The Queer Eye Effect: How One Netflix Reboot Saved TV In 2018

queer eye netflix season two

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Updated on

If 2018 belongs to a TV show, that TV show is Queer Eye. When it was first announced that Netflix would be re-booting Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, the Noughties makeover franchise which ran from 2003 to 2007 and featured five gay men dishing out style, interiors and grooming tips to straight men who direly needed them, the news was met with a collective shrug: hadn’t we moved past the tired, reductive assumption that homosexuality equates to being good at fashion and being able to choose the perfect scented candle at ten paces? Since it landed online in late February, however, Queer Eye has enjoyed the sleeper-hit-to-mainstream-success trajectory that Stranger Things achieved two summers ago. We’ve learned how best to apply fragrance ('Spray, delay, walk away!'), become gripped by the will-they, won’t they saga of Tom and Abbey (more on them later) and admired Antoni’s seemingly unlimited cache of vintage Strokes t-shirts. Now, the ‘Fab Five’ have taken a break from writing emoji-filled affirmations underneath one another’s Instagram poststo announce that a second season will land on Netflix on June 15th. What's their secret, other than sulfate-free shampoo?

In its format, Queer Eye stays pretty close to the original show, which aired on Bravo in the US and was later remade for UK audiences by ITV, but it’s the small differences that make it work for 2018. As in the original, we’re introduced to the ‘Fab Five.’ There’s grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness, who has the hair of a Renaissance Jesus and the ability to turn any sentence into a catchphrase through the sheer force of his upspeak. There’s Antoni Porowski, the ‘food and wine’ expert who only seems to know how to chop up avocados (but chops those avocados with finesse), Tan France, the British Muslim stylist with a transatlantic Doncaster accent, Karamo Brown, the ‘culture’ guy who serves as the show’s de facto counselor and finally Bobby Berk, the interior designer who, as the Internet loves to joke, does about as much work as the other four put together.

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The Fab Five ©Netflix

This more diverse line-up of experts is mirrored and contrasted in the ‘heroes’ (the show’s term for the participants) that they’re making over. Queer Eye 2.0 is based in and around Atlanta, Georgia in America’s Deep South, rather than the New York of the original, and though the lessons in fashion (cargo shorts out, rolled up sleeves in!) and grooming are still a huge part of Queer Eye’s fun, there are more nuanced segments in which different worldviews are aired and tentatively reconciled. While Karamo (tasked with ‘culture’ and ‘lifestyle’) has the most tenuous job description of the Five, he also has many of the show’s standout moments. In the third episode’s opener, we see him visibly tense up as his car is pulled over by a police officer (as an African-American man, he is clearly all too aware of the stakes of this interaction). As it turns out, the officer is the friend this episode’s subject, Corey. No, this isn’t exactly nuanced, but later in the episode, Karamo gets to have an open and honest conversation with Corey about police brutality. ‘I’m not saying a conversation with one police officer and one gay guy is going to solve problems, but maybe it can open up eyes,’ he says.

Elsewhere, the participants find themselves questioning their preconceptions and prejudices about the LGBTQ community. When Tom, the self-styled ‘redneck’ of episode one with one of the show’s most compelling narratives (following his transformation on Queer Eye, he’s re-married his ex-wife, Abbey) asks Bobby whether he is ‘the husband or the wife’ in his marriage, the interiors expert calmly explains why that’s not a comparison to make. In a later episode, a devoutly Christian father-of-six (also called Bobby) talks about how he was raised to see homosexuality as a sin, but that his time with the Five has encouraged him to be more accepting, and to encourage his children to do the same. And not all the participants are straight, either. One of the most-discussed episodes focuses on AJ, a gay man who is finding the courage to be honest about his sexuality with his much-loved stepmother. The Five share their own experiences and eventually – minor spoiler alert – he comes out to her; it’s hard to think of a similar instance in mainstream TV (let alone on a reality show) where a coming out narrative has been so sensitively handled.

Of course, masculinity can’t be ‘fixed’ in a 45 minute Netflix show, and the Queer Eye approach might be a little too schmaltzily packaged for some, but anything that at least raises such powerful questions in a warm, accepting way is surely a good thing. Compassion and open-mindedness are as crucial a part of the show as Jonathan’s hair flips and Tan’s JLS-worthy obsession with v-neck shirts. At its heart, Queer Eye has all the good bits of the guilty pleasure makeover shows that defined the Noughties (paging Trinny and Susannah) without the bad aftertaste. May we all, to paraphrase Jonathan, go forth and ‘just like own our space, and stuff.’

What are the Queer Eye season one stars up to now?


Queer Eye - Where Are They Now? - Grazia

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CREDIT: Netflix

Tom: Season One, Episode One

The Fab Five's first makeover subject was self-described redneck Tom, a Mountain Dew devotee with the heart-breaking catchphrase 'You can't fix ugly.' At the end of the episode, he appeared on the verge of a tentative reconciliation with his ex-wife, Abbey. Though Tom later announced on Twitter that they were no longer together, they've since (re) tied the knot in a low-key ceremony. Then they divorced again in 2019. Keeping up?

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CREDIT: Netflix

Neal: Season One, Episode Two

Following his Queer Eye makeover, app developer Neal seems to be fully embracing everything he learned from the Fab Five. 'I feel fully confident in business meetings. I'm way more engaged,' he recently told Men's Health. 'It's not just new clothes. It's my attitude, too.' He's still Instagramming pictures of his dog, too, and describes himself online as a 'mediocre comedian.'

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CREDIT: Netflix

Cory: Season One, Episode Three

NASCAR enthusiast and police officer Cory seems to have taken Jonathan's skincare gospel to heart: face mask selfies are now regular programming on his Instagram account. Following their much-discussed heart to heart about police brutality, he and Karamo have forged a close relationship. 'We still have some political differences, but as a whole, I see him as a human being and he sees me as a human being,' the latter told Buzzfeed. 'I see him as a father, he sees me as a father. That's why we're texting each other at eight o'clock in the morning.' They even FaceTimed each other to watch Cory's episode together. Aww.

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CREDIT: Netflix

AJ: Season One, Episode 4

Queer Eye isn't short of tear-jerking moments, but AJ's episode – which saw him finally come out to his much-loved step-mother – was a season one standout. Since then, he's got married to his boyfriend, Andre.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Remy: Season One, Episode Six

Remy, who recruited the Five to help him transform the house he'd inherited from his grandmother (complete with some outstanding '70s décor), has clearly taken their style advice to heart: his Instagram account shows him sporting some Karamo-esque bomber jackets and print shirts that Tan would be proud of. Plus, he attended the Black Panther premiere in some Wakanda-infused garb, too.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Bobby: Season One, Episode Five

Bobby, his wife Vera and their six children moved out of the home which we saw made over on episode five. 'Vera literally DM'd me the day before yesterday and they moved to a different house with three bedrooms,' Jonathan told Buzzfeed, adding that the Camp brood are 'still using their kits and caboodles, which is great.' I mean, who would turn down his curated selection of grooming products?

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CREDIT: Netflix

Joe: Season One, Episode Seven

Well, this is a little awkward. It seems that aspiring comedian Joe decided to delete the website which Karamo built for him. 'He was like, "I'm not sure if I'm ready for that point in my career,"' Karamo told Buzzfeed. 'I was like, "I'm building you this because in a matter of months, millions of people are gonna see you and flock to your website!" And he took it down.' Just think of all the Google authority you could have gained, Joe… That aside, his Instagram account suggests that he's still getting his hair cut at the salon Jonathan recommended. That's something at least.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Jeremy: Season One, Episode Eight

Firefighter Jeremy doesn't have social media, but we know from his station's official Facebook account that he recently achieved his goal and qualified to become one of 1,279 Chief Fire Officers around the world. Congratulations!

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CREDIT: Netflix

Tammye: Season Two, Episode One

The show's first female makeover was one of the most emotional episodes to date, with viewers immediately taking Mamma Tammye and her son Myles into their hearts. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Jonathan revealed: 'I talk to Tammye a lot on Instagram. I'm always on the DM with my queen.' (Indeed, he recently shared her new haircut to his social media followers). Happily, he continues, 'she is doing really good […] still just nurturing other people and giving so much of herself all the time.' Myles, meanwhile, has returned to his church choir again.

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CREDIT: Netflix

William: Season Two, Episode Two

William, populariser of the phrase 'I Shannan You' (if you know, you know), found the courage to propose to his long-term girlfriend with the help of the Fab Five. William and Shannan tied the knot on June 16th of last year, and you can see the photos on his Twitter account.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Jason: Season Two, Episode Four

The end credits of Burning Man aficionado Jason's Queer Eye makeover gave us the conclusion we'd been rooting for: he'd ditched his plans to move to Reno and had finally got together with his best friend Beth. We're pleased to report that the couple are still together, according to Beth's Twitter account.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Skyler: Season Two, Episode Five

When the Fab Five first met Skyler, the first trans man to feature in the newly rebooted Queer Eye, he had only recently undergone top surgery. Now, he is seeking justice: he sued his employer after discovering that his insurance excluded trans-related healthcare.

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CREDIT: Netflix

Arian: Season Two, Episode Six

Of course, the question on everyone's lips is: did Ari finally graduate college? Luckily, Karamo has the answers. He told Vanity Fair: 'I've been in contact with him and he finally graduated and has a job. I'm so proud of him.' Hooray! He now works as an analyst in Atlanta.

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