Yes, I absolutely love Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Perhaps I’m in a minority of Christians in this regard, but that’s often where I find myself culturally. This show is no doubt on the black list of conservative Christians everywhere, who would likely cite it as part of the rise of the “homosexual agenda,” but there is actually an abundance of so-called family values packed into each hour of Queer Eye. Moreover, never have five gay men done so much for women.
Every episode takes a straight guy, each with varying degrees of cluelessness, and makes him into the dream of his wife, girlfriend or mother. Watch with an open mind, and you’ll discover that what makes it work is that it taps into what straight women want and need from men. In fact, they often base their entire project on pleasing the wife or girlfriend as part of a special occasion. There was a surprise party for a longsuffering wife, as with Adam Z.; a rewarding romantic date with a long-term girlfriend, like John V.; and even a colossal blowout marriage proposal in the episode with John B. In the cases where there wasn’t a wife or girlfriend, the straight guy was often being prepped to get back into the dating scene after a break up, such a George K., or as a single dad, such as Tom M. There have also been heartwarming episodes that involve the entire straight guy’s family. The episode with Jeff T. included shopping for clothes with his daughter and having his wife and kids help with clearing the house of a glut of dried flower arrangements.
One of the facilitators of transformation is Carson, the fashion savant and flamboyant centerpiece to the show. Although he excels at catty comments and is proudly addicted to couture, he is also the doting fairy godmother of every episode, taking great care in transforming each guy, and then proudly watching them take their first solo steps. He had once commented that the Fab 5 are doing God’s work, and that he’s here to be God’s servant. That certainly seems to be stretching it, except that Carson and crew are indeed devoted to their work with an almost religious fervor. Critics may dub the show slavishly superficial, but the Fab 5 are on a mission to sweep in, improve people’s lives and vanish in a puff of designer fragrance.
Then there’s Kyan, the adorable grooming guru, with his model good looks and sweet sensitive side, expressed in his genuine caring towards each straight guy he works with. One would think the grooming guru would be the most superficial one of all, but he seems to imbue helping each guy look their best with an understanding of how significant these changes are to their self-hood. There is almost something spiritual about how he coaches some of the straight guys on letting go of things that mask their true self, such as when he helped Richard M. doff a toupee that had been keeping him wrapped in pretense and fear of exposure for many years. He genuinely helped someone become their true self, and let go of the fear of not being accepted by others, and of not accepting himself.
Thom, the acerbically funny design diva, devotes himself to making a home that reflects the straight guy and his family, or to creating a nest in which a woman would feel comfortable. Ted broadens straight guy horizons beyond TV dinners, junk food, take-out Chinese, pizza and beer. Jai, the unappreciated Culture Vulture, often seems like he’s holding up the scenery, but does help the straight guys out with tickets to shows, dance moves and social graces.
The life makeover of each straight guy has a ripple effect; his loved ones benefit as well. This value placed on relationships, honoring those you love and not taking them for granted is at the heart of the show. So often it is women who get makeovers, create homes, raise children, cook meals and nurture their men. Through the Queer Eye experience, men learn to dress themselves well, groom themselves impeccably, cook gourmet food, and appreciate culture, fine food and wine, and on top of it all, there’s a house make-over for all to enjoy. Women get to experience receiving the sorts of things they are used to giving, and that is no small feat.
At the end of every episode, we see the Fab 5 gathered, drinks in hand, on a couch in the Queer Eye loft, and we see how much of a family they are too. They watch with baited breath to see how their straight guy duckling does as he takes his first awkward steps without them. During John’s marriage proposal to Tina, they all held hands tightly, and sat on the edge of their seats. When she accepted, there were shouts of joy and relief. During a reunion show, they presented John with a designer tuxedo for the wedding, and the happy couple asked the Fab 5 to be groomsmen at the ceremony. What could be a more fairytale, happily ever after, hetero love story than that?
The only downside to all of this is that these straight men have to learn about what women like from gay men. Does that indicate how far estranged we have gotten from each other? Is there a better way for a man to learn to be his best? Have even godly men become so adapted to the larger culture that they are found lacking when it comes to treating a woman well, and being a true gentleman? Is the real blueprint for transformative masculinity to be found in the pages of the Bible? Perhaps Queer Eye for the Straight Guy points to how myopic we have become, and will lead us to look for deeper answers to the questions it raises.
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