Dumb question about the new Queer Eye (spoilers)
February 14, 2018 3:12 PM   Subscribe

A friend of mine is telling me that I must drop everything immediately and binge QE on Netflix because it is amazing and life changing and he wants to talk about (almost) every episode. I would like to accommodate him, but I have a problem that can only be solved by people who've seen the show and can answer a very specific question but don't have any emotional investment in whether I watch it or not.

Here's the problem. I cannot STAND the physical and emotional sensations associated with vicarious embarrassment. It's mostly fine in scripted shows when two people stage whisper about the pudding stain on Veronica's pants, but I cannot deal when actual people are doing embarrassing shit on tv or being judged by others for not fitting into some kind of norm. I had to stop watching every talent show but The Voice because I could NOT DEAL AT ALL with smarmy judges giving each other side-eye while a tone-deaf auditioner is writhing on the floor while singing offkey or whatever. I also cannot deal with people being judgy about socially awkward or isolated people, even if it's gentle. Like, even the segment on What Not To Wear where the makeover victim is forced to twirl around in their preferred wardrobe while the hosts gently question their fashion choices was literal torture for me. And it does not matter if the subject is not actually embarrassed.

So, can I watch this show? And if it's like 90% fine for someone like me, are there any episodes I should skip, given these parameters? For example, my friend knows about my problem and suggested that I maybe shouldn't watch episode 7 because a comic dies on stage. (Not literally, of course.)
posted by xyzzy to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
No, sorry, it's not for you.

I like the show EXCEPT for the part you'd hate, and it's in every episode. They arrive, they take in what's going on with the guy - all the stuff they need to try to fix, sometimes surface stuff, sometimes deeper stuff - and it's sometimes excruciating.

They aren't cruel; they're actually quite a bit gentler and less bitchy than in the original. But it's almost worse, because the guys - the subjects - usually have deeper issues, and they get addressed in the show. The first guy for instance was terribly, painfully lonely. That's no laughing matter and they weren't mean about it; but it was writhingly uncomfortable to watch at first. Another guy was ashamed of some screwup he'd made with regard to his wedding and was carrying a huge amount of emotional baggage about his marriage and kids. Again, I think the show is actually good and the guys are sincere and helpful (and the hair guy is actually legit amazing) but no, if you find secondhand embarrassment painful, find another show.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:21 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’d also say no. I’m remembering the second or third episode where they went into the guy’s apartment and commented on how disgusting it was (I don’t recall if the guest was there when they were doing/saying that). That made me cringe and feel really bad for the guest. On the other hand, they have been quite sensitive to other issues. I’m only about 4 or 5 episodes in so cant speak for the rest of the season.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:28 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is funny because I think it would be fine to watch! I didn't see embarrassment or any level of the subjects being made awkward. I mean, it's a makeover show ultimately, so there's an element of, "You dressed like a former fat kid, let's get you in some form-fitting clothes cuz you HOT!" And the gays are very sweet and kind and they talk about pretty deep stuff for a makeover show.

But the basic premise is people want to make some change in their homes and clothes and appearance, etc., so there is an element of both before and after. But I didn't see them shame or poke fun at the before scenarios.

And the hair guy IS amazing.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 3:31 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I didn't find it anywhere near as bad as What Not to Wear. I can see why your friend said to avoid the comic guy episode, but he was pretty cool with it, and they weren't shaming him, and he seemed to enjoy it.

I also find the hair guy to be very satisfying, but seriously, they are all okay guys and there's not a lot of shaming going on.

They all seem to be genuinely rooting for the guys, and taking their own wants into consideration (i.e., one guy doesn't want to give up his beard, so they just trim it nicely and tell him what products to use, etc.).
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2018

They are definitely very much more gentle, sincere and respectful, lacking a lot of the snark of the original series. They don't actively embarrass the subject in a mean way, but the subjects are people who in some cases don't have a conventional lifestyle and clearly have some shame. So even I found it made me cringe with vicarious shame in spots, and you might too.

That said I'm not sure it's as super AMAZING as some press is making it out to be. I like that it's a lot nicer, and the "hair guy" is indeed a total breakout star who actually knows his stuff and a lot of it, and there is one guy who sort of emotionally counsels everyone who is lovely. But I also find the storylines involve a fair amount of setting up, to create the anticipated conflict (This one's a NASCAR-loving police officer being made over by a black gay guy! That one's a fundamentalist Christian being made over by a gay ex-Mormon!) and then resolve it in a way that sometimes feels pretty carefully pre-selected and scripted. The overall message is wonderful, but I have a feeling that the show is pretty handled to produce the social-healing effect it wants as its statement. So you might not be missing out on the sensation of the century.
posted by Miko at 3:43 PM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Another no. I like the show but there are lots of uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing moments. There are some beautiful moments, too. Personally, I objected to the episode where they kept hugging a young man who was clear that he didn't like to be touched. By the end of the show, he was tolerating it, and you are meant to think that their attention provided the therapy to bring him out of his shell, but it was all very #metoo and triggering. I'm not sure I'll keep watching.
posted by Knowyournuts at 3:44 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

The only one that gets more than a little shame-y in a painful way (I really hate that sort of thing, too) is the comedian one -- that's the next to last episode. But the comedian one ends ok! He does a show at the end and it's really good! He gets a happy ending.

This show is really all about people bringing to the outside what's awesome about themselves on the inside and just needs a little push. I found it cathartic.

I'd say watch the Camp Rules episode first -- that seems to be the gentlest one. They makeover a religious father of six.
posted by mochapickle at 3:46 PM on February 14, 2018

Actually, I thought about it and I change my vote to the Hose Before Bros episode as the safest.

It's about a very respected fireman hosting a charity event. He's a father to a family of adopted siblings. He's warm and articulate. The chief and his coworkers clearly adore him, and the Five are pretty much in awe of him. They never go to his house to rifle through his stuff (their task is to redo the fire house rec areas) and the only thing they riff on teasingly is his habit of wearing casual-ish clothes while he's in a leadership position.
posted by mochapickle at 4:10 PM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love it, but given your level of sensitivity, I’d say no. Within the first 60 seconds of the first show, one of the guys expresses shock that the subject is living in a basement apartment at age 57. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to watch after that. I’d say they’re generally pretty accepting, but there is an undercurrent that even if the guys are outwardly nice, the audience is going to be shocked. That’s part of the draw of the show. I feel like it’s overall positive, but I don’t think it’s for you.

(I’ve really gotten into YouTube clips of the Penn and Teller show Fool Us. P&T are so kind and positive, and I love shows where the contestants are really skilled. You might like it.)
posted by FencingGal at 5:54 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

Personally, I objected to the episode where they kept hugging a young man who was clear that he didn't like to be touched. By the end of the show, he was tolerating it, and you are meant to think that their attention provided the therapy to bring him out of his shell, but it was all very #metoo and triggering. I'm not sure I'll keep watching.

Knowyournuts - do you mean Neal the app-builder from episode 2? He tweeted (credit to divabat) that he was cool with how he was treated: "It was what I wanted and signed up for. I needed a sock to my system. And it all came from a place of Love and help from the guys. Everything was consented." and "I just don't want people to get the wrong idea. Behind those few awkward moments on TV where I was touched, there were hours of genuine conversations about who I was. They weren't just messing with me. They were trying to help."

OP - I don't think the show would be too cringe-inducing for you. As mentioned, the comic has one lousy set at a random American Legion club, where they keep cutting to a stone-faced silent audience, but then once the Fab 5 start talking to the audience members, most of them say they thought the comic had good material but just needs to work on his delivery, and then post-makeover he has a killer set in a real comedy club gig.

I agree that the Camp Rules would be a good one to try first to see if the format works for you, and to give you and your friend one episode to talk about if you decide that the show isn't a good fit for you.
posted by oh yeah! at 6:07 PM on February 14, 2018

I have only seen the Camp Rules episode so far but I recommend it. The wife nominated the husband but he was on board from the start, like there was no surprise home invasion or embarrassing video reel; it was clearly a family decision they had time to prepare for and embraced. It's still a makeover-themed reality TV show but almost a 180 from old standbys like What Not to Wear. Like you, I am critical of such shows but enjoyed this series so far. I would not consider it "amazing" or "life changing" as your friend did but it was feel-good show with a happy end. The New York Times review of the show does a pretty good job of analyzing Queer Eye with a critical-yet-optimistic eye.
posted by smorgasbord at 7:44 PM on February 14, 2018

I just watched the first two episodes and I didn't find it cringey at all. The subjects didn't seem embarrassed about themselves, just ready for change, and I don't think the show set things up with a framework of shaming.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:03 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have now watched the episode To Gay or Not Too Gay. The mentoring was wonderful and the scene where the young man comes out to his stepmom literally brought tears to my eyes. While I still wouldn't call it a "life changing" show just yet, I would say that it does a pretty darn good job of celebrating diversity and encouraging people to be their best selves.
posted by smorgasbord at 8:43 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I really liked it. Based on what you've said it might *not* be for for you, but you could try watching one or two episodes. If you find yourself getting uncomfortable, then you know. Switch to something else and tell your friend you tried it and it's just not your thing.
posted by bunderful at 8:44 PM on February 14, 2018

The hair guy is Jonathan Van Ness, who I know from the FABULOUS "Gay of Thrones" series. He is truly lit from within in a really unique way. Just FFWD to all of his segments and bask in his delightfulness.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 9:05 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I also just watched the first two episodes (dittoing sevenyearlurk) but found parts very cringeworthy. It doesn't matter if the straight guy is embarrassed or not, it's still hard to watch (for people who are sensitive about such things). Sometimes they are gentle about things but there have been a couple times I cringed at how harsh they were.

I do however like the show, and agree with many above that there are some very nice, sincere moments which make it worthwhile.

Honestly I'd watch the show blindfolded just to hear the clothing guy's voice. (Scottish accent?)
posted by mulcahy at 9:35 PM on February 14, 2018

Answering o yeah! - no, I didn't know that Neal said this about being touched. Your comment makes me feel better about the outcome. Thanks for sharing.
posted by Knowyournuts at 10:01 AM on February 15, 2018

OK, I watched one of the recommended episodes and I just can't do it. I wanted to dive under my couch after one of the show's hosts lifted up some black underwear and described it as "crusty." NOPE. I'm outta here.

Thanks everyone for your input. It was helpful.
posted by xyzzy at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

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