Prentiss Riddle: Time

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Queer tube for the straight rube

I'm sure every weblogger with cable has posted already on the debut of Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy last night, but I can't resist.

I thought it was great. The consensus among mainstream media and tv critics seems to be that it deserves a scolding for perpetuating gay stereotypes, but I see that The Advocate isn't complaining. It's a reality tv show for heaven's sake, not an academic study. Next to the heterosexual stereotypes perpetuated by straight dating shows, Queer Eye is positively subtle. John Aielli, perhaps Austin's most prominent gay man, complained this morning about the "limp-wristed" image projected on the show, but from where I sat only the fashion guy Carson Kressley came off as particularly nelly. One out of five ain't bad.

On the social change front, I think it is very refreshing to see a straight guy on national tv getting attention from a gaggle of gay men and not only not cringing but actually enjoying it. Add to that what may be mainstream culture's first use of the word "queer" in a non-pejorative sense and I think the show is a modest milestone.

Politics aside the first episodes were a lot of fun. Since recently moving into a place with cable I've been indulging the guilty pleasure of watching Trading Spaces and other shelter shows. Queer Eye offers the same fascination expanded to apply to the person and not just the environment. And I'm sure I couldn't have been the only straight guy identifying with the show's hapless fashion victims and secretly wishing I had access to that kind of help. That I, Mr. Nonmaterialist Antifashion himself, would respond that way says something about its compelling nature. Or does it really say that I'm not as non/anti as I once was and have a few regrets about missing the materialistic boat?

Quibbling questions: Does the show really take place in one day? The redecoration seems too extensive for that. The kitchen makeovers are impressive but the food and cooking seem meager -- I don't think a boy scout would get a merit badge for learning to make a single appetizer as these guys did. The "culture" experts (why were there two of them?) seem underused, and although Bravo's iconography associates them with headphones and vinyl, so far they haven't been shown redoing the guy's CD collection. Which may or may not be a good thing, as I'd be a bit more skeptical about a "queer ear" than a queer eye.

One more thought. What would a gender-switched version of the show be like? Imagine "Lesbian Pals for the Straight Gal". I can't see a team of culturally representative lesbians giving a straight woman tips on fashion, but perhaps they could make over her life in such areas as cars, household repairs, self-defense, outdoor activities and (last but not least) sex toys. Oops, there I go with another stereotype...

time 2003.07.16 link


Great entry! Wish I got Bravo.

dragonfly jenny [jnazak cxe crossroads punkto net] • 2003.07.17
Mistress of the Light asks the same question about a lesbian version of the show and points out that it might include activism. Good idea. And maybe food and diet, with a subtle emphasis on veganism?

So a revised line-up for our lesbian superheroes could be: handywoman, jock, healthfoodie, activist, and (ahem) pleasure goddess.

Even if Bravo never picks up the idea, I foresee lots of skits on this theme at lesbian talent shows.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2003.07.17
Here's an account of undergoing the QEFTSG treatment from The New York Times. It says the full process takes four days.

Does academe count as a part of mainstream culture? It seems "queer" has been so rehabilitated by the guardians of our culture that terms like "Queer Studies" and "Queer Theory" never raise an eyebrow.

chris [chris cxe infobong punkto com] • 2003.07.20
"Does academe count as a part of mainstream culture?" You gotta be kidding -- academic culture is about as far outside the mainstream as it gets! :-)

Thanks for the NYT link.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2003.07.20
I haven't seen the show, but that picture reminds me of the opening sequence for the Designer Guys TV show (even see the front page of their site).

Bill Bradford [mrbill cxe mrbill punkto net] • 2003.07.22
Just saw this show for the first time today. A progressive idea but I wish each of the guys were given more time to do their thing. Maybe 5 guys is too many for an hour show? Since everything is a whirl of activity, details of the changes are kind of lost...making me think it's more entertainment than instruction (which I think would be a good thing on its own)

Zarqa Javed [zarqaj cxe hotmail punkto com] • 2003.07.30
Update: A few weeks into the season, QE is still a hoot although I wonder how many weeks it can last before the Fab Five's routine starts to seem, well, routine.

I couldn't help but noticing that they added some significant eye candy for their straight-guy audience this week when Carson did a mini-makeover for the cop's girlfriend, giving her the chance to prance around in her undies on camera.

That was an ingenious solution to one of the problems inherent in the show: the wives and girlfriends. Some of the makeovers seem to be make-or-break attempts to placate a woman who's fed up with her slob of a husband or boyfriend. The Fab Five seem to be careful to lavish lots of praise on the women, not always warranted from what we can see on screen. Perhaps the fawning can be attributed to that that barely veiled hostility toward the slob boyfriends plus the possibility that the women could be jealous of all the attention their guys are getting.

Maybe they're saving some "where are they now?" shows for the second season, where we can see who got divorced and who went back to his pre-makeover ways.

Prentiss Riddle [riddle cxe io punkto com] • 2003.08.22
More time >