time in DECADES, someone encouraged this guy to actually like himself.
I realized that women are taught from an early age that vulnerability is our greatest asset in a society which automatically imposes low self-esteem. But men are just as affected and aren’t taught healthy coping mechanisms, like hugging and showing affection. Every time the Fab 5 ended an episode embracing a hug-deprived guy, I just sobbed.
So yeah, QE taught me that guys deserve love, and friendship, and body wash that smells like Beyoncé and flowers just as much as women. And that’s the magic of QE- the undercurrent of the show isn’t dance lessons or properly-fitting pants or learning to cook food not in a microwave- but human connection.
The men came with different politics and opinions about gay people but that wasn’t focused on one bit. It wasn’t about division but friends helping friends. And that’s what we need to see more of on television these days- families showing pride in their homes, firefighters celebrating their brotherhood, a white cop having a heart-to-heart with a black man, a group of friends supporting each other.
But know that Netflix leaves you emotionally dead when you binge all of its episodes in one night and realized you cried your mascara off.
Magpie Reviews: 9/10