Wester&Lacroix.Seeing Straight Throught the Queer Eye

After all their gently mocking insults and tongue in

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Unformatted text preview: accompanies the Fab Five’s tactile transgressions reflects the caustic, clever, and campy humor stereotypically associated with some segments 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 7 434 R. Westerfelhaus & C. Lacroix of the gay community. Historically, this humor developed as a tactical means of defense against and offense toward a hostile heterosexist social order. Joking immunizes the Fab Five against negative consequences that might attend their caustic comments and sexual come-ons. This is why humor often plays such an important role in rituals of rebellion. After all, their gently mocking insults and tongue-in-cheek flirtations are not intended to be taken seriously. As with humorous skits in which enlisted soldiers poke fun at officers or students lampoon their teachers, they are done ‘‘in good fun,’’ so it is considered bad form to take offense at them. The use of Queer humor in Queer Eye serves another purpose. Because of its connection to Queer culture, the inclusion of humor traditionally associated with gays gives the series a veneer of Queer authenticity that serves the heteronormative purpose informing the series’ ritual formula. Fostering the perception that Queer Eye is authentically Queer helps hide the fact that it promotes values at odds with the full and open expression of Queer sexuality. The Fab Five find many reasons for and occasions to touch and tease their straight clients. These tactile and verbal transgressions often complement one another. Two dominant themes are expressed in this way: (1) interest in and admiration of the straight man’s body (sometimes expressed in litotic terms, in which a negative comment actually serves to emphasize a positive attribute), and (2) playful hints regarding the forbidden allure of homoerotic desires and behaviors. Interest and Admiration The Fab Five express much interest in the bodies of the straight men they aid. In one episode, Carson disrobes client du jour Lawson Clark and rubs him down after a tanning session (Pilot Episode). Later, he reports to his colleagues: ‘‘I rubbed him down like Seabiscuit. It was great.’’ In another episode, Carson tells client Thomas Kaden, ‘‘If at any time today you want to make out with me, just let me know’’ (Episode 103). The playfully prurient tone of these statements is unmistakable. Such come-ons, which are typically deemed to be unwelcome by straight men according to the conventions of the heteronormative mainstream, are tolerated within Queer Eye ’s ritually defined context. The Rob Munroe episode offers yet another example of Carson’s open and coyly flirtatious interest in a straight guy (Episode 120). Carson makes clear his interest in Rob through lascivious commentary and admiring glances. At one point, Rob lies between Carson and Kyan on a bed in the Donna Karan store, as Carson flirts, ‘‘Oh, Daddy, keep talking.’’ Carson’s interest is so shamelessly aggressive that Rob is given a code word, ‘‘zucchini,’’ to use when he feels uncomfortable. He uses it laughingly on a couple of occasions as Carson continues to tease Rob relentlessly about his attraction for him. Is Carson’s interest genuine, or is he just teasing Rob? We are never told. This ambiguity deprives Carson’s sexual come-ons of any real seriousness, as does their comical delivery. In using humor in this way, any possibility of Queer sex between Carson and his client is rendered harmless, reduced to a mere joke. 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 435 Carson is the series’ ‘‘usual suspect’’ when it comes to overt sexual come-ons, but other members of the Fab Five also engage in salacious behaviors, particularly when openly and unapologetically admiring their straight clients. In these cases, the series’ straight men are typically depicted as unwilling * and at times unwitting * objects of an admiring gay gaze. In the opening moments of the Sean Keenan episode, for example, the Fab Five view a file photograph of their new client and talk at length about how ‘‘hot’’ they think Sean is (Episode 135). When they finally meet him in person, Carson opines, ‘‘God, you’re hotter than we realized.’’ Later that same episode, Sean is paraded around in a parody of the fashion show catwalk, wearing nothing but his tight and rather revealing underwear. The Fab Five’s coy exchange of lascivious looks make clear that he is the focus of their prurient gay gaze. Indeed, episodes of Queer Eye include many other examples of additional teasing and tactile transgressions against the heterosexist order. The Fab Five’s teasing commentary often has a sexual undertone, which gently (and sometimes not so gently) insults their straight client or, more generally, straight sexuality. In the ransacking of Andrew Lane’s house, for instance, the Fab Five happen upon ‘‘Snugger fit’’ condoms, about which they then tease Andrew mercilessly. Jai says, ‘‘Snugger fit . . . for a ni...
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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.

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