Wester&Lacroix.Seeing Straight Throught the Queer Eye

As dyer 2002 observes as always with images and

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Unformatted text preview: l interest is not reciprocated, nor is such reciprocation expected. This positioning illustrates how Queer Eye , as an example of 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 441 heteronormative strategic rhetoric, places heterosexuals in general, and straight men in particular, at the cultural, social, and sexual center of our society. The power of heteronormative strategic rhetoric to tame potential Queer transgressions is evident in the fact that the Five Fab are physically removed from the straight world at the end of each episode of Queer Eye and hermetically confined within their loft. It is also made manifest in the way they behave themselves sexually (as viewed from a heteronormative perspective) during their incursions into straight spaces, despite their shameless penchant for flirtatious teasing. Indeed, the Fab Five’s unwitting (we would hope) complicity in their own domestication indicates the extent to which the heterosexist order has succeeded in colonizing our culture and ourselves. This same colonization is evident in the show’s unquestioning acceptance * and reaffirmation * of heteronormatively defined sexual categories and the sharply defined boundaries that separate such. Reified representations of this kind exercise a powerful influence because they simplify what is actually quite complex. As Dyer (2002) observes: As always with images and representation, reality is more complex and fluctuating. The actual practice of heterosexuality must to some extent outstrip the cultural models available to it. Yet it would be absurd to assume that those models are of no account whatsoever. (p. 121) It is important, therefore, to critically engage representations of Queer and straight sexuality and to chart the contours of the strategic rhetoric which supports and draws support from such representations. Given the fluidity of cultural constructions of human sexuality, the charting of this rhetoric will remain a necessarily ongoing project. Notes [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] As put by Kyan Douglas in Episode 105. A questionnaire developed by Rochlin (2003) illustrates the taken-for-grantedness of heteronormative bias. Queer Eye is not the only ‘‘gay friendly’’ program that has been aired by Bravo. Boy Meets Boy and Gay Weddings are two other examples. These shows, however, have not enjoyed the same popularity with mainstream audiences as Queer Eye . According to the Hollywood Reporter , the series finale of Boy Meets Boy attracted an audience of only 1.6 million viewers, while the episode of Queer Eye that immediately followed it drew 3.3 million viewers (‘‘‘Queer Eye’ ratings,’’ 2003). Queer Eye has attracted a smaller audience in subsequent seasons. We suggest that this pattern is typical of the life-cycle of formulaic reality-based television shows which do not make significant casting changes in order to generate continued interest (as opposed to, for example, The Apprentice , Survivor , and The Real World , which make such changes). As examples, Gluckman (1963) points to agricultural rites in which Zulu women were permitted to assume a temporary dominance * which, as Morris (1987) notes, ‘‘contrasted markedly with the norms of these patriarchal people’’ (p. 249) * and the Incwala ceremony of the Swazi, during which songs are sung that openly mock the king. ˜ See Munoz (2005), regarding race and Queer Eye . Queer Eye episodes are named after their featured clients. We examined five episodes from the first season and five from the second season. 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 7 442 R. Westerfelhaus & C. Lacroix [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] Three holiday specials * ‘‘A Very Queer Eye Holiday’’ (Episode 116) from the first season (2003), ‘‘A Very Queer Eye Thanksgiving: A Feast Fit for a Queen’’ (Episode 146), ‘‘A Very Queer Eye Christmas: The Brady Bunch Does Christmas Brunch’’ (Episode 152), both from the second season (2004) * and the 2005 episode featuring the Red Sox (Episode 204). Using the term ‘‘positive’’ with respect to representation of Queers and Queer sexuality is troublesome. In this context, we simply mean that the Fab Five are not depicted as being sexual prey or predators, as sick or as criminal; and while funny, they are not mere comedic relief. Included among the gay stereotypes the show perpetuates: the cutting campy humor, the flamboyant behavior, the contention that gay men possess greater grooming and fashion sense than straight men, and the somewhat effeminate way that the Fab Five, especially Carson, carry themselves. In this study, we use the terms gay and straight in reference to those who self-identify as such, or who are thus identified on Queer Eye . The Fab Five are frequently depicted as l...
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