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Chinese “Queer Eye” Gets a Straight, Reductive Makeover, Angering Netizens

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A new Chinese reality TV show is getting criticized for ripping off Queer Eye — badly.

Netizens on both sides of the Great Firewall are blasting the show You Are So Beautiful (你怎么这么好看), released on streaming service Mango TV, for copying Queer Eye’s format without including a single openly gay cast member. Even Bobby Berk, one of the new “Fab Five” on the the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye, lamented the change on Twitter:

Though the show doesn’t advertise itself as a Queer Eye remake, the similarities haven’t escaped Chinese netizens, who are lampooning the show for its lack of originality and, in particular, its detrimental gender stereotypes. Many refer to the show’s first episode, in which the hosts ridicule a woman with a PhD in neurology for owning very few possessions, “only having 130 friends” on messaging app WeChat, and choosing not to wear makeup. “Is she a man?” asks host Han Huohuo incredulously.

An ad promoting You Are So Beautiful (image: Mango TV)

Netizens jumped to defend the doctor in the comments. “I don’t think she’s ugly at all,” wrote one commenter on YouTube, while another said, “I think this girl’s mentality is much better than these five!”

Throughout the episode, the show’s hair and makeup specialist Wu Xin asks her guest repeatedly if she uses lipstick, or knows what BB cream and air cushion makeup are.

A shocked Wu Xin confronting her guest about her BB cream knowledge (image: YouTube)

In an article criticizing the show on WeChat youth culture platform ’90s Tonight (青年大院), one highly-upvoted comment defended the doctor:

“Why do girls have to put on makeup? What qualifications do these people have to laugh at others? These women are the backbone of our China.”

By the end of the episode, the five gift the woman a wedding dress, despite her previously saying she was reluctant to marry. Fully made up and wearing her wedding dress, she tearfully agrees to take better care of herself going forward.

First aired in 2003, the original Queer Eye is often praised as pioneering for LGBTQ+ depictions on television. Chinese TV, by comparison, does not have nearly the same track record. In 2016, China made depicting openly gay characters in media illegal, and more recently has even gone so far as to censor men’s earrings on television. Many feel better depictions in the media are a sorely needed step for more widespread acceptance of LGBTQ+ by ordinary citizens.

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Yet despite these setbacks, small steps have been taken in improving the situation in China. A recent commercial for domestic e-commerce platform Tmall depicted an implied gay couple returning home for Chinese New Year, sparking a great deal of discussion and praise for its inclusivity. And not long before, Chinese officials revealed they were considering legalizing same sex marriage, due largely to the efforts of activists and allies.

Related:

Is China Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage?

Header image: YouTube

Mayura Jain
    Mayura Jain is a Shanghai-based writer, editor, illustrator and designer originally from Los Angeles. Before joining RADII, she worked for lifestyle magazine City Weekend and Sixth Tone as editor and graphic designer. In her spare time she frequents art exhibitions, fosters cats, and chows on unhealthy vegetarian food.