“Queer Eye,” the Netflix reboot of the popular early 2000s show “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," was met with widespread acclaim since its release in 2018. Viewers lauded the show and its cast, the Fab Five, for its normalization of gay role models, inclusivity and celebration of masculine self-care.
These all-worth causes should be more prevalent in the media; however, the show’s central presentation of seeking confidence through material possession is uncomfortably linked to consumerism.
The show presents reinvention of self and buying new things as the same. It feels as if they are implying that to become a better person you need to buy new clothes, furniture and beauty products.
The Fab Five floats into each participant’s house and raid their closets. They pointedly throw out anything used and unfashionable and then take them shopping, often in big-box stores and fast-fashion clothing outlets. Therapy and family conflict resolution are also thrown into each episode for good measure, but the core principle of each episode is the physical makeover.
Beyond the problematic socioeconomic implications of making polished expensive spaces a signifier of being a “better” person, the rampant consumerism of “Queer Eye” is remarkably tone-deaf in our era of environmental activism.
Most activists recognize major corporations and the wealthiest 1% have the largest carbon footprints. American consumers are still grappling with how their buying habits are harming the planet. Even when we just consider the waste created by our daily eating habits, from our plastic water bottles to our styrofoam cups and foil wrappers, it can be distressing to consider how our small decisions tie into large-scale disruptions of ecosystems.
“Queer Eye” never claims to be a model of sustainable living, but, as a widely-watched and respected show, it should challenge itself to be one. Although makeovers are inherently rooted in buying new items and dispensing old ones, there are several changes the Fab Five could adopt to make their approach to consumerism more green.
Instead of discreetly taking old clothing and furniture to the dump, the show can emphasize that items are brought to recycling centers and thrift stores whenever possible. Instead of shopping at fast-fashion stores, participants can be introduced to more environmentally-conscious brands like Thought Clothing and Amour Vert.
Inevitably, these brands are more expensive than their fast fashion counterparts, so the participants can also be shown how to shop around second-hand stores for when they’re not shopping on the “Queer Eye” production budget.
Finally, when the participants’ houses are being remodeled, lead designer Bobby Berk should endeavor whenever possible to make the houses more energy-efficient, not just more physically appealing.
In the grand scheme of our environmental crisis, whether or not Tan France, the fashion expert on the show, buys a “Queer Eye” participant an H&M shirt will not dramatically change anything. However, by serving as a model of sustainability and conscious consumerism, “Queer Eye” can influence millions of viewers to be more conscious of their consumption.
Cécile Girard is a 19-year-old biology and psychology sophomore from Lake Charles, Louisiana.