Wester&Lacroix.Seeing Straight Throught the Queer Eye

Flirtatious come ons sexual innuendos and bawdy puns

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Unformatted text preview: ty. The liminal license that permits the Fab Five these transgressions is readily granted them because of their mission to put the straight world right again by helping grooming and fashion challenged heterosexual males improve themselves by becoming better consumers. This license grants the Fab Five permission to playfully exploit, in a popular culture context, the dramatic and homoerotic tensions arising from the sexual teasing and boundary testing that have been important in the relational dynamic of gay and straight men (see, for example, Chauncey, 1994). Flirtatious come-ons, sexual innuendos, and bawdy puns play an important role in the Queer Eye formula. Sex and sexuality are featured ‘‘front and center.’’ The extensive exploitation of such sexual elements distinguishes Queer Eye from other reality make-over shows, whose hosts do not flirt with their clients. In examining what the Fab Five are permitted to do and say in this respect, and what they are proscribed from doing, we point out how the series ultimately serves the interests of the sociosexual order that privileges the very straight men whom the Fab Five playfully mock in accordance with the rules governing rituals of rebellion. Taming As a ritual of rebellion, Queer Eye routinely registers several standard * and, we would add, rather stereotypical * complaints regarding straight men: they are disheveled, they lack cultural savvy and culinary expertise, and their living quarters are dirty and disorganized. Seen in this light, straight men clearly need remedial 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 433 decorating, grooming, and fashion advice. During the course of each episode, the Fab Five work furiously to remedy the deficiencies of supposedly characteristic of straight men.12 The Fab Five strive to aesthetisize, civilize, and organize * in a word, to tame * their clients. In doing so, they provide them with cultural insights and cooking tips; clean and organize their apartments, condos, and houses; groom them and dress them. This is often done, though not always, with the goal of rendering the straight men more desirable to their wives or girlfriends, who are typically banished from the show when the Fab Five appear and return only after the five gay men have wrought their make-over magic. The conspicuous absence of these women serves two important functions. Dramatically, it allows them to return as appreciative admirers who fawn over the Fab Five’s miraculous transformations of their men and their men’s living spaces, in keeping with the conventions of the make-over genre. Ritually, the women’s absence emphasizes the homosocial nature of the relationship between the Fab Five and their straight clients, and thus heightens the potential for homoerotic tension that Queer Eye exploits. Nothing better illustrates the extent to which the Fab Five will go in their attempts to tame straight men for the benefit of their women than the practice they refer to as ‘‘Manscaping: Trimming Hair Everywhere.’’ Waxing hair from the backs of straight men, trimming and sculpting their chest hair, grooming their beards and sideburns, and transforming their ‘‘monobrows’’ into two distinctly defined eyebrows are regular features of the physical makeover of the Fab Five’s straight clients. An excellent example of this practice is included in the Andrew Lane episode (Episode 105), where Andrew is subjected to every form of painful hair removal listed above. The extent of the Fab Five’s devotion to defoliation is also evident in the Boston Red Sox episode mentioned in the introduction. Like Andrew Lane, the ballplayers are subjected to an aggressive and sometimes quite painful bout of manscaping. This practice exemplifies the Fab Five’s ongoing attempt to tame the ostensibly wild * and hence, it is to be understood, natural * heterosexual male body. This practice ritually codes straight men as natural; by extension, straight sexuality is also positioned as natural, and consequently normal. In contrast, the Queer sexuality of the Fab Five is framed as being as unnatural an imposition upon the socialscape as manscaping is upon the hairy heterosexual male body. Touching and Teasing The supposed need to defoliate hairy straight men is one of the many excuses the Fab Five use to touch their straight clients in ways that would not otherwise be countenanced. For instance, in the Andrew Lane episode, the Fab Five pull his shirt down and complain about his hairy back. Combing that hair, Carson kids, ‘‘Let’s take this sweater off. . . . We can tease it; it’ll look like angora! People will think you have cashmere!’’ This transgressive touching signifies that, for a brief ritually defined time, the Fab Five enjoy some degree of power over straight men’s bodies and their lives. The relentless teasing that...
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