More Than A Makeover

Fidelity Rings really should be a thing. I don’t know if they ever made it to market, or if they’re just a fun idea floating around cyberspace. But I really like the idea, and think we should have them. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Fidelity Rings are (or would be) actual rings – like a super hero would wear – that help maintain “fidelity” between people who enjoy watching streaming television together. The show in question would only play if both parties wearing the Fidelity Rings are present. That way your significant other can’t “cheat” and find out what happens next on Game of Thrones – or The Great British Baking Show – without you. Since I often write from home, I have to exercise great restraint with Netflix. Whenever I need inspiration for a blog post (like right now), all I have to do is turn on the television. 

I’m currently obsessed with Queer Eye. The reboot of the original Queer Eye for the Straight Guy is now More Than a Makeover. The Fab Five spend an entire week with a lucky winner in need of a makeover (nominated by friend or loved one). Makeover recipients include women as well as men, and in this new season even a business is overhauled. 

I’ve been working to understand my love/hate relationship with the show. It makes me happy and agitated at the same time. Happiness is Jonathan. How can you not be happy with a sweet-bundle-of-love-gay-guy fawning over you all the time – calling you “honey,” and “sweetie” and telling you how “gorge” you are? I need to keep him in my back pocket! It’s also fun to see how different clothes – in the correct sizes – can completely transform the way a person looks and feels (even if everyone is wearing a French Tuck). Thank You Tan! And Bobby’s interior design makeovers are functional, aesthetically beautiful and congruent with the clients’ authentic self. Antoni is nice to look at, but he’s the food and wine guy. So that’s of no real interest to me. Which leaves us with Karamo – the “culture” (better known as self-help) guy.

Now I don’t have an issue with Karamo himself. He seems to be a genuinely great guy – authentic, caring, supportive. My problem is with the pop-culture psychology – inevitably used by all of the Fab Five – to try to facilitate personal transformation.

For example, let’s say you have a very strong fear of heights. Through the pop-psych ideas of honestly sharing your feelings, thinking about that time “things changed,” overcoming your obstacles, recognizing your self-worth, etc. – and a genuine, heart-felt connection – Karamo could temporarily build up your self-esteem. He and the others could then rally around you and cheer you on so that you could jump off the high-dive. But these pop-psych sound bites are just that – sound bites. They don’t facilitate deep or lasting evolution or transformation. A few weeks later, after everyone’s gone, when you’re all along again, things could be even worse. You could feel bad about yourself because you’re back to struggling to even climb the ladder of that diving board.

Queer Eye is an example of “inspirational” and “motivational” media (TV, film, books, podcasts, etc.) that can create all sorts of confusion for those seeking personal empowerment. Yes, how you feel about yourself matters. Self-love and self-care are vitally important. And by changing your grooming, dressing, eating, exercising, and self-talk habits, you can change the way you feel about yourself. Your physical environment also influences your state of being. But personal evolution generally takes more than a week. Furthermore, these makeover winners don’t just get the expert advice of the Fab Five. They get a completely remodeled living or working space. They get a new wardrobe. They get grooming products. The guests featured on this show receive a “transformation” that comes with hard costs. Costs that the guests don’t need to pay and probably couldn’t afford. So what do you do if you can’t afford to remodel your home or get a new wardrobe? And, more importantly, what happens to your life when the cameras stop rolling and your cheering section is gone?

I’m sure the Fab Five have helped jump-start the personal transformation for most of their clients. But the best – life-changing – thing they have ever offered is that week of unconditional love and support. As viewers, that can be our biggest take-away. From one episode to another, one season to another, the one constant is the unconditional love and support the Fab Five give their clients – not the specifics of the physical, psychological or emotional “makeover.” The best thing we can learn from this show is how to cultivate the love of the Fab Five within ourselves. While we’re learning to do that, it’s best to let the show be what it is – entertainment.