Queer Eye: How a Netflix reboot has conquered our hearts

If you don’t know what a ‘French tuck’ is, or have yet to use the phrase ‘Yas Queen!’ chances are you haven’t seen Queer Eye; Netflix’s rebooted version of the mid-2000s Bravo series Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. The series follows five gay men (the ‘Fab Five’) as they makeover the wardrobes, homes and lives of men who are ‘struggs to func’ or ‘struggling to function’. Whilst the original series, a surprise hit at the time, now seems a little dated, Queer Eye has been heralded as ‘the Netflix hit of the year’ and currently has a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Each of the Fab Five brings their own specialism to bear on their subject for the week; Jonathan provides a unique brand of grooming and self-care advice; Bobby redecorates their homes; Tan teaches them how to refine their styles; Antoni shows them how to make simple, healthy (and, more often than not, avocado-based) snacks; whilst Karamo dissects their personal lives under the dubious title of ‘culture’ expert.

A diversification from high-investment drama

Netflix has famously spent a huge amount on content, and particularly so on scripted drama (The Crown cost an estimated $130 million to produce, with The Get Down following close behind at $120 million). Despite these hugely expensive productions, it’s Queer Eye, a comparatively low-budget reality series, that has been winning over viewers and critical acclaim in 2018. The show’s popularity is evident in its loyal fanbase, and the constant supply of memes that come with it.

The desire for light hearted ‘fabulosity’

But why has Netflix chosen to reboot the series now and why is it proving so popular? Firstly, it’s clear that Queer Eye offers some funny, light-hearted respite during dark times. The current political and social turbulence in the UK and further afield is prompting audiences to look for light-hearted entertainment media to provide relief. It’s undeniably fun to watch the Fab Five rummage through their subjects’ wardrobes and completely re-design their homes, but at a deeper level, it’s heart-warming to watch the hosts connect with the men they are helping. At its core, Queer Eye episodes are full of the positivity that audiences crave.

An attempt at reconciliation

Part of Queer Eye‘s popularity is due to its contemporary relevance. The subjects in each episode come from a range of backgrounds and political perspectives, but there is a clear sense of common humanity in the conversations the Fab Five have with these men. In a deeply divided America, these dialogues are extremely refreshing.

Queer Eye doesn’t shy away from America’s divisions; the Fab Five have touched upon some of the most controversial issues in society; from Black Lives Matter to religious conservatism. In one episode Karamo discusses police profiling of African American men with their subject for the week, a police officer. The conversation ends with both men having reached a greater understanding of each other’s points of view. In another episode, Bobby talks to a devout Christian father about his struggles growing up as a gay man in a conservative Christian family. In this way, whilst appearing to be just a makeover show, in reality, Queer Eye is addressing controversial issues and showing that perhaps, through conversation, progress and reconciliation can be achieved.

Combating ‘toxic masculinity’

One of the issues Queer Eye addresses is ‘toxic masculinity’, an area which has garnered significant discussion with the rise of social movements like #MeToo. The Fab Five combat this by laying out a blueprint for modern masculinity; they encourage their subjects to discuss their emotions, intimacy issues and insecurities, and advocate self-love and acceptance. In doing so, they challenge harmful stereotypes about what it means to be a man today, and offer a clear way forward.

Queer Eye has succeeded in giving us a dose of positivity, with a pertinent discussion of social issues, all the while teaching us the importance of self-care and a good pomade!

About Natalia Kumar

Natalia is a Research Executive at MTM, working across both the qualitative and quantitative teams. She enjoys exploring the media trends that shape society, particularly those influencing children and Generation Z. Aside from project work, she enjoys introducing new fashion trends to the office, such as berets, (to mixed reception).