Just in time for summer binge-watching, the second season of “Queer Eye” dropped on Netflix June 15. Season two enhances what is good about “Queer Eye,” all while showing how a makeover show can be about so much more than physical appearance.
The show sticks to the same formula from the first season, which was in turn inherited from the 2003 series “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy”: The “Fab Five” find someone lacking style or class and use their combined fashion, culinary, grooming, interior design and culture expertise to transform them.
What makes “Queer Eye” different from a typical makeover show, a la “What Not to Wear,” is the emphasis on positivity found in every episode. The Fab Five do not shame or mock their target; they help them become the best they can be, focusing on bringing out their strengths and helping them showcase their assets. And the “heroes” they choose are exactly that, heroes. Whether a piano prodigy or the mayor of a progressive town, the featured clients are already helping their communities. The Fab Five focus on helping their clients help themselves.
The most notable change from season one to season two of “Queer Eye” is the diversity of characters on the show. Although the reboot of “Queer Eye” chose to not only focus on remaking straight men, season one only included the makeover of one gay man.
Season two kicked off with an episode focusing on Tammye, a deeply religious woman from the small town of Gay, Georgia and her gay son, who feels ostracized from his church due to his sexuality. A later episode focused on transforming Skyler, a transgender man who had recently undergone top surgery to feel more comfortable in his own body.
These episodes were the standout episodes of the season, perhaps due to their breaking the typical mold of the show. It isn’t fabulous gay man versus the clueless straight guy: The Fab Five learn from their heroes in every episode, but in these episodes it shows the most. Tan tearfully admits he never understood why trans people need to physically change their bodies to feel comfortable in their own skin, and he has an honest conversation with Skyler and comes away stronger for it. Antoni steps back and learns how to make Tammye’s pasta salad, becoming the student for once instead of trying to teach another man how to cook a basic meal.
Season two also focuses more on the Fab Five themselves, elevating the show from season one. Season one teased at some of the issues the Fab Five face themselves, including an episode where Karamo had an honest discussion about police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement with a police officer. The second season lets us into the minds of the Fab Five, revealing that they may seem fabulous now, but they may not have always been that way. The most poignant moment of the season was in the first episode: Tammye tells the Fab Five that she did not embrace her son when he first came out to her, but she learned that she was wrong and let him into her life. The camera cuts to a crying Antoni, who says, “Not all parents do that.” This one confession is all we hear about Antoni’s adolescence, but it shows that the Fab Five are not one-dimensional gay characters, meant to only help their targets, but rather individuals that learn from their clients as well. In the same episode, Bobby refuses to step inside a church and reveals how the church let him down in his childhood, casting him out for his sexuality. The Fab Five have their own struggles they're still grappling with, and these struggles are what makes their connections to their clients feel so real.
The genuineness of “Queer Eye” is what makes it shine, and these traits come through even more strongly in the second season. Of course the show has its faults: the premise as a whole is flawed in holding up the image of fabulous gay men, but season two goes further in showing that the Fab Five are much more than their sexuality. In one episode, Bobby even remarks, “Queer is just a column that holds up the house of Skyler.”
While other makeover shows can come across as catty and superficial, “Queer Eye’s” adherence to optimism makes it stand out. The political landscape today has never been more divided, but “Queer Eye” brings gay and straight, black and white, and trans and cis people together to discuss their differences and what they have in common. The show isn’t overtly political, almost entirely shying away from mentions of Trump, but there is something radical in its overwhelming positivity and conviction that honest conversations can happen between anyone, and one person has the power to change the world around them.
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