“Queer Eye” may have brought LGBTQ issues into the living rooms of millions, but that doesn’t mean the fight for equality can be won by Hollywood alone.
“Part of the duality of queer existence is that sometimes you can experience joy, you can experience exciting things in the midst of really difficult things going on,” “Queer Eye” host Jonathan Van Ness told me at an Emmy FYC event for Netflix’s reality makeover show. “But I think duality also applies to visibility and representation and then the lived experience of people. I think that a lot of times we like we lock those things together and we think, ‘Oh, representation is getting better visibility is getting better. If visibility and representation is increased, that must mean things are getting better.’”
The hard facts prove things differently. “It’s possible that visibility and representation can be increasing and maybe getting better in some ways, like in the entertainment industry. But also, at the same time, hate crimes are raising every single year,” Van Ness said. “We have more anti-trans laws passed this year than all of last year and last year was the highest of all time.”
It’s why the “Queer Eye” teams knows their series is maybe more needed than ever. “My theory is I think we have to start talking about politics and religion and everything at the dinner table with our families,” Van Ness said. “It’s controversial, but it’s the only way it’s going to happen. You can’t do it on social media. You’ve got to do it with people in your life, or I think it’s hard to make progress unless you’re a little bit fearless about having a difficult conversation.”
Bobby Berk admits it took him awhile to start speaking out even after the show made him a star. “I’m definitely more comfortable with talking about situations from my life or situations in the real world to help our heroes and to try to help our viewers,” he said. “Before I was definitely very closed off. I didn’t want to talk about situations that I have had in my life. I guess I’m just much more free.”
So what changed?
“Seeing how us using things that have happened to us, both good and bad, help our heroes and help our viewers because they can relate to it,” Berk explained. “And they can see that if we went through those things and we survived and we made it, then they can, too.”
The show’s seventh season will be filmed in New Orleans. Asked how many more seasons they think they’ll do, Antoni Porowski said, “There’s still more stories to be told. There’s still so many different perspectives and touching on diversity — that’s kind of never ending, which is kind of like food. There’s always a new thing to try or to talk about or to discuss.”