Season 5 of Queer Eye takes place (mostly) in Philadelphia. A brief overview for the uninitiated: the Fab Five, a team of queer folk, help “heroes” nominated by family or friends to transform their lives by addressing various areas of self-care. In the past, the team has assisted the clueless, the overworked, and the unconfident, as well as at least one LGBTQ+ “hero” who needs help with establishing their identity. The show is worth watching if only for the transformation every hero undergoes. Season 5 has an especially progressive flavor, and also showcases the team’s evolution. A word of advice: you should not watch this show without tissues, or if you need to engage in public speaking immediately after. You WILL get feels.
First, the episodes. The season kicks off with several stories that provide the primary lesson we have come to expect from Queer Eye: everyone deserves love. The heart of the series builds on this idea, but focuses on heroes notable for their connection to prominent cultural issues. Among others, we see a Greta Thunberg-vibes activist, an immigrant entrepreneur, and a doctor struggling between professional and family life. These stories question common stereotypes about the social consciousness of younger generations, the contributions of newcomers to the country, and the family lives of professional women. The season finale handles a particularly salient issue: myths of masculinity. A trainer believes his best years are behind him, and is racked by guilt that he has not accomplished more at his age. The episode compassionately challenges the harmful gender norms that every man is alone, and that to ask for help is a weakness undermining any achievement.
Now, the Fab Five. Bobby, the home makeover specialist, has often been lamented as the unsung hero of the show. He enjoys more attention in Season 5, and gets a nice personal plug for his line of home goods. His remodels are his best yet. Tan, the fashion guru, stresses the French tuck far less. Johnathan, the grooming coach, previously fell back on regularly advising everyone to wear SPF (admittedly great advice), but now focuses on empowering local stylists. Antoni, the culinary coach, deserves a most improved award. Formerly, he taught everyone to make guacamole, but his dishes now run the gamut, from braised pork ribs to pizza. He strikes me as the most introverted team member, but he has pushed himself to ask more questions and give more encouragement. He can still translate as a bit stiff, but as a fellow introvert, I applaud his efforts.
The only team member I felt was underutilized was Karamo, the cultural specialist. Don’t get me wrong, he is unquestionably an expert at emotional work, which should never be undervalued. For instance, he mediated a hard talk between a hero and a boyfriend who cheated on her. However, some of the exercises he did with the heroes felt unnecessary. I mean… Comparing a park path to a metaphorical path? Emotional weights to physical weights? A bit on the nose, no? Plus, some tasks that I expected to fall under his purview were completed by other team members. One hero needed help with financial literacy, which seemed like an ideal task for Karamo, but instead, Bobby addressed that need.
Overall, I respect this season’s sense of mission, and the important work it does by giving a voice to groups who might not otherwise find representation. Queer Eye encourages us to have compassion for those we might judge, to acknowledge the power of nurturing, and to find the ways we can be our best selves.