Review: Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ continues to be an inspiring show

by Shera Bhala | 4/12/19 2:00am

The Fab Five, the beloved group of queer men on the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” are back for their third season in Kansas City, MO — more sparkly and delightful than ever. After two seasons of makeovers in Atlanta, GA, the group hones in on the Heartland of America. Filled with stunning transformations, heartwarming moments and plenty of “yaass girl”s, the third season entertains with its bright, feel-good plot and humor.

Each member of the Fab Five contributes his specialty in makeover expertise. Tan France dresses to impress, Karamo Brown encourages culture and confidence, Bobby Berk designs impressive new interiors, Antoni Porowski cooks up cuisine and Jonathan Van Ness grooms scruffy hair to create luscious locks. The team works together flawlessly, as a well-oiled makeover machine.  

Guided by their perennial quest to help people discover the best versions of themselves, the Fab Five venture out of their loft in Kansas City to consult a variety of clients. This ensemble includes Jody Castellucci, a correctional facility security officer living in Amazonia, MO, whose closet primarily consists of camo and hunting gear; Joey Green, a children’s camp director who lacks proper hygiene but cares deeply about the camp and about being a good father; and sisters Deborah and Mary Jones, who own a hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint celebrated by locals. Other memorable clients include Jess Guilbeaux, a young, black, lesbian woman who struggles with her identity and perceived lack of family before discovering a role model in Karamo,and Rob Elrod, a single father trying to move on from grieving his wife’s passing. These individuals, open-minded and eager, making for interesting episodes. 

And this clientele is what sets the third season of “Queer Eye” apart from its predecessors. Kansas City, a blue bubble situated in between the two solidly red states of Kansas and Missouri, provides an engaging mise en scène for “Queer Eye.” The individuals in the previous two seasons were primarily white, male and largely unfamiliar with the gay population. However, the third season includes men and women of varying races as well as Jess, the first lesbian woman to be featured on the show. Such diversity complements the members of the Fab Five and their charming, humorous personalities. 

While inspiring, the downside of “Queer Eye,” like any other reality TV and makeover show, lies in its predictability. The routine plot of gifting a client with a new hairstyle, wardrobe, cuisine, dwelling and attitude can lose its appeal. Despite the repetition, the redeeming quality of the program that still keeps audiences engaged is its boldness. Flamboyant and exciting, the Fab Five captures attention. Their clothes are fashionable — think a lilac suit for Tan or Jonathan’s tendency to cut hair in colorful high heels — their passion for makeovers is contagious and their genuine care for those that they help is touching. The contrast between the boldness of the quintet and the quieter, timid personalities of their clients offers further intrigue that outweighs the repetition. Each episode shows this contrast and closes that gap in confidence between the two groups by the end in a satisfying, heartwarming closing that you don’t get sick of.  

Emboldened by the Fab Five, clients embrace themselves and their identities after their makeovers. For example, Jody learns to embrace her personality and her more feminine side, leading to her eventually feeling comfortable in “fancy” environments, like a romantic gondola ride with her husband on Kansas City’s Brush Creek. The Jones sisters, empowered by their new professional looks and redesigned restaurant, finally capitalize on their famed BBQ sauce by having it bottled and sold. The confidence Jody and the Jones sisters gain is invaluable.

Since the show is centered around self-acceptance, there is no shortage of emotional moments in “Queer Eye.” The most poignant moments are those of true transformation — the moments in which clients like Deborah, Jess and Rob face such metamorphosis that they are moved to tears. Deborah stopped herself from smiling for years, covering her mouth with her hand, but after a visit to the dentist to get a new tooth, she cried out of happiness when she looked in the mirror at her new smile. Jess was disillusioned by her adoptive parents, who kicked her out of the house as a teenager upon discovering her sexuality. But she tours Kansas City’s historic 18th and Vine district, a birthplace of jazz and African-American culture, and learns from Karamo that she truly is “a strong black woman.” Rob, the definition of salt of the earth, had suffered quietly for two years following the death of his wife, Allison, from breast cancer. The Fab Five moves him into his new house, as Allison wanted, and Bobby creates one of his most sentimental pieces of furniture: a cabinet for his kids’ belongings that has an engraving of Allison’s handwriting. These moments define the purpose of “Queer Eye”: to connect people with the truths and confidence for which they have longed. 

“Queer Eye” is unfailingly inspirational. The show strikes a balance between funny and light-hearted and seriously transformational. This balance is achieved by the genuine personalities of the Fab Five. Motivated by a true sense of humanity, the quintet manages to touch the hearts of their clients and audiences. Tan, Karamo, Bobby, Antoni and Jonathan use this sense — and, of course, their style prowess — to help others lead their best lives. Glittering and entertaining, the Fab Five continues to uplift. 

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