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Queer Eye Season 2 Review
NetflixCourtesy of Netfilx
In a Baptist church somewhere in the South, a kid in the youth group told a seventh-grader that everyone thought he was gay. He knew that he was gay, but that wasn’t information he’d offered up to anyone else. He had prayed about it for well over a year. Prayed against it. Prayed that God would “fix it.” Prayed that maybe people at church would help him navigate the crossroads of what he was feeling. Prayed that anything would happen that would make him not that. He knelt at the altar and knew all the hymns and sang on his love for what felt like forever—and nothing changed.
When the youth group made its own assumptions at the tail end of his year-long mission to straighten things out, one of them finally said, “We really don’t feel comfortable with a gay person being here.” So that boy went to his youth pastor in tears, hoping to find some kind of back up, and the pastor said, “I’m not going to get in between your guys’ disagreements.” In the years after that, he sought out a new church but eventually settled on this compromise: God seems good, but these Christians… I can’t help them anymore than they can help me. So he left the church.
The story sounds like a version of the tale Fab Five design expert Bobby Berk told Mama Tammye in the middle of the first episode of Queer Eye’s second season. For the first time in the series’ history, the subject being “made over” was a woman: a cancer survivor, church usher, and (one-time reluctant) mother to a gay son. In Gay, Georgia (you can’t make that up), Bobby and company are put in charge of renovating a community center for the local church’s Homecoming service. But the true focus stays on Tammye, her son, and Bobby’s own aversion to church.
In the scenes when Bobby shared his own experience as a gay man at church with Tammye, I had to pause my TV and take a walk around the block. It turns out that even though that seventh grader from the story I just told you is 15 years older, 711 miles away from that church, and able to purchase alcohol without a fake ID, the most effective moments in Queer Eye are the ones that hit deep.
Queer Eye’s new purpose is a bit meatier than its predecessor’s because it aims to leverage its five experts to find the goodness that already exists in their makeover subjects. The avocado recipes and round brush techniques are just bonuses.
Mind you, Tammye is no saint. She goes onto explain that her faith was a substantial roadblock when her own son, Miles, came out. They became estranged for a while, and it wasn’t until after her cancer diagnosis that they reconciled. After Miles’s announcement and several illnesses in the family, Tammye sat down with him and said, “I need to ask your forgiveness, because Mama hasn’t loved you unconditionally.” It’s a bit of a gut punch to hear, and food expert Antoni says later, “She thought her faith told her to judge someone who’s gay, but she saw past that… Not all parents do that.”
In another first for the show, it seems that maybe Tammye was teaching the Queer Eye experts something instead of the other way around.
The Queer Eye makeover is just the catalyst that pushes each man to the edge of their own next chapter. Whether they take that leap is up to them.
While the rest of the season isn’t quite as heavy, the following episodes take seven different men and explore the roadblocks keeping them from moving forward in their own lives: a 20-something one credit shy of a college degree, a Burning Man lifer ready to abandon his life to chase the music festival high, a trans man six weeks post-top surgery. Each of them receive new wardrobes, good hair cuts, and revamped living rooms, but each of them sit down and get to this deeper point that can’t be resolved with a Bonobos tee shirt. The makeover is just the catalyst that pushes each man to the edge of their own next chapter. Whether they take that leap is up to them.
And sometimes they may not. There’s not a lot of follow up after the episodes unless there’s something big life event to report back. But even without knowing what happens after the cameras turn off, each episode comes along with something to consider—if you take the time to do so. Rebooting a show that played such a heavy role in the visibility of LGBT people was a risky choice, and from a distance it can even seem irrelevant. Why drudge up a show fixated on the fact that it’s hosted by five gay men in a time where LGBT visibility is more normalized than ever?
The answer is simple: Because those men are facilitating discussions in a time when people aren’t particularly interested in accepting things they don’t like about other people, or themselves.
The 16 episodes from Seasons One and Two were all filmed in Georgia, squarely in the middle of the South, just one border away from the state in which I grew up. It’s a complex collection of 16 people who represent all walks of life, but inside each of their stories is something that is inherently human. When I talk to people who have had the opportunity to watch a few episodes, they rarely want to discuss any of the brands that were used or even the style tips the Fab Five offered. They almost unanimously want to talk about how they were rooting for Tom, or William, or Tammye and Miles.
On that walk around the block, I sat on someone else’s steps for a minute and felt lukewarm tears on my face. I remember a Bible verse growing up about how being lukewarm was the worst thing you could be. It was an in-between that implied you didn’t care enough to take action nor abandon the problem entirely. You just existed in it, refusing to move either direction. I scrolled through my phone unsure of how to approach what I wanted to do next. Then I decided to pray.
It had been a while, so I was a little out of practice. I started the way I always used to, asking for forgivingness for anyone I might have hurt. And then, for once, I offered forgiveness for those who might have hurt me. And then I had one more little ask: That if anyone up there was listening, then to help me to always remain open to learning from those around me, even if it seems we have nothing in common.