What would the hugely popular Netflix series Queer Eye look like if the Fab Five were queer women? American comedian and actor Ally Johnson was wondering just that when she decided to be the change she wanted to see in the world.
“I was wondering why a female version of this show has never existed and what would that be like. I decided to give it a crack and write it,” she told PinkNews, halfway through her and producer Rob Schow’s crowdfunding efforts to raise $15,000 to produce a pilot episode.
The pitch for the series, titled Butch Pal for the Straight Gal, is simple: “Five experienced lesbians who call themselves the Fish 5 will give wayward straight women lez-tastic makeovers (or make-unders), which may or may not include fedoras and Birkenstocks.”
Johnson explained: “There are a lot of straight women who already spend a lot of money on clothes, makeup, haircut, things like that. Our job is to tone that all down a little bit. We want them to feel like an individual rather than fitting into a certain stereotype to feel love and feel pretty.”
Many have tried to spin off Queer Eye, but few have succeeded. Bravo launched Queer Eye for the Straight Girl in 2005 but not only did the title not rhyme, but only one woman featured among the experts. The US-based Ladies Eat Free comedy group created a eight-minute parody episode of Queer Eye featuring five queer-identifying women attempting a make-under of a straight girl, but the video received just over 5,000 views on YouTube.
Demand for a queerer version of Queer Eye, however, is strong. A crowdfunding page for the Butch Pal for the Straight Gal project has already received more than $8,000 from more than 100 different donors, reflecting the interest in the project, which initially started as a comedy sketch but soon grew to be bigger than that.
Johnson believes the LGBT+ community should be represented in more ways than five cisgender men.
“It is important to represent many more cultural backgrounds, sexualities, gender identity in the show and it can still be honest and funny and interesting,” she said.
Responding to some criticism moved against the project’s title, which seems to perpetuate certain binaries, Johnson said that it doesn’t fully represent what the show would be about.
“It’s not just butch women and it’s not just people who identify as female lesbians. I think people read that title and think this is what is going to be, or is going to be anti-femme, but none of those things are the case,” she said.
Johnson and Schow are however aware that no matter how fabulous the Butch Pal for the Straight Gal‘s experts, the Fish Five, may be, they’ll never be able to accurately reflect all of the different identities making up the LGBT+ community.
“One of the challenges is that you can’t please everyone. We want to represent as many communities as we can but it’s going to be impossible for everybody to feel like they’re getting their voice heard in the way they want it to be,” Johnson said. “Within five you’d never reach the variations, so we hope during the course of the show we can expand,” Schow added.
Johnson and Schow think that one of the solutions to the problem is to include a wider range of people that can share their expertise than just the Fish Five and make sure that overall the feel of the show is less capitalist-glorifying—one of the criticism some people have moved against Netflix’s Queer Eye and its expensive-looking make-overs—and more community-focused.
They now hope that enough community support and enthusiasm will be able to turn their project into a reality. “It should have existed years ago and now it’s about gathering together and make that change happen,” Johnson said.
Schow agreed: “Even if people can’t or don’t want to give money, just sharing it or making a comment about this project really goes a long way.”