Thursday, June 6, 2013

Queer Eye For the Straight Guy (2003-2007)

Good morning!

I told you on Monday that I had a new-old television obsession. Bet you would have NEVER guessed what it was, though. We picked up a Netflix streaming subscription at the end of last month so Matthew could see the much anticipated fourth season of Arrested Development. I had been one of the biggest proponents of Netflix's video services back around 2007, when everything you had ever dreamed of was available to watch on demand-- the classic section alone was like watching Turner Classic Movies, but being able to skip to whatever you hadn't seen! Documentaries, foreign films, rare horror sure was fun while it lasted. However, as you may have noticed, the quality of selection has taken a nose dive over the last five years, to the point that I jumped ship for Hulu streaming in about 2011. There was nothing to watch on Netflix!

Coming back this last month, I noticed a similar lack of non-public-domain options, but for one, shining series:

Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I never knew how much I would love this show!

During the initial run (2003-2007), I was in college and most of my dorm-based television watching habits involved catching old Match Game and Love Connection episodes on Games Show Network before lunch but after French class with my roommate Torey (the. BEST. times). I remember reading articles in magazines around the beginning of this show about how "metrosexual" grooming habits were eroding the visual difference between heterosexual and homosexual men. All this was much to the chagrin of heterosexual women, who suddenly found themselves in competition with their live-in boyfriends or husbands over valuable real estate in the medicine cabinet. Hair products and facial cleansers for men (gasp!) flooded the market. How were we going to be able to tell straight men from gay men if they all had the same beautiful clothes and muscle tone! Straight-world crisis, no question about it.

If looking like David Beckham is wrong, you don't want to be right.
Even having this conversation in 2013 seems absurd, but ten years ago, there was a real concern that getting a male pedicure or knowing what kind of wine to pair with fish was going to "turn you" into a gay man. I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now-- since when would you rather look like George Constanza than David Beckham, in the interest of proving your hetero-normative behavior status? Watching the wary interactions between straight and gay culture on the show, through the lens of a decade's distance, is REALLY interesting. But that's not what pins my heart to the show.

Looking good, boys.

Do you remember the set up? The Fab Five open every episode inside a SUV, as one team member describes the current status and state of the man ready for their makeover. One guy has a fiancĂ©e, but still lives in a pig sty of an apartment. Another is 26 years old, but he hasn't really gotten past dorm-room style home organization. One hasn't been on a date in five years. On and on, the problems of the straight male at the beginning of the 21st century. Each case has a protagonist, and usually a significant other, and a culminating event to showcase the success or failure of the makeover. This could be a dinner party with family to demonstrate the guy's turning over a new leaf, a poker game with the boys elevated to a Sands Casino level of old school elegance, or a romantic date out on the town with a spouse. The men pull up to the sidewalk in front of the house, clamber out of the car, and come down on the suspecting or unsuspecting straight man in his house with the gale force of an incoming tropical storm. Ugly mini blinds are ripped from windows, mattresses on the floor are jumped on, poorly thought out wardrobe selections are brought to light for all to see. Carson Kressley usually makes some obscure but hilarious reference to Sissy Spacek in Carrie or a Helen Redding song lyric in reference to the domestic atrocities on display, and I crack up. At the end of this march of terror, Thom Filcia is left at the house to make decorating sense of horrible, horrible interiors while the rest of the team takes the guy on a whirlwind tour of the city to fix some major, pre-existing grown-up issues in the guys life. By the end of the forty five minute show, new furniture, new clothes, new life habits, new life skills, and blammo! New guy!

Spoiler alert: If they're at your house, you're already deep in dutch, kid.
The opening part of the show usually either finds the subject bemused, embarrassed, or even slightly angry. What touches my heart, though, is by the end of every episode, the straight guy is almost in tears (and frequently in tears!) at how much better his house, his personal appearance, and his life is as a result of the Fab Five's magic. The idea is not to make the man someone else, but to make him a better version of himself. Cue the waterworks on my part! I love the positive vibes of the show-- unlike Hoarders, which is awkward to the point of embarrassing to watch sometimes, these aren't people who are clinically ill and whose exposure on reality television is bordering on macabre voyeurism on the part of the viewer (I'm guilty, but at least I admit it!). This show is about taking things you took for granted, and not taking them for granted anymore!

Don't fight them! They're here to help!
I feel like so much of other people's (and my own at times) time in this day and age is consumed by saying "Oh, everything's terrible. Oh, I hate everything." If I could only lose twenty pounds. If I could only have a cute significant other. If I could only do better at my job. And so little of the underpinnings that keep us from the things we want are examined. So few people anymore have that Horatio Alger sense of "What do I want? How can I achieve what I want? What can I eliminate that keeps me from what I want?". Just by showing the men in the series that what you want isn't impossible and you can make little, totally feasible and do-able changes in your life to make yourself happier, the Queer Eye crew makes a difference. Besides all the new stuff and the new duds, I think that message of YES YOU CAN is more powerful than anything else the series has to offer. The people on the show are genuinely grateful for having been shown a better, more elegant, more stylish, more productive way of life that is completely attainable for them.

I only have I think eight more days in this billing cycle before the lights are turned out on our Netflix subscription again, but I'm going to try and fit as many episodes of Queer Eye into that time frame as possible! Watching it, and taking to heart the lessons the show has to teach along with the entertainment value, has really made a difference to me. I felt so empowered last weekend that I tackled that living room project that has been bugging me for y-e-e-e-ears. Who knows where the message of this show will take me next?

Do you have a show that unexpectedly adds value to your day-to-day life? Remember Queer Eye? What guilty or not-so-guilty tv pleasures do you have lately? Have you noticed any show from the early 2000's that seems very different now that ten years have passed since it originally aired? Let's talk!

I have to get back to work, but I'll see you guys back here tomorrow for Photo Friday (oh my God it's almost Friday). Til then!

PS: There are some Japanese-language subtitled episodes of the show up on Youtube, in case you don't have Netflix at the moment. Take a sec to check out what I'm talking about, and see if you don't feel like redoing your entire house and closet by the end of the episode:


  1. i was OBSESSED with this show! I still want Kyan to be friends with me and teach me grooming...because it's one lesson where I feel I need gay intervention. I loved when the makeover subjects were semi-homophobic when the fab 5 first burst from the SUV and then by the end they were all hugging! Twas beautiful. I had a love/hate relationship with Jai...Sometimes his role was so pointless and it was clear the producers were like, "ummm...i guess you can teach this biker about salsa dancing...I mean we have nothing else for you." I am so glad to know this is on Netflix....and now I am pretty sure I know what I am doing the rest of the day.

    1. Poor Jai! I almost died in the episode where they were making over a Brooklyn cop...the cop warns Carson that he doesn't have a key to a set of handcuffs in his closet, just AS Jai snaps one to his wrist. Oops! One of the other guys ended up cuffing Jai to a lamp before the intro was over. He's like the least valuable player, in spite of his inherent cuteness!

      No, I'm totally moved by the acceptance level of the otherwise really "macho" dudes at the end of the show, it always tears me up. BEST SHOW!

  2. I loved this show when it was on, it was interesting and hilarious. Carson is a riot, did you see him on Dancing with the Stars? Whatever happened to Jai? Didn't everyone go on to fame and fortune while he hosted a um, uh, celebrity dog grooming show?

    1. Carson's my favorite! Jai was on that new Reba McEntire show (baaaad) last fall, the one where she was a country star who relocated to Malibu. He had this crazy Puerto Rican accent and a buffed out physique to the point that I didn't recognize him in a clip!

  3. I have been thinking about watching that for a while now, but keep choosing other shows. I have been curious because I never watched it when it originally aired. You talked me into it. :)

  4. oh my god i went through a queer eye obsession earlier in the year! the opening credits just SLAYS me every time! i got a little tired of it (i was probably watching six to ten episodes a day!) i need to go back and finish the series.

    1. aaaaand now i've been sucked back in! i just watched one where jai ends up having to teach a guy how to properly care for turtles! oh geeze.



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