I had no idea how much I needed some new, soothing, emotionally cathartic episodes of Queer Eye until it was back with its fifth season at the beginning of June. Antoni with his band shirts and obsession with guacamole, Tan judging everyone – especially straight men – for their poor fashion sense, Bobby and his ability to do a year’s worth of work in less than a week without breaking a sweat, Karamo and his understanding energy that makes the most closed-off person open up like a spring flower, and Jonathan and his phrases that make absolutely no sense and yet still touch your soul. They were all there, all the comforting details. But this season felt fresh; something new was in the air. Firstly, their location moved from Atlanta – where all previous seasons save from the Japan special took place – to Philadelphia. But that wasn’t all.
Queer Eye is always at its best when it completely runs away from the concept of its predecessor, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, and accepts itself as its own thing. This season is the perfect amalgamation of that. The heroes – the name the show gives to the people they help each episode, evoking the thought that the Fab Five are not there to save them, but to help these people save themselves – are, for the most part, not straight, white men like previous seasons.
This change suggests not just how far the show has come, but how American media has transformed. In its first instalment, the show was applauded for doing what everyone was (popularly) having a hard time doing: opening up a dialogue with the ones that thought differently amid huge political divisiveness in the US in 2018. Now Queer Eye season five is more interested in portraying people that usually don´t find a space for themselves in front of the camera. The heroes are mostly of different ages, sexualities, races and backgrounds. And every single one of these people, in every single one of these episodes, made me sob into my ice cream.
This series’ secret is that when most reality TV shows might appeal to the audience’s pity for the people being helped, Queer Eye never once steps over this line. There is no need for pity, and no shame in asking for help, because everyone, even members of the Fab Five, have needed help in their lives.
I always come out of a different season claiming that one of the Five is my new favourite. This time it was a tie between Jonathan Van Ness and Karamo Brown. Jonathan loudly and proudly identifying as non-binary, correcting his friends and defining himself as a person, not a man, in numerous little moments warmed my heart. Karamo being so soft and open, always preaching against toxic masculinity and showing up with his two kids in a silly #QEHIPTIP segment made me want even more of him this season. Actually, I want more of everyone. Here’s to them making Zoom episodes of Queer Eye – at this stage, I’ll accept anything.
Words by Gio Chiconelli