To unwind I've been watching a lot of Queer Eye on Netflix. Some things that are true at the same time:
a) This show a pretty lovely counter-balance to homophobia and toxic masculinity, right? "Hi, we're a group of kind, gentle, warm men who are here to talk about being nice to yourself and how it's okay to care about appearances and have feelings."
b) It's not radical and it's not perfect (GIANT SIDE-EYE FOR ALL USES OF THE WORD 'SPIRIT ANIMAL' IN S3E7) but I think the creators are trying to do good and be good. Hopefully the show's popularity and gentle, positive approach is doing some necessary and important work for representation as well as helping the individual subjects.
c) It is a reality show that, like all "unscripted" shows, reveals some predictable beats and tropes over time.
d) There is one giant glaring topic that all the language about "self-care" and "investing time in yourself" skates over. Can you guess what it is?
Maybe it will come clear as you read my Spoiler-Free Recap of Every Episode of Queer Eye.
[Driving Scene Where We Learn All About About This Week's Subject (And Unless Bobby Is Driving I Feel Mild To Severe Panic)]
[We meet the subject, the person that nominated them, and see B-roll of the person's life.]
[The Fab 5 show up at the house and get a sense of where they should direct their attention.]
I'll let the team take it from here in their own words:
Tan: "I'm going to teach you how to do the French Tuck and wear jeans that actually fit you."
Karamo: "I'm going to figure out your childhood traumas and then find the right theater warm-up exercise or visual metaphor for you."
Antoni: "Meet my best friend, Mr. Avocado!"
Bobby: "Cool to meet you, good luck with all the feelings stuff, I gotta get busy remodeling, but don't worry, they'll tag me back in if I need to sort out your complex relationships with family abandonment or fleeing your toxic church."
Jonathan: "YASSSSSSS GIRL! You look amazing!"
Tan: "Have you ever thought about wearing a color?"
Jonathan: "Would you like to learn how to walk in heels? No? Sorry bitch, we're' doing it anyway!"
Antoni: "When I'm hungry I like to introduce Mr. Avocado to my other friend, Mr. Radish. That is called a sandwich."
Bobby: "I got done with your house early so I remodeled the rest of the block and turned the median strip into a bike path."
Tan: "Ok, let's back up. Could you NAME a color. Literally, any color, just say the word out loud."
Karamo: "Sometimes colors are what we have instead of feelings."
Antoni: "Let's host a housewarming party. We're going to take some corn and wrap it in lettuce. Your guests will know that you care about them, but it will also be a pot luck, where they bring most of the food."
Bobby: "I revitalized your economically depressed downtown and put in planters all up and down Main Street Also the local prison is now a garden."
Jonathan: "YASSSSSSSS! Vegetable kingdom realness! Ok, now taking time to moisturize is how you have time to make important stuff like world peace."
Karamo: "I have framed these photos of your ancestors."
Tan: "Look, it's a shirt with a print. It will make people think you have a personality if you wear it."
Antoni: "Cooking for yourself can be a journey of self-love. I won't be cooking anything else this episode, but I did helpfully wrap everything in your fridge in lettuce. You have sandwiches now."
Jonathan: "Shut UP. Don't talk about my friend [SUBJECTNAME] like that. Those aren't man-boobs, those are Me-pillows. Let's snuggle on your bed forever and you can tell me your dreams."
Bobby: "All the homeless veterans in the tri-county area have built themselves tiny houses outfitted by West Elm and joined my staff as carpenter-wizards."
Tan: "I know how much you love Camo, here is extremely expensive Camo. You'll blend into the background except for your sparkling personality, and the editor will help by cutting out all the times you asked me if I’m a terrorist.”
Karamo: "We're going to dance it out, now. I got us these packing crates and a bunch of driftwood."
Antoni: "What do YOU like to cook? Would you cook some of it for me?"
Jonathan: "I have created the following 75 step grooming routine for you. This is pomade. These nine other things are also pomade. Honestly, if you just start brushing your teeth I'll be happy."
Antoni: "Srsly help I'm starving."
Bobby: "Your local school board had a vacancy, I'm the president of it now, also I revived your arts education program and reduced class sizes."
[Obligatory Fashion Show Where Remodel is Revealed Newly Groomed Person Shows Off Their New Duds]
[Obligatory Tearful Couch Group Interview Before Fab 5 Abscond to Loft]
Queer Eye Subject: "You are all so amazing. What is your secret?"
Bobby: "MONEY. Also I may or may not be a sorcerer."
Tan: "Honestly? Money. Developing taste is good, being able to replace every stitch of clothing in your wardrobe's gonna cost you."
Karamo: "We're empathetic, we have good taste, and we're nice to you! Also, we bring money. Not me, personally, Bobby and Tan have most of the budget which is why you and I had to paint your fears on gravel from your driveway yesterday. But if I were being honest, we inject a lot of money into your life, strategically, in a way that makes the most photogenic transformation narrative."
Jonathan: "MONEY, QUEEN! SLAY!"
[Shot of team laughing and Jonathan kicking up his heels as he angles to snuggle closer to the subject]
Jonathan, after a pause: "Seriously, I'd love to say it's my belief that everyone is beautiful that's so transformative, but let's be real. You were a great person before we showed up, now you're a great person with a nicer house and a cool wardrobe. P.S. I know I bought you way too many products, that's 'cause they're expensive and I don't want you to go feral the second you run out."
Antoni: "Me & Mr. Avocado are just along for the ride."
[Cut to B-Roll Insert of goofy dancing]
Antoni: (chastened) All right, you got me. That depressing food you, 'A Poor,' were feeding your kids and your one irreplaceable precious body is cheap and quick to prepare, and eating healthy is expensive and time-consuming. I honestly have zero expectation that you will be able to sustain any of the things I 'taught' you on your income, which is why I tried to keep it simple and make sure you at least had one nice meal at a local restaurant to remember this experience by."
Tan: "We're very very good at what we do, especially me, but we're not magicians. "
Jonathan: "Speak for yourself, honey!"
Bobby, his face carefully neutral, leans in for one last hug and stealthily passes subject a note. It reads:
"Be cool, don't look up. Thanks to product placement and sponsorships, Tan and I came in under budget, so we stashed all the spare cash we could around the place when the crew wasn't looking. Call me if you need anything, anything at all, we are true friends now, and I'll be in town a lot for school board meetings."
[The editor cuts the bit with the note out, skipping ahead to a final-closeup where the subject looks up tearfully before the team says their goodbyes.]
[Loft Scene, B-roll of cute dog and rest of team politely eating cucumber slices that Antoni has topped with...something]
[Takeaway tip that people who are viewing at home are supposed to be able to apply on their own, minus Fab 5 supervision or money]
Thank you to Ana Mardoll for hosting & indulging the seed of this concept in xer Twitter DMs the other day. This started from a Twitter conversation about disability, relationships, and stress and how honestly we'd love it if a group of nice people descended to show each and every person who wants that how to pick out flattering clothes and organize storage solutions, but so many of the things that plague us and the people we love could be solved with applying sufficient quantities of money at regular intervals. Money to move away from toxic home environments. Money to afford to live without roommates. Money to track down reliable mental health support and health care. Money that doesn't tie human worth to economic output.
Thanks, Patrons and readers who donate via PayPal and other platforms, for being the ones who smooth the way for me and mine.