Bobby Berk Is The Unexpected Hero Of ‘Queer Eye’
He builds entire houses while the other guys talk about feelings.
Season 1 of Queer Eye introduced us to the Fab Five, and the world fell in love this rag-tag group of gay icons.
There was Jonathan, the living avatar of the concept of fabulousness, the walking thirst-trap that is Antoni, Karamo with the power of heart, and the calm and effortlessly chic Tan — and somewhere in the background, lifting a retaining wall with only his bare hands, was Bobby. Slightly unseen, vaguely ignored, mostly forgotten.
Now that season 2,3 and 4 has dropped, Queer Eye is doubling down on the core concepts that made the show so perfect and important. It’s still ministering care to people, dismantling toxic masculinity, and breaking down stereotypes. It’s still heartwarming as fuck, and still a guaranteed happy-sob.
But along with this, we’ve also been given a deeper insight into the Fab Five themselves — we find out more about Karamo’s background in counselling and advocacy work. We get to see Antoni actually cook some stuff (and weirdly, Tan too). We watch Tan go through an extremely sensitive discovery of the issues that face trans men and women. Jonathan somehow eclipses his own personal best at being the most pure being on this earth. They all get to be their best selves.
And we get to see the real Bobby Berk.
kris jenner works hard but bobby from queer eye works harder
— jason (@dadhat666) June 16, 2018
Bobby Builds Houses
It’s impossible to overstate just how practical Bobby’s job is in comparison to the others. When it comes to sheer utilitarianism, Bobby soars ahead of the rest of the Queer Eye friends, literally building houses while the other four go shopping for a plaid shirt.
As Karamo talks about feelings, Bobby is lifting up a roof with his sturdy back, as Antoni plays around with people’s hats, Bobby is digging a big old hole with a shovel, as Jonathan is removing gross beards, Bobby is throwing disgusting furniture into a volcano.
You get the idea.
queer eye is the most efficient home makeover show of all time
where other shows perseverate on some issue with the crown molding for days bobby redoes an entire house in a week and changes lives and never says anything except voila here's your new life
— rachel syme (@rachsyme) June 18, 2018
Honestly, there’s no need to pit them against each other, except that season 1 truly did sleep on Berk. You never really saw him work, just watched people react to the results. In comparison to the amount of one-on-one time with the makeover subjects that the other guys get, Bobby was really short-changed.
Bobby Is Strong
In season 2, there are several scenes where Bobby is filmed painting, choosing colours, briefing his work crew — you know, doing work stuff. At one point, as Jonathan and Antoni horse around in the foreground, we see him literally hoisting a piece of furniture through the door. He’s so butch.
And he makes good stuff. His triumphs this season include building an entire community hall, fitting out a house for a Mayor to entertain swanky delegates in, a TRAILER that actually looks inviting, and an absolutely gorgeous apartment for a lucky eighteen-year-old musician which is so cool that I am literally seething with jealousy.
Honestly, if I didn’t already dress so well and hide my own sociopathy behind a socially acceptable facade of normality, I’d nominate myself for a Queer Eye makeover so I can get a cool apartment. Sucks being this perfect.
Bobby: I remodeled your entire home, cleaning out 20 years of clutter and hand-made new, thoughtful pieces of furniture for your family
Antoni: look, now you know how to make 1 appetizer
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) June 18, 2018
The one quibble I have is that sometimes his choice of wall-art and knick-knacks get a bit “suburban IKEA knockoff showroom”, but people seem happy with their bland photos of an old train carriage or whatever.
Also, that episode where the couple enjoyed watching movies, so Bobby made everything in their house film memorabilia themed? Bit of a stretch — literally everyone likes movies. Find a new hobby, guys.
But once again — it’s not his problem that they’re boring.
Bobby Is Nice
Bobby is fairly private — we know he’s been married for five years, we know that he’s an interior designer with his own online store and several regular TV appearances, we know he has a penchant for white pants. We also know that he was adopted and was raised in a highly religious household.
It’s a cliche to use a tragic backstory as a way to humanise people — but unfortunately, it’s precisely because of Bobby’s upsetting past that we get a window into his personality. It’s a horrible thing about reality TV, but sometimes the most amazing moments are when people are at their most vulnerable.
In the first episode of season 2, the Fab Five are called in to help out a woman named Tammye, a church worker who needs them to help her create a new community hall for her parish, but honestly needs to learn to care for herself too.
Just one problem — Bobby absolutely refuses to enter the church, after he reveals that the church and his family turned their back on him after he came out as gay when he was a teenager.
“The Tammye episode I actually refused to do,” he revealed to press recently. “Her episode came about last minute — the person who was supposed to be filmed that week had a severe health issue right before filming and they had to recast really quickly.”
There is a shot of Berk standing outside the church doors, literally refusing to enter. It’s very powerful.
His story isn’t uncommon for queer people, who are often turned away by religious organisations or experience drastic homophobia from their communities. But there’s something resonant about one of the Fab Five — who have famously crossed barriers to minister to Trump supporters, to Republicans, to homophobes — drawing a line and saying something is too much. It’s evocative of how painful that experience was.
“My entire life was religion growing up,” said Burke. “I carried my Bible to school every day, I was in prayer meeting at 5 am before school, and church every single evening… and then when I came out, everybody in my life that said they loved me unconditionally turned around and say, ‘Never mind!'”
It showed a very human side of Bobby. It also proved that he’s kind of a bad-ass. First, it takes balls to say no to a big, harried production company. Second, after making his concerns known, Bobby’s work ethic is such that he rolls up his sleeves and goes and builds an entire community hall for an organisation that once hurt him. And in doing so, it seems like he reached something of a breakthrough in his own life.
“To be around those type of people again… it was very hard,” he says. “But filming this episode definitely allowed me to remember that there are still some good people in the church.”
queer eye s2e1 lady: it’s just God’s amazing grace that we stand in this beautiful facility today
bobby, who designed and renovated a whole empty warehouse in 48 hours: pic.twitter.com/0mrop0qo4a
— toast beef (@donut87_) June 15, 2018
This is why we love Bobby Berk. Bobby Berk gets shit done.
Queer Eye season 4 is currently streaming on Netflix. Get on it, it’s wonderful.
Patrick Lenton is an author and staff writer at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.