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  • Writer's picturecasey

Queer Eye episode 1.05 "Camp Rules"

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

When I first got into TV, I was pretty aggressively against anything considered reality TV. I wanted TV shows to ‘elevate the medium’ and be ‘a different kind of art that people put in their living rooms’. I still want that, as obnoxious as it sounds, but I’ve expanded my horizons and learned that reality TV isn’t necessarily the antithesis to those things. As I rewatch The Newsroom, I’m realizing Aaron Sorkin probably got in my head about that, but I bet he hasn’t seen Queer Eye.

I’m still working my way through this show- the 7 season Netflix series that’s currently available, not the OG Queer Eye for the Straight Guy- but so far, every single episode has gotten me choked up, if not fully crying. There’s no other way to put it, it’s just a really wonderful thing that they’re doing. The genuine love, care, and empathy these five gay guys bring to all these rural southern homes is, as they say, “more than a makeover”.

Jonathan Van Ness and Bobby Camp in "Camp Rules". Image courtesy of IMDb.

In the kinds of reality TV that made me write off reality TV, the heavy-handed manufacturing by producers and editors is blatant, but the Fab 5 (Antoni, Karamo, Jonathan, Tan, and Bobby) have rang genuine and true in every episode. I really see how what they do for these people can have a huge impact. In other messy-life home makeover shows like Hoarders and Clean House, the frustratingly obvious missing piece is what will keep these people from returning to their old ways the second the camera crew packs up and leaves.

Queer Eye meets people where they’re at, and their mission is to give people the tools to be their best selves for themselves. It’s not about looking hot; it’s about putting effort into yourself. It’s not about having a clean house; it’s about having a functional and peaceful space for yourself and your family. And ultimately, it’s about doing the soul searching into why you haven’t been doing that all along.

As a gay girl from the south, it is really just a warm spoonful of honey to watch these guys strut all around Georgia and Missouri and beyond, leaving people better than they found them, spreading love and being loved back. The show doesn’t water down the undeniable conflicting politics between who they are and where they are; it transcends them. There’s an episode where Bobby initially refuses to step into a church, and throughout the show we learn a lot about the religious trauma he experienced- going to church every day until being kicked out of his adoptive parents’ house as a teen. By the end of that episode, Bobby will have worked his magic and transformed the church community center into a beautiful local hub. Later, the Fab 5 help a young Black lesbian in very similar circumstances learn to trust her found family and thrive as who she is.

Those episodes are so important because this is simply the reality for so many minorities in the south. But just as important as thoroughly acknowledging this is moving forward, learning that what you’ve experienced isn’t all you will experience and the way you’ve been treated isn’t how you will always be treated. If you’re a regular reader, you know I love to talk about religion on TV, and the structure of Queer Eye makes it pretty unavoidable. One of my favorite episodes that I’ve seen so far is one that brings that topic out in the open with nothing but love and acceptance.

In “Camp Rules”, the Fab 5 visit Bobby Camp, a father of six working two jobs with less than two hours unaccounted for in his average 24-hour day. He and his wife are madly in love, but he dropped the ball on their wedding, and their home life hasn’t reached a peaceful place since starting their marriage on the wrong foot. The Fab 5 aren’t afraid to make executive decisions, immediately raiding the closet, bathroom, and kitchen, assessing the situation and throwing things away- but they do it with love, in the best interest of that specific person. When someone needs a kick in the ass, they’ll give them one, but what Camp needs is a break and a fresh start (since we’ve also got Bobby Berk of the Fab 5, I’ll call him Camp).

Tan France and Bobby Camp in "Camp Rules". Image courtesy of The Hot Corn.

The house is a trainwreck- it’s tiny and 8 people live there- but Bobby quickly recognizes a lack of discipline in the children as the culprit. With this in mind, Bobby designs a top to bottom renovation focused on organization, peacefulness, and functionality. He puts floor-to-ceiling shelves in the living room, with lower shelves dedicated to the kids, and the rest being used as adult space. He creates a chore board, with a section for each kid and magnets with chores that can be assigned and moved around when completed. Jonathan chips into the bathroom transformation, building toiletry kits for all six kids that are meant to live in the kids’ rooms, so Camp and his wife can get the most out of the shared space.

Meanwhile, Tan, Jonathan, and Antoni take Camp and his little girls to Target. This is the only time I’ve seen them go to Target so far on the show, another indicator of the way they tailor their experience to who they’re with. While it’s appropriate in other circumstances, it would have been tone deaf here to suggest that Camp ‘treat himself’ and ‘just spend time on himself’ when he doesn’t have the time or money to do so. They buy clothes, hair products, and groceries all in the same place and the Camps learn how they can maintain this new lifestyle in a way that’s affordable and quick.

Karamo, the culture specialist of the group, sits down with Camp and learns about the missteps at his wedding- among other things, their photographer flaked, and they have no pictures from the day. The episode always ends with some kind of event where people can show off their new selves; in this case, Karamo hears how much Camp wants to do something for his wife and organizes a fresh start wedding reception where Camp can surprise his wife and celebrate their love with everyone that they want to share it with.

All of that is so sweet (his wife loves it), but the thing I love most about this episode is a conversation Camp has with Bobby. Camp mentions that he’s not concerned about losing anything in the house except for his dining room table, which is made from the pews of the church he grew up in. Bobby has already begun respectfully honoring this request before he gets the chance to talk to him about it, but when he has some alone time with Camp, he asks him what his thoughts on homosexuality are.

Bobby Berk and Bobby Camp in "Camp Rules". Image courtesy of The Hot Corn.

Camp gives a great answer. He says religion is a personal thing because he got to a point with the church where he “only saw the rules, and none of the love”. He tells Bobby that he has nothing but acceptance for the gays and he’s so grateful for what the Fab 5 are doing for him. Before the crew leaves Camp to his wedding reception, he tells the Fab 5 that he wishes they didn’t have to go, that they are absolutely loved and welcome in his home. They all say they love him too and he cries, they cry, I cry, it’s a very nice moment.

I honestly think what this show is doing is huge. Seeing these people shake hands, truly embrace each other, and then go back into their communities talking about the amazing people they just met has so much power. I really believe that accepting people who are different from you, learning from them, teaching them, and becoming a community in the process, is the way we move forward with love in this world.

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