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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