Almost everyone tends to associate Bravo with “culture.” In the past, a consistent problem faced by Bravo was that a relatively specific and small niche of viewers watched its shows. This had to be remedied. As would soon turn out to be ironic in reference to its future choices of programming, Bravo decided to give itself a facelift. It needed a less elitist image consisting of new programming that would tell more of America that they too could somehow find “culture.”
Such a daunting task seems frightening. How would you change your image? To whom would you turn for help? How would you make yourself a “better” person? Who would come to your rescue?
Since everyone, even Bravo, is well aware of the fact that gay men are well versed in all of the modern day arts, such as fashion, gourmet cuisine, interior design, personal hygiene, and overall fabulousness, the network enlisted the help of five gay men, each flamboyant in his own way, in order to solve its dilemma. This “Fab Five,” as they were soon deemed, brought about many changes to the network and decided the future course of its reality programming.
The premise of each episode consists of the Fab Five coming to the rescue of a seemingly hopeless, hot mess of an individual, in order to infuse them with culture. The men arrive, react dramatically at the very sight of the disgusting, embarrassing state of their subject’s life, and immediately go to work. After having some fun pointing out to the subject just how terrible the his or her life is, they have separate consultations in order to work on improvements in each of five areas of culture. The final fifteen minutes of the program show the subject come forth no longer as an ugly duckling, but a beautiful swan whose life has been improved in many ways. The subject succeeds in achieving an intended goal, such as a marriage proposal or family gathering, and there is a happy ending.
But is the ending happy for everyone? No. While the show makes for good television, it first and foremost perpetuates gay stereotypes in order to achieve ratings. And though it succeeded in helping Bravo find a new edge, it provided audiences with a different definition of culture. The subjects helped in the show come from more or less average lives and are given access to a glamorous Manhattan world of money and privilege in order to be polished up a bit, but not for long. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy provided Bravo with a specific definition of culture that it would soon exaggerate and take to new levels. The channel that once provided America with culture by way of the arts now does so through glamour, privilege, and fabulousness.
In an attempt to appeal to more viewers through its new definition of culture, Bravo’s new shows become more and more superficial and empty. It seems that the its use of the Fab Five was a double-edged sword, helping ratings but taking the meaning out of how Bravo defines culture. For the love of all that truly is cultured and classy, please rethink your choices, Bravo. Remember, facelifts do not last forever. Stay true to yourself and give audiences real culture, lest you want to one day be sorry.