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TV Series Review

Premiering on basic cable in July of 2003, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy set a Bravo record by pulling in 1.64 million viewers. A week later, those numbers nearly doubled. And special appearances on sister network NBC continue to boost popularity. What’s the draw? According to promos, “Five gay men, out to make over the world—one straight guy at a time.” Queer Eye conjoins elements of design shows, cooking shows and style-TV. As the title suggests, the glue it uses is 99 percent gay.

Five bombastically gay men meddle in the sorry lives of the slovenly straight. They call themselves the “Fab 5.” Carson, the “fashion savant,” picks out a svelte new wardrobe for each “victim.” Thom, the “design doctor,” remakes his apartment. Ted is the “food and wine connoisseur.” Kyan, the “grooming guru,” bemoans unstylish coifs, oversees the waxing of hairy backs and gives liquid tans to as many men as he can. “Culture vulture” Jai gushes about dating techniques and, ironically, gentlemanly behavior.

After meticulously criticizing each new subject with a tactlessness sure to make American Idol’s Simon Cowell beam, the Fab 5 drag him through a head-to-toe makeover. And the poor schmo always seems eternally grateful. If this series were called Straight Eye for the Queer Guy, its producers would be forever banished from the Left Coast for bashing gays. As it is, blatant condescension toward heterosexuals is deemed long overdue. “TV has come down with a new case of hero worship for queer guys,” writes Entertainment Weekly’s Henry Goldblatt. “Get ready for gaysploitation.”

While the aesthetic results of Queer Eye’s makeovers are sometimes impressive, the banter that flies throughout the process is saturated with homosexual innuendo. Incessant quips are made about gay sex, oral sex, bondage, penis size and masturbation. The Fab 5 make playful attempts to get heterosexuals to “switch teams.” One made-over man possesses a huge stash of pornography which the guys lustily flip though. Every episode includes numerous misuses of God’s name. A few incorporate partially bleeped s- and f-words. One winks at bulimia. Another at date-rape drugs.

Kansas State University psychology professor Richard Harris says shows like this “influence our attitudes to be more accepting toward gays.” For Christian families, the challenge becomes teaching teens to respond to homosexuals with appropriate biblical love, not blanket acceptance.

Episodes Reviewed: July 24, August 12, 14, 19, 26, 2003

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Steven Isaac

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