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Unformatted text preview: g as race is something only applied to non-white people, as long as white
people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm’’ (p. 1).
In much the same way, as long as sexual orientation is a term applied primarily to
those who are not deemed sexually ‘‘straight,’’ then heterosexuality will continue to
serve as the taken-for-granted norm against which other forms of human sexuality
are defined, measured, and judged.
An ongoing concern of Queer criticism has been the way films, television shows,
and other offerings of popular culture support the conventions of the mainstream’s
heterosexist sociosexual order and are complicit in taming and containing, if not
outright excluding, Queers and Queer sexuality (e.g., Battles & Hilton-Morrow, 2002;
Brookey & Westerfelhaus, 2001, 2002; Cooper, 2002; Dow, 2001; Epstein & Steinberg,
1997; Fejes, 2000; Gross, 1998; Herman, 2003; Russo, 1987). Meanwhile, as Yep
(2003) points out, ‘‘Heteronormativity is ubiquitous in all spheres of social life
yet remains largely invisible and elusive’’ (p. 18). The rhetoric that naturalizes heterosexuality permeates society’s cultural, legal, political, religious, scientific, and social
understandings of human sexuality. The extent of this influence speaks to the
heteronormative power of what we term the strategic rhetoric of heteronormativity .
The pervasiveness of this rhetoric enables it to shape how it is that we understand our
own sexuality and that of others, and to influence which forms of sexuality are
sanctioned and which are proscribed. In doing so, it benefits those whose sanctioned
sexuality is embraced by the social mainstream and makes life difficult for those
whose proscribed sexuality is not.2
Here we examine how the formula of the typical Queer Eye episode functions as a
ritual that supports the sociosexual order while seeming to challenge that order’s
heterosexist attitudes and values. We point out how that ritual defines straight men
and straight sex as natural and accords them unquestioned sociosexual centrality
while simultaneously domesticating Queers and Queer sexuality by delineating how,
when, and why Queers may enter the heteronormative social mainstream. Our
project is informed by Nakayama and Krizek’s (1999) critical examination of the
strategic rhetoric of whiteness, which applied de Certeau’s (1988) distinction between
strategies and tactics. Strategies are practices employed by those who occupy the
sociocultural center and are used by them to maintain their position of sanctioned
power and taken-for-granted privilege. Tactics are practices used by those on the D o w n l o a d e d B y : [ O h i o S t a t e U n i v e r s i t y L i b r a ri e s ] A t : 1 7 : 4 5 7 J u n e 2 0 0 7 Seeing ‘‘Straight’’ through Queer Eye 429 cultural/political/social margins whose lack of power and privilege allows them only
temporary and limited incursions into those spheres under dominant control. Critics
interrogating Whiteness have charted the strategies of dominance related to racebased power structures that privilege those who are defined as ‘‘White’’ at the expense
of those who are not. We engage in a parallel enterprise, in excavating some of the
strategies shaping the contemporary sociosexual landscape.
Queer Eye as a Mediated Ritual of Rebellion
Since its debut in 2003, Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy has attracted a large
and loyal viewing audience and garnered much critical acclaim. As Robinson (2004)
reports, ‘‘Queer Eye was an instant hit and became the cable channel’s most watched
program ever’’ (p. 4G). According to Levin (2003), ‘‘Queer Eye ’s premiere set new
records for the low-rated cable network [Bravo]’’ (p. 3D). Broadcast of new episodes
during the series’ first season frequently generated the ‘‘No. 1 cable results among the
Adults 25 Á 54 and 18 Á 49 demographics . . . making Bravo cable’s No. 1 ad-supported
network in prime time in both these key categories’’ (Rogers, 2003, p. 1). The show’s
popularity has spawned parodies on Saturday Night Live and such spoofs as Comedy
Central’s Straight Plan for the Gay Man . The series is also a darling of critics and
industry insiders. In 2004, Queer Eye won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality
Program and was nominated for another in 2006.
Queer Eye , which is the creation of David Collins and David Metzler, puts the
sophisticated tastes and make-over prowess of a quintet of self-identified gay men at
the service of struggling straight men. This quintet, fondly referred to as the Fab Five,
consists of Ted Allen, ‘‘food and wine connoisseur’’; Kyan Douglas, ‘‘grooming guru’’;
Thom Filicia, ‘‘design doctor’’; Carson Kressley, ‘‘fashion savant’’; and Jai Rodriguez,
‘‘culture vulture’’ (‘‘Fab Five,’’ 2006, p. 1). The series’ concept, as described by its Web
site, is simple: ‘‘Each week [the...
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This note was uploaded on 01/20/2014 for the course ARTEDUC 2367.03 taught by Professor Tiffanylewis during the Spring '14 term at Ohio State.
- Spring '14