The Fab Five are the best friends you wish you had
The Queer Eye Season 3 heroes all have a few things in common. They all live in Kansas City, which is pretty much bang in the middle of the United States. They’re all pretty regular people with very regular, relatable problems, but with a couple of extreme stressors thrown into the mix.
And, at some point in time, something big happened to them, and then they just got stuck. In some cases it was the death of someone important – a sibling, a parent, a spouse – and in one case it was when a young woman’s parents kicked her out of the house, a kind of death in itself.
For some of them, there wasn’t a single major “thing”, but rather a bunch of little things that tripped them up and then sucked their time and ultimately left them too overwhelmed to really care for themselves. Divorce, descent into an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, kids getting born, kids going off to college, needing money for all of these things… One guy seemed to have skipped doing the dishes one night and then just never managed to start doing them again. Basically, life.
With friends like these
Enter the Fab Five. Having a group of friends like them is really the dream, isn’t it? They’re extremely fun. They know all the good places to shop, eat and go to gym. They know how to arrange a room so that it looks like an adult lives there, rather than a child who can’t reach the clothing rail and so just dumps everything on the floor. They come with piles of cash so can buy all the clothes and skincare products and fancy gym classes, and gut the house and paint it and fit it with the throw cushions that are usually just too expensive to justify. But mostly, they love you. They really, really love you.
They look at your body and see only excellence. You don’t have saggy boobs, you have a bad bra. You don’t have man boobs, you have a cuddly chest. Your legs aren’t skinny, they’re wiry and muscular. Your hair is ‘gorge’, if only you would liberate it from that tight bun you shove it into and actually tend to it every now and then. You have the most beautiful eyes, providing a window to the most beautiful soul. And they’re here to help give that soul what it deserves. Also, Tan would like you to try these new frames, so that everyone else can see those eyes better.
They look at your body and see only excellence. You don’t have saggy boobs, you have a bad bra. You don’t have man boobs, you have a cuddly chest.
But there’s a catch…
Obviously. And that’s the fact that the Fab Five are going to, like, really get into your space, and broadcast it to the world. They’ll model your camo negligee for each other. They’ll gag at the contents of your fridge. They’ll tip your dirty plates over to see if the cutlery has been glued to them with old mayo. They’ll also force you into some tough conversations and personal reckonings, and Antoni is going to make you pretend to love brussels sprouts more than Tater Tots. It’s worth it in the end though.
As before, each episode of Queer Eye Season 3 is made up of a combination of beauty tips, “how to dress” advice, some basic cooking lessons, a full-home makeover, and some serious talks. The appeal of the show lies in the combination of all of these things: seeing what happens when you trim back a giant gingerish beard, buy a shirt with an actual shape and paint the walls. But what separates Queer Eye from other makeover shows like What Not To Wear and Fixer Upper is the way the Fab Five engage with their heroes, draw out their stories, make us all cry, and then make us all feel better.
Swapping squirrels for salad
How did Season 3 fare for me? Well, I thought it was pretty good, but maybe it could have been better. It was nice to see the guys coming up with practical solutions for the challenges people face. Jonathan recommends no-wash shampoo to a man who never showers. Tan recommends a fashion delivery service to women who have no time to hit the shops. Antoni… er… Antoni teaches a woman who stores dead squirrels in her freezer how to make a zucchini-parmesan salad.
Ditch this, keep that
I liked that the guys were sometimes a little hard on their heroes. When Robert complains endlessly about his man boobs, he is reassured multiple times that really, his chest is just fine, but then is also hauled off to the gym to do something about it. The same Robert is challenged numerous times about his parenting strategies (he had ceded the master bedroom to a six-year-old, prompting the Fab Five to ask exactly who the adults were in the house) – and this is a relief to see, because these days this kind of criticism really seems very off-limits, when sometimes it’s very much needed.
But still, I felt like sometimes the guys could have been a little tougher. In the first episode, Tan has a breathless conversation with Jody about guns (she’s the hunter with a deep-freeze full of squirrels, and Antoni gasping as he unwraps a bloody package to discover it’s a small frozen animal still covered in patches of fur was a highlight of the series for me.) Tan quickly tells Jody he hates guns and Jody quickly tells him she loves them but they should be used responsibly and then they both giggle, relieved it’s over.
I was also frustrated in the final episode where we are faced with Tony, who doesn’t seem to have done any housework in years. His girlfriend’s due date is just over a week away and we hear her saying “I wish he would just do things before I ask him to.” Karamo whisks Tony off to gym to do a little exercise in asking for help, but I think a good talk about the division of all household labour, including mental labour, would have been useful. Yes, we all need to learn to ask for help, but sometimes we also just need to do the damn dishes. The crew gave Tony and family a kind of a reboot in terms of household chores, but I’d be interested to see the state of that kitchen a year from now.
Bringing about real change
For me, the best episode was the one with the Jones sisters, who are basically working themselves to death at their barbecue joint. They are two women who literally deserve only the best, but are just too tired to make it happen.
In this episode I felt the team moved beyond the shave-and-a-haircut-and-a-lick-of-paint kind of care that most heroes get, and put in place some interventions that would bring about actual change in the sisters’ lives.
Antoni was highly useful, for a change, taking the sisters to a bottling plant so that they could package their barbecue sauce and sell it. Bobby fixes their cook shack, installing a proper air conditioner and cash register, and Tan introduces them to the aforementioned fashion delivery service. Both sisters get their hair done, but the weepiest moment, perhaps of the whole season, is when Mary has the gap from a missing front tooth filled and starts smiling without covering her mouth for the first time.
What makes us love this show so much?
Why do we keep watching Queer Eye, season after season? It is highly formulaic and can get very samey (I must confess, in the middle of episode 6, faced with yet another white male, whose face has disappeared completely behind a ginger beard, I had a short snooze. His back-story is particularly sad, and he is a particularly sweet guy, but still.)
We keep watching because it makes us feel all the feelings. Faced with a person like Joey, who never showers, has long greasy hair held back by a bandana, who lives in a filthy RV, and chooses to dedicate his life to kids at summer camp… Well, let me not spell out what kind of suspicions a person like me would have about a person like that, but let me say that I was truly put to shame by the Fab Five’s incredible compassion, kindness and patience for him. If they can take the time to get to know him and bring out the best in him, then I can learn something from that.
I cried and cried during Jess’s Black Girl Magic episode, as she and Bobby discuss their shared reality of having parents who do not love them unconditionally. There are so many very funny moments (Tan telling the confused summer camper that he’s a “different kind of a queen” to the one in England! Antoni getting the Jones’ sisters stink-eye as he tried to guess the secret ingredient in their barbecue sauce!) Every episode puts you through the full range of emotions, and they all end happy.
Queer Eye is good, entertaining and thoughtful TV. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the next season, which has been partly filmed in Japan! Yas, Queen!