Last night I watched the first episode of Queer Eye at my daughter’s insistence and I watched it through determined to open my mind to a new way of seeing the world. What I saw I disliked. Not because the five gay men who make up the cast aren’t delightful people who exude a certain energy that has its appeal but because I felt there was something essentially dehumanising and humiliating about taking a 57-year-old truck driver out of his home for a week and gussying him up, both his home and his clothes, his all over bodily appearance to render him more attractive to others, particularly to the woman in his life.
It struck me as such a construction. Given I recognise that all television entertainment even documentaries and real-life shows are all constructions, why would I think otherwise?
Still I kept thinking about all the money that went into reviving this man’s wardrobe, his house and his love life. They did it all in a week, with much cooperation from him.
At least, they didn’t try to make him lose weight or alter his complexion radically. Tom, our made-over man, suffers from Lupus, hence his skin is dry and red.
Prior to his makeover, Tom hid behind a shaggy pepper grey beard that covered the bottom half of his face and a baseball cap that covered the top half of his face and balding head. Only his blue eyes peeked out from his ruddy complexion.
It was clear he was a man who was loved within his community, a man with friends although he was lonely at night after work, after three failed marriages, one daughter who lived nearby and a grandson whom he treasured. He tended to sit in his favourite poo coloured recliner and watch television.
His favourite meal was Mexican nachos and some sort of tequila mixed with Meadow Dew over ice concoction that he clearly enjoyed, but which his five minders found revolting.
In the series, the five make over artists are each ascribed a role, one in clothes, one in design, one in diet, one in culture – whatever that means – and one in grooming.
I did not enjoy this series because it focussed on the appearance of things even as they argue that to give up on your appearance is to give up on yourself and they’re right to a degree. Not just on your appearance but on looking after yourself.
Tom repeated this mantra: ‘You can’t fix ugly’.
It was this statement and the efforts the five guys made to reassure him it was not true that left me again troubled.
I think of ugliness as very much in the eye of the beholder and also something that can reflect our inner state.
When I feel bad inside I feel ugly on the outside and it has nothing to do with the actual aesthetics of my face or body.
It’s a feeling, which is not to say there’s no such thing as ugliness or beauty. There are things that reflect both, but people are people irrespective of their appearance and if we get hooked on merely improving the appearance of things we fail to recognise what lies beneath.
Maybe that’s the point of this show, to get below the surface into what lies beneath but I sensed a missing element, the true complex state of mind of all these people.