• Netflix's new fab five may surprise audiences with an absolutely heartwarming reboot of the iconic makeover series. (Netflix)
Shifting the focus away from aesthetics toward challenging the perceptions of LGBT+ men today, the new series may surprise you with some laughs and even a few tears.
Mathew Whitehead

9 Feb 2018 - 11:15 AM  UPDATED 9 Feb 2018 - 11:20 AM

I wasn't the biggest fan of the news that Netflix was rebooting Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, now with the slicker title Queer Eye. The cultural cringe leftover from the original show is still fresh in my memory, depicting a very particular time in primetime television where the key examples of gay men on screen were the original Fab Five and Will and Jack from Will and Grace.

Gay men, at that time, were inoffensively swishy and fabulous. They knew how to dress well, they understood what colours went together, and they could make the most decadent salad out of two cruskets and some toenail clippings.

Like many I've spoken to, I was incredibly hesitant to tune into the 2018 revamp of Queer Eye when I saw Netflix had added the eight-episode season this week, but I will say this: I wasn't just pleasantly surprised by the series, but in the four episodes I have seen so far I teared up. Six. Times. 

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What Queer Eye has managed to do is bring the joy from the original series into the cultural atmosphere of 2018. Instead of simply making over straight men, giving them some hair product and a new couch, the series blends the makeover elements with the life experiences of the new fab five, bringing worthy cultural conversations into the mix.

The two main changes of the series are that the entire eight episodes are set in Atlanta, Georgia, a deep red state in the south. The second switch - the title change - isn't simply to save characters when you're tweeting about it.

Pivoting away from transforming solely straight men, episode four focuses on closeted gay man, AJ. The episode is absolutely heart-wrenching, and at one point the "Culture" guru Kamaro Brown has a heart-to-heart with AJ about their experiences of being both black and queer.

AJ has preconceived notions of what it means to be a gay man and to be perceived as visibly gay, telling the guys he's "self-conscious of looking gay or looking like people can tell". It's a challenge for the guys to not only redesign his wardrobe and living room, but to break down the barriers for AJ in order for him to come out to his family and allow them to be a part of his other life, his out life.

In a similar vein, another episode sees the five making over a Trump-supporting police officer. In that same episode, Brown is pulled over by another police officer, leaving Brown to explain that they're shooting a TV show. Throughout the episode, there's a focus on the makeover, but an equal framing of the relationship between black Americans and the police force.

Race, sexuality, pride, and masculinity are all touched on - in so much as a single episode of TV can manage - but they are important conversations being had. Obviously, the experiences of two men in a single car ride won't fix the glaring issues of racism in America, but it feels incredible to witness.

It's also important to remember this isn't just a show for queer audiences. Netflix has a massive, massive user base and for some people watching, this is one of the few times they may experience proud, queer men having these discussions.

The original series - like the original Will and Grace - did do incredible things for queer representation in mainstream media, and to discredit that impact would be a huge oversight. The revamp performs the same job, but in a political climate where it feels like we're becoming more divided, where crimes against LGBT+ people are on the rise, and prejudice is becoming institutionalised at the highest levels, this is a series that has a potential to open the hearts of viewers everywhere.

If that hasn't sold you, the new fab five are also gorgeous, with some faces you might recognise. Jonathan van Ness from FunnyOrDie's viral Game of Thrones recap series Gay of Thrones covers grooming, and is the incredible comic relief you need when you're unexpectedly crying halfway through a makeover.

The other fab five members are Kamaro Brown, mentioned above, who covers culture; Antoni Porowski, who deliciously handles food; Bobby Berk the design deity; and Tan France who oversees fashion overhauls.

Before you jump to conclusions, think about giving the new Queer Eye a chance. It's amazing to see Netflix investing in a series that aims to break down barriers and potentially force us to have the uncomfortable conversations we very well should be having. 

Also, some of the house makeovers are downright stunning.

All eight episodes of Queer Eye are available to stream on Netflix now.

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