Pop Culturing: In Difficult Times, 'Queer Eye' Returns Not a Moment too Soon

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday June 5, 2020

From left to right: Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Nate McIntyre and Jonathan Van Ness in "Queer Eye" Season 5.
From left to right: Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Nate McIntyre and Jonathan Van Ness in "Queer Eye" Season 5.  (Source:Ryan Collerd/Netflix)

It's hard to believe that the Netflix "Queer Eye" reboot has been around for five seasons (plus a mini-season that takes place in Japan) already. The reality show's supersized fifth season hits the streaming platform Friday and comes with ten tear-jerking feel-good episodes (up from its normal eight-episode seasons).

In Season 5, the Fab Five (Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Jonathan Van Ness) head to the City of Brotherly Love — Philadelphia; a departure from the previous seasons, which found the group making over their heroes in the South and Midwest. Despite the setting change, "Queer Eye" remains the same with the Fab Five bringing their messages of self-love, acceptance, and unity to ten new faces. And in these hard times, their voices have never felt more resonant.

Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Jonathan Van Ness in "Queer Eye" Season 5. Photo credit: Ryan Collerd/Netflix

"Queer Eye" hasn't always been perfect, however. Over the first few seasons of the series, the Fab Five have focused on parts of the U.S. where LGBTQ issues and progressive causes are usually disregarded. A Season 1 episode that probably has not aged well due to our current moment of unrest is when the group visit Cory, a cop and former Marine from Georgia. Thankfully, Season 5 might feature the show's most interesting heroes to date. Among the new faces is Lutheran pastor Noah Hepler, who is openly gay but is struggling with being proud of who he is as he balances his faith.

In another exciting episode, the Fab Five take on Abby, a 19-year-old activist and an organizer at the Sunrise Movement, a collective of youth who passionately fight climate change. Here, Porowski helps the young woman make a vegan meal, which might be a first for the food guru — at least on "Queer Eye." Though most of the season is set in Philly, the show goes off on a quick detour to the Jersey Shore where they help out Ryan, a property manager, a.k.a. DJ High Def. He's looking to start a family, like his siblings, but he says he's not meeting the right women but his parents believe his DJing is holding him back from getting the life he wants.

Jonathan Van Ness, ANtoni Porowski, Ryan Dyer, Karamo Brown, Bobby Berk and Tan France in "Queer Eye" Season 5. Photo credit: Ryan M. Collerd/Netflix

What makes Season 5 a bit better than past installments of "Queer Eye" is that the Fab Five feel more comfortable in their own skin than ever before. That's saying a lot, considering that the Fab Five has always preached living one's own truth and not being afraid to be who you are. But between Season 4 and Season 5, fans have watched the group exist in the real world and make headlines in their own right. Van Ness, for example, came out as non-binary (stating he uses he/him/his pronouns) and also opened up about his drug addiction, childhood sexual abuse and revealed that he was diagnosed with HIV when he was 25. In the new season, Berk again opens up about how his faith failed him, teaching him at a young age that being gay is wrong.

Brown, too, is as vital as ever as he helps the heroes with obstacles that they face some of their biggest obstacles. He teaches Abby the importance of making time for herself and practicing self-care and in another episode, he reconnects hero Tyreek with a woman who helped raised him but with whom he has since lost contact.

Although far from perfect and often repetitive, "Queer Eye" is one of the few shows that is feel-good TV from the inside out, shinning a bit of light in what can be a dreary TV landscape. Fans of the show will undoubtedly love the expanded Season 5 and the inspirational stories highlighted here are moving enough to attract new fans as well.

Pop Culturing

This story is part of our special report titled Pop Culturing. Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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