I finished watching the most recent season of Queer Eye after I had fallen off it for a while. Why? I’ll get to that in a minute. It was set in Philly where my BFF lives and it had all the calculated emotional notes that the series is known for. Did I cry once an episode? Yes. But I knew going in that I would. Is it emotionally manipulative? Yes. But I also knew that going in as well. Here is Captain Awkward’s spoiler-free review for every episode of Queer Eye, written as she watched the third season, and it remains true to the end. There’s a very predictable format and I’m not here to argue for or against it. What I am here to say is that many of the things that caused me to flinch the first time I watched it has induced a full-body cringe this time around. I re-watched the first season and while it’s still generally heartwarming, I’m also very aware of how normative it is in so mane ways. Even heteronormative in some ways. Not in a anti-homosexual way, obviously, but in a ‘everyone must be paired up’ way. There was an unusual amount of attention paid to whether or not the participant was getting shagged so let’s address the sexual harassment elements first.
I know that it’s a reality TV show, but I couldn’t help thinking of all the ways it’s an HR nightmare. The participants have to had sign a waiver form because there were several times when if it had happened in an office, the Fab Five would have been hauled into HR so damn fast. One, and I distinctly remember this from the first time I watched the show, Neal, the Indian guy. I did a full-body cringe when they forced hugs on him. Some people do not like to be touched and it was clear that he was not enjoying it at all. Then, they forced him into a group hug and I was SCREAMING inside. This time watching it was even worse and their rational that he was ‘shut off’ and needed to be open to people did not fly with me. First of all, there are cultures in which people are more reserved. Secondly, some people have personal trauma that means no touching without consent. Thirdly, it’s ok not to want to hug people you just met.
Another episode is the firefighters one. Yes, they were all thirsty in that episode. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was for Karamo to sexually harass one of the firefighters whom he nicknamed Superman. Micah, I think his real name was. He took it in stride and with a smile, but it was uncomfortable to watch. I commented at the time that it would have been unacceptable if it were a straight dude doing that to a woman so why was it acceptable for a gay guy to do it to a guy? I mean, no one should be sexually harassing anyone, ideally! Jonathan does it all the time as well on a lowkey level, but that’s more just a generic ‘I’m going to fake-sexualize everyone to make them feel wanted’ thing that wasn’t as gross.
Again, I know that these people agree to be on camera and maybe they were fine with it in the end. However, it’s really uncomfortable to watch as someone who has experienced sexual assault.