Queer Eye for the Problematic Guy – The Things They Need to Fix

Posted on 19 June 2020
By Dana Andersen
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Queer Eye and Marmite seem to have one huge thing in common, in that people either really love it, or thoroughly despise it. For those that love it, it’s because it’s fun, emotional, and we feel like we’re seeing people’s life dramatically transformed, before our very eyes.

Take a few minutes to really look at the show, and you’ll be able to see the reasons some find it problematic. Transformation shows have long been seen as having the issue of telling people how they ‘should’ be. Looking back on shows like Snog, Marry Avoid, Trinny and Susannah, and Gok Wan’s shows like How to Look Good Naked, the focus was often entirely on the persons outward appearance, very rarely taking into account how they live, who they are, or even who they’d like to be after the show.

Queer Eye has subverted these issues, through having Antoni there to teach the shows guests how to cook, Bobby transforming where they live or work, and Karamo there to talk through their issues, and offer his skills as a psychotherapist.

This is where the first issue arrises. It’s been pointed out across the internet that, these are the ‘types’ of gay men often stereotyped, and that stereotype has been actualised for all to see. The gay guy into hair, fashion, cooking, interior design, or giving people life advice, are stereotypes that have been played out for decades, and for many that aren’t close to anyone who is LGBT+, thats what they expect a gay man to be.

Of course, for these men, those are their careers or skills, and that’s why they’ve been hired for the show, making it more a poor reflection on the decision to reboot Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, than those involved.

If you watch the show with a critical eye, you’ll notice something more. The class divide is apparent in a large majority of episodes, the people who the guys go to help begin with limited money, which is the main restriction causing them to not have the home, wardrobe, or lifestyle, that they want, and end up with, after the guys swoop in with their limited skills, and seemingly extensive budget. Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a home you’re comfortable and happy in, clothes that make you feel good, and a diet that helps you to look and feel healthier.

The question of how many guests on the show can keep up their lifestyles, is one that is difficult to answer. They’re encouraged to get a new hair style, which will require upkeep from a professional, many are encouraged to treat themselves more often, which often costs money, and Antoni’s recipes often contain either expensive ingredients, or enough cheap ingredients for it to really add up.

Theres also the fact that the show seemingly goes out of its way to never offend or condemn someone, even when it should be. Having a police officer pull over the car, while they were already nervous and had Karamo driving, as a prank, was in extreme poor taste, and Karamo should not have been placed in a position of having to laugh that off, and go on to try to help a Trump supporters life. When face to face with a hunter, the show somewhat discusses gun control, but ends with a message of ‘everything is fine! You do you!’.

A lack of representation has also arisen with Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!, along with numerous other issues. Their culture guide is a cis, straight woman, who is very much the ‘ideal’ Japanese woman, who indulges in the limited gay culture Japan has, taking up a space that is not for her.

Not only that, but many Japanese viewers have pointed out how poorly the Queer Eye guys western advice, recipes, and expectations of how people ‘should’ behave, relate to Japanese culture.

Although the Queer Eye five certainly aren’t innocent in all this, blame, and any anger, should absolutely be directed at Netflix, rather than them. The majority of poor and insensitive decisions made in the show, are definitely from those ‘higher up’, and the way the show is edited has an effect on how it is perceived.

It’s not the worst show in the world, and doesn’t need to be boycotted, but it would be nice to see more awareness in future episodes, of cultural differences, how different people are, what they actually want and need, and how sustainable their ‘change’ is in the long term.