‘Queer Eye:’ A new kind of reality
Gina Twardosz | Tuesday, April 2, 2019
“I’m not here to make friends!”
This is a common expression among the colorful cast members of reality television’s finest: “Real Housewives,” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Project Runway.” But what about a reality show where the cast is devoted to friendship and self-love? When Netflix debuted its “Queer Eye” reboot in 2018, the series took the internet by storm, picking up where “Parks and Recreation’s” Retta left off. But, the guys from “Queer Eye” do more than just instill the value of treating yourself in the people they help.
Over the course of the past two seasons, viewers had a lot of fun simply getting to know the Fab Five and the work that they do. Twitter users rejoiced in aligning themselves with one of the Fab Five (I am Bobby Berk: the most powerful and underrated). But, with Netflix’s newly released third season, something has changed.
The new season features a lot more interventions, spotlighting the work of Karamo Brown, a licensed social worker. Episode 3, “When Robert Met Jamie,” features one of the most powerful scenes of the season. In it, Karamo helps a future groom come to terms with his lack of self-esteem. Brown brings the groom, Robert, to a dance studio and tells him to write positive words about himself on the mirrors in the studio. At first, Robert writes general words like “good,” “father” and “funny.” But he soon grows more confident, choosing more meaningful words like “loved,” and positive descriptors like “built” instead of “fat.” At the end of the exercise, the message is apparent: Everyone has trauma, but there’s no reason to let trauma take control.
This season marks the first time the Fab Five has helped a queer woman of color. The episode “Black Girl Magic” features the woman, a self-described “lumberjack lesbian” named Jess, guiding viewers through her journey and generating new discussions about what it means to be both a lesbian and black. The episode challenges the notions of what a family is and can be.
After coming out to her family, Jess’ family kicked her out of the house, and she was forced to move in with a friend (who would eventually nominate her for “Queer Eye”). During the episode, Jess immediately connects with Karamo and Berk. Like Jess, Berk’s family also disowned him after he came out them. Karamo becomes a strong, black role model for Jess, who was bullied in high school for not being black enough. The climactic conclusion happens when the Fab Five helps Jess realize that blood ties aren’t necessary to build a family. Friends who support you unconditionally can be family too.
“Queer Eye” excels at introducing new conversations into the world of reality television. The show tackles race and sexuality unapologetically. Together, the Fab Five encourages viewers to pay attention to their mental and emotional needs in addition to their physical needs. In an era where shows like “Real Housewives” radiate elitism, it’s refreshing to watch a show with a racially diverse, non-heterosexual cast. “Queer Eye’s” third season is a powerful triumph that shows the potential of reality television.
- Show: “Queer Eye: More Than a Makeover,” Season 3
- Starring: Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk
- Favorite episodes: “When Robert Met Jamie,” “Black Girl Magic,” “Lost Boy”
- If you like: “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”
- Where to watch: Netflix
- Shamrocks: 4.5 out of 5