Queer Eye: Back on Netflix, whether you want it or not
None of the transformations is as profound as what the Fab Five do to the English language
Queer Eye ... Don’t ever change
Change comes easily to the Fab Five of Queer Eye, the giddy whole-life makeover show now back for a fourth series on Netflix, whether you want it or not. Rolling into the hometown of one of its panel of experts – who intervene on matters of fashion, grooming, interior design, cooking and, more ambiguously, “culture” – Jonathan, the most hirsute of groomers, notices one change with something like shock. “Oh my god,” he chirps, “that was where the Blockbuster was!” “Netflix!” retorts another. “Oh my god!” trills Jonathan. “That was so meta!”
Indeed. Never mind that the show’s format is so unvarying, from its snappy group appraisal of hapless subjects, through each lightly admonishing zinger and onto the grateful tears of every finale, everything else has to move with the times.
Take Jonathan’s high-school music teacher, Kathi Dooley, a woman praised for extraordinary selflessness, but urged to become more selfish, who yields to her makeover as helplessly as a video rental chain before a streaming television giant.
Seizing on Kathi’s remark that she was taught to “skip the chapter of me”, our culture expert Karomo sagely tells her, “I don’t want you to skip the chapter of you anymore”. Totes emosh.
As luck would have it, Karomo briefly defines “culture”, which theorist Raymond Williams considered one of the most complicated words in English, for a high-school classroom as “the shared attitudes, emotions, values, that make us who we are.”
Oh my god! Now what about Raymond Williams’s lank hair?
For his part, Jonathan briefly consults with Kathi after happily shearing away her 30-year-old mullet. “Do you feel crazy?” he asks. “I feel crazy,” she says. I have to admit I was feeling a little crazy myself, as Kathi was frogmarched into the shared attitudes, emotions and values that make Queer Eye what it is.
It doesn’t seem coincidental that Kathi is encouraged continuously to “take a moment for yourself”, by people who do nothing but that.
Jonathan cuts her off mid-sentence to talk again about how she saved his life. In a later episode Tan, the amiable fashion adviser, is so moved by the emotionally sparing story of a man left paralysed by a gun violence that he launches into an emotionally unstinting description of his own coming out story. Honey, wait your turn.
Still, none of these transformations is anywhere near as profound as what the Fab Five do to the English language each episode, primping and preening its drab unchanging meanings to create something fresh and unrecogniseable.
On one person’s pancake making, for instance, Jonathan sasses the camera with this doozy: “It was so much fun getting John to slow down into those reckless flips, perfect those landings, and get those circles serving 360-degree realness!”
Oh, Queer Eye, don’t ever change.