Netflix’s revamped Queer Eye series is one of the very nicest things I’ve seen this year. In fact, it may be one of the nicest things I’ve EVER seen.
I know I’m fairly late to this particular party. After all, the series re-launched back in February. I’m just glad I finally made it to what’s proving to be a very, very good party.
See, Queer Eye lets me believe the best about people. Amidst a political and social climate that often tends to lack such niceties, Queer Eye is all about inclusiveness, self-empowerment, and celebrating the beauty — both inner and outer — unique to each of us.
You’re saying, “Wait. But isn’t that just a show where a bunch of gay guys give someone a makeover?” Well, yes, at its base. But — as the show’s tagline expresses — nowadays, it’s about so much more than a makeover. It’s about helping people to feel more confident, to identify and overcome whatever’s been holding them back, and to open themselves up to possibility (and yes, to the concept of giving five gay guys free reign over their lives for a week). It’s about getting anyone — and I do mean anyone — to acknowledge and celebrate what’s beautiful about themselves.
Episode after episode, I cry. Happy tears, hopeful tears, grateful tears, redemptive tears, tears that exist only in the presence of absolute sincerity or generosity. All episode, I look forward to when I’ll get to happy-cry. Because that crying is inevitable in the loveliest way. In every episode, there are always a handful of moments where, no matter how tough or jaded you think you are, you’ll find yourself thinking, “Awww. Well that’s just nice.” And it is. It really is.
As a quick search around the internet reveals, “Queer Eye and cry” is a newer, sweeter incarnation of “Netflix and chill.” Viewers the world over have taken to the internet to compare and share which Queer Eye episodes made them cry the most. Hope takes shape in even the least likely places.
So why all the crying? Well, under the guise of giving their makeover subjects advice about personal grooming, cooking, home decor, and relationships, the new Fab Five never fail to genuinely transform how their newly made-over friends feel about themselves. They’re like some perfectly coiffed, perfectly well-dressed, and always enthusiastic version of Dorothy’s Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, helping a shockingly wide range of Dorothys see that they had what it took all along. Because they indeed help all kinds of people: a 57-year-old red-skinned Georgia redneck whose hazardous-waste armchair they unceremoniously throw away; a 36-year-old Indian-American computer programmer and painful introvert drowning in body and dog hair whose personal-space-invasion phobia they wear away through sheer persistence in hugging; a 41-year-old Walmart employee and vegetarian with a serious amount of body hair who learns to make *more than just wraps* as he finds the confidence to propose to his longtime girlfriend, another Walmart employee and vegetarian.
Let’s use the the adorable Walmart employee episode as a brief case study. Over the course of the week, he learns (among other things):
How to put pomade on his hair (from back to front) so that it gets proper height. This is a man who probably never entertained that he’d ever put pomade on his hair, let alone utter the word “pomade.”
How to do the “French tuck,” which is a partial shirt tuck that makes it acceptable to tuck in shirts. This bit seems a bit life-changing for the man, who previously insisted on fully tucking in every shirt he’d ever worn… with appropriately devastating fashion consequences. Picture a t-shirt with holes in it tucked into belted jean shorts and you’ll have a better understanding of the significance of this development.
How to wash his damn face. How incredibly many men would benefit from learning more about what it takes to keep skin healthy? Women and gay men do not have exclusive rights to skin care products such as facial soap, toner, and moisturizer with SPF. A small effort makes a big — and often empowering — difference.
How to make a homemade “Green Goddess” dressing to put on roasted cauliflower. Seriously, all he could make before was these semi-horrifying wraps. His girlfriend was thrilled at the relief from the wrap onslaught.
That he’s a handsome dude under all that hair. He honestly seemed like he never would’ve seen himself that way if the boys hadn’t insisted on making him see it. It’s genuinely sweet to see them genuinely gushing over him.
It’s also pretty damn refreshing to see how warmly and thoroughly the makeover-ees embrace their new gay best friends. After all, the new series is set in various towns throughout Georgia, and not in the former series’ definitively more gay-safe NYC. In other words, in many of the episodes, you’re watching the makeover-ees learn some lessons about accepting others, too.
I never saw the old series. Still, I can’t imagine it was as good as this one. Because I feel like the current Fab Five — as well as everyone else who plays a role in making the show happen — is creating something that’s a deliberate, direct response to the judgment, hate, prejudice, fear, and negativity that too often overwhelms almost everywhere else in the media. The Queer Eye crew knows exactly what they’re doing. With their hair dryers, tailored shirts, hummus recipes, tasteful throw pillows, and pro-love life advice, they’re doing their part to combat the madness.
All this to say, next time you’re having one of those days where you’re thinking, “Does everyone fucking suck?”, try out some Queer Eye. Indulge in and feel oddly cleansed by some happy tears. Learn about pomade, toner, and thread count. Appreciate the mere existence of this sweet band of modern-day American heroes who have found a way to use their grooming and lifestyle powers to daily promote the love of self and others. Most importantly, be compelled to remember that people really are capable of being good to one another.