US: Sorry, ‘Queer Eye.’ Makeovers Don’t Win Us LGBT ‘Acceptance.’

Samantha Allen is a senior reporter for The Daily Beast. She holds a Ph.D. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Emory University. In 2013, she received the John Money Fellowship for Scholars of Sexology from the Kinsey Institute. Previously, she was a Sex + Life reporter for Fusion.

The Netflix reboot of Queer Eye has been called the “ultimate feel-good binge” and it’s hard to argue with that description: It does feel good to watch it.

But I would argue that the new Queer Eye feels good in more of an anesthetic than a euphoric way. At a time when anti-LGBT sentiment in this country remains stubbornly persistent, the makeover show’s unremitting positivity feels more like a numbing agent than a dose of pure joy. Yes, it feels good. But is it good to ignore the pain right now?

Queer Eye teases us with the fantasy that homophobia in conservative parts of this country can be cured with haircuts and button-down shirts—and while that’s a reassuring fantasy, it’s also a dangerous one to indulge at a time like this.

“The original show was fighting for tolerance,” fashion guru Tan France announces at the start of the first episode, delivering what is essentially the reboot’s thesis statement. “Our fight is for acceptance.”

The episodes that follow do make good on that promise—but in a carefully-staged way. The show delivers plenty of genuine human connection between the new Fab Five and Georgia men who might have never otherwise spent significant amounts of time with gay people.

As my Daily Beast colleague Kevin Fallon noted in his mixed review of the reboot, “you bet those moments tug at your heartstrings when you watch.” I am not made out of stone; there is an undeniable emotional power in the reboot that’s only heightened by the red-state setting.

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