NEW YORK – Gay men have more style, class and culture than their straight counterparts, according to a new TV series that debuts Tuesday night.
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which airs on Bravo (search), boasts it will help heterosexual men “learn about wines that don’t come in a jug and come to understand why hand soap is not a good shampoo (and vice versa).”
But that has gay and straight viewers alike questioning the premise of the show, calling it unfair to portray straight men as sludge-swigging, Neanderthal louts.
“Maybe there are cases where an overhaul is necessary, but does it have to be done through this type of emasculating process?” Keita Ishigami, a 29-year-old New Jersey man, asked in an e-mail interview.
In the show’s first episode, the five gay stars — Kyan the “grooming guru,” Ted the “food and wine connoisseur,” Carson the “fashion savant,” Jai the “culture vulture,” and Thorn the “design doctor,” work to transform Brian “Butch” Schepel, a 35-year-old struggling artist who hasn’t had a hair cut in nine years, into a refined “Brian.”
That has Ishigami and others wondering if either Schepel or the lady in his life are better or worse off for the effort.
“After a couple of weeks of being with this remodeled straight man, a woman would be wishing that she could have the rugged, ‘dirty’ man back," Ishigami wrote. "Does she want to be with a man that appreciates and enjoys flower arranging, or a guy that can go out and rebuild a car engine?”
The show’s second installment, “A Great Mess in Great Neck,” focuses on Adam Zalta, a married man who doesn’t shave enough and wears a “uni-brow,” according to the show's Web site. The makeover mission: “improve his look, bring order and style to his home, teach him how to be a gracious host and to throw a great party.”
While acknowledging many men could improve their style, Chris Smythe, 31, argued Bravo’s primitive depictions of straights like Schepel and Zalta are certainly exaggerated.
”Men are definitely more conscious of their appearance and not embarrassed to admit it,” he said. “Men scrub and exfoliate. Hey, I even know what those words mean."
Scott Seomin, entertainment media director for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (search), isn’t feeling sorry for the men involved, and supports the premise behind the show.
"They are there at their own will, they’ll get a lot of free stuff, and they are bettering themselves," he said.
Seomin agreed, however, that the show plays up the stereotypes — on both sides of the sexual coin. While the straight men are portrayed as clueless style boobs, the gays are perceived as flamboyantly stylish and culturally adept.
Ian, a 28-year-old New Yorker who didn’t want his last name used, said some of the stereotypes might be based in reality. But he also said the straight men seem to get the short end of the deal.
“I think straight guys have more to be offended about here than gay men do,” he said. “You’ve got these five very trendy, very cool gay guys and all the straight guys are sort of helpless and hopeless.”
But Seomin said the series is deeper than its pretty surface.
"This is culturally more than just hair gel and natural fabrics," he said. "This has possibility to change the way straight men look at gay men as a minority."
And who’ll be watching the show? Smythe, for one, said he’ll give it a look.
“It’s a one-gag show, but yet it’s a good gag, exposing a stereotype and pushing past it," he said. "Look at James Bond. He knows how to dress and choose wine, but he’s manly.”