Queer Eye on Queer Eye: The Case For and Against Antoni Porowski

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Antoni in one of the two Little Life T-shirts he wears on Queer Eye. Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

It seems that Antoni Porowski, the designated food and wine expert on Netflix’s reimagined Queer Eye, has struck quite a chord among viewers. To say that public opinion is polarizing is a bit of an understatement; he has nearly as many harsh critics as followers attempting to slip into his (closed, sorry) DMs. His fans are adamant that he stylishly strikes the exact right tone as a culinary expert (and check out those arms!), while detractors claim his skills as a chef fall somewhere between a college coed and a checked-out Rachael Ray. Two Queer Eye fans, Las Culturistas podcast hosts Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, weigh in for Vulture, with passionate arguments on both sides of the debate.

Bowen: Okay, Matt, you and I seem to be diametrically opposed on the single issue threatening to destroy the queer community. I never thought that issue would be Antoni, but I did always suspect that grapefruit and avocado would have something to do with it.

Matt: I want to start by saying that I first realized there was a new Queer Eye happening when I was watching The Wendy Williams Show one day like all the other 40-year-old moms in the world (I’m a 27-year-old man shhh!), and the new Fab Five were the guests. I was taken aback when Wendy — who had addressed Tan, Jonathan, Karamo, and Bobby with her traditional “How you doin’?” — got to Antoni, who sunnily replied, “How’s it going?” This is bad! It is polite and bad. Wendy had to check in with Karamo to make sure everything was gonna be okay if she kept talking to this guy. To not know to respond “how you doin’?” back to Wendy Williams!? This is not-getting-it on a high level. For me, not a good foot to start out on. But what can I say? I watched the show and I’m gonna bravely say it: Antoni is my favorite! Maybe it was the fact that he endearingly can’t really dance but still goes for it in the intro package. Maybe it was the incredibly transparent but extremely effective thirst-trap that was his “I’m a romantic” sound bite in episode one. Maybe it was the grilled-cheese recipe! I am usually hungry for cheese and bread. But I’m in love, and I don’t think I ever stood a chance. I’m gonna be a revolutionary here and say that I think the haters are … jealous?! Bowen, as Morgan McMichaels recently said on Drag Race, “Y U MAD THO?”

Bowen: That’s the thing, is that Antoni is failing so many gay proficiency tests that the community has laid out for us like bear traps in the woods. One careless mistake and you’re a goner, never to emerge into a fierce bacchanal à la Looking season two. It’s not that every gay man wants to know how to behave on the set of The Wendy Williams Show, it’s that every gay man has to know. And Antoni doesn’t know. His mishandling of that inherited wisdom is alarming, and this feels like a reverse–Get Out situation where all of us are Daniel Kaluuya and Antoni is Betty Gabriel not knowing how a phone battery works. I am deeply suspicious of him.

Matt: Well, if your argument here is that Antoni is a little basic, then I would say he is using that to his advantage when it comes to his role on the show. I am also (high-functioning) basic and truly appreciate what Antoni is laying out here. Let’s take the food that Antoni prepares for our (mostly) straights during season one. Antoni understands that you have to walk before you can run! This criticism that the food he is preparing is “too easy” and that he “doesn’t do anything” is insane. What do you want these straights to do? Be able to debone a duck after three days? No. They can learn to make grilled cheese, and so can I by proxy. As someone whose diet is mostly chicken fingers, I’m appreciative of Antoni’s culinary skills and teachings! He is a teacher, Bowen.

Bowen: I don’t buy that. There’s been some great investigative reporting on Junkee about whether or not he really even knows how to cook! Almost none of the things he’s making for the mostly straights in his charge involve a stove or an oven, right? Like, he’s preparing food a child would make when they’re old enough not to need a sitter. Any queer loves a grilled cheese, but it’s not a revelation to cut it into four triangular pieces.

Matt: Bitch, maybe not for you, but you’re not seeing it from the perspective of someone who lives and dies by their microwave. Also, we must never forget that Antoni’s title in the show is “Food & Wine.” His title is not “Chef.” And I’m sorry, but I’m gonna do it. You absolutely cannot clock Antoni for doing nothing while the admittedly lovely, beautiful, and charismatic Karamo is there merely following a production schedule of activities and sitting shotgun for Bobby telling him when to make right-hand turns. I’m sorry, but we’re picking on Antoni, and all he has done is show us how to prepare lovely food and rock a graphic tee without looking like a preteen who’s figuring it out.

Bowen: Fine, let’s fucking talk about the graphic tees then. What the hell is that “Cult Leader” rag? He might as well be Elisabeth Moss wokely talking about Scientology.

Matt: How dare you.

Bowen: And the two versions of that A Little Life T-shirt with their memed names? You know Hanya Yanagihara saw none of that money, which makes Antoni an enemy of the Asian queer community! He also probably owns seven velour track pants with “Elio, Elio, Elio” stitched on the ass, which I actually would buy.

Matt: Yeah, I want those. Look, the real T is that he’s doing his assignment, and he’s doing it well. These straights are more than happy, so why can’t the LGBT+ community be happy too? Shouldn’t we be supporting gay men in the public eye until they embarrass us on a mass scale like the Oscars and then cast them away forever? It’s not like he’s turned his back on us. He’s providing. I give you his Instagram, which is a lovely tribute to plating and shirtlessness. It is also the only place where I can find the theme song to the new Queer Eye, so that’s another service! I can’t think of another dance track that has conditioned me to cry when I hear it, and that is beautifully queer. Antoni is out there representing the best of us in these straight, Trump-y spaces, like when he wore that gay little bandana during boxing with Karamo. And we’re talking about him, which means he’s doing everything right! Right?

Bowen: Wow, the idea that Antoni represents me or the best of the queer community (two mutually exclusive entities) makes me want to vomit Greek yogurt guacamole, one of his recipes!!! If he bleached his hair, Antoni would look like Milo Yiannopoulos, and I just want everyone to sit with that visual. Also, if we’re gonna talk about shirtless Instagrams, Karamo’s is objectively the best. Karamo was the one who brought them to the kickboxing studio, so without him there would be no bandana Antoni. And to say nothing of how Karamo looked during the kickboxing lesson! But more importantly, he’s getting to the core of why these unkempt Georgians are stuck in their sad, crusty lives. He’s providing therapy. That’s the assignment, honey! Meanwhile Antoni is scamming brave, Karen Handel–voting firefighters by charging them $4 for a carrot-filled hot dog.

Matt: One, you can actually see in one of his Instagram photos that he does resemble Milo Yiannopoulos as a blonde. That’s confirmed. Second, everything is to scale. We don’t know where “Let’s go jump out of a tree” sits on the life-coach scale but it’s probably around the same place as “Making Macaroni and Cottage Cheese” on the cooking scale. I would guess! But listen, I think they’re all wonderful. I just don’t think Antoni should be the subject of such ire. Look at that face!

Bowen: I just think he might be a serial killer. Ted Bundy had a nice smile and decent knife skills too, you know.

Matt: And with that, I think we’ve agreed to disagree. Antoni, if you’re reading this, keep doing your thing. Also, ugh, I can’t figure out this avocado! Can you come over?

Bowen: Yes Antoni, you do seem really great and it’s actually my dream to be a locus of gay disagreement like you are right now, so yeah, maybe I am jealous after all.

Queer Eye on Queer Eye: The Case For and Against Antoni