Review: 'Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness' an Eclectic Adventure

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday January 27, 2022

'Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness'
'Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness'  (Source:Netflix)

The resident "Queer Eye" grooming expert brings his "Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness" podcast to Netflix as an eight-part series, giving his wide-ranging interests the latitude they need to investigate a host of eclectic topics: Everything from insects to skyscrapers to the gender binary is investigated in half-hour episodes that feel breezy, yet provide a comprehensive overview of the topic at hand.

For instance: The first episode, which deals with creepy crawlies, not only covers all the obvious bases (bringing on an etymologist and an arachnologist to tell us the difference between bugs, insects, and spiders) but also looks into the unexpected wrinkle of insects being a possible major food source in the future. (You'll be aghast at how much water goes into the production of meat versus protein-rich insects.)

Speaking of food, another episode centers around snacks, and why they taste so good. The flip side, of course, is how snacks are engineered to be highly appealing to the human palate — and why, between massive amounts of refined sugar and chemical additives, many snack items are so unhealthy. The flip side to that flip side, though, is a visit to a company that makes snacks that are much more healthful, using only a few ingredients — all of which are familiar and easy to pronounce.

Van Ness being well known as a hairdresser, it's no surprise that he dedicates one installment to the history of hair — how we wear it, what its social significance has been across time, and even the longstanding associations between hair and politics. (A n example you might not have expected to see: Beards today may be ubiquitous among certain fringe groups with a reputation for being less than friendly to America's democratic norms, but in the ancient world at least one philosopher wore facial hair as a pointed reference to the democratic city-state of Athens.)

Van Ness is a huge fan of figure skating, and he devotes another episode to the sport — and to the presence within it of LGTBQ+ athletes.

One of the series' hardest-hitting segments is the one dedicated to interrogating the gender binary. Why does it exist? Do we really need it? What is it good for, and would we be better off without it? Among the episodes revelations is the surprising link between rigid conceptions of masculine and feminine and white supremacy.

By turns illuminating and effervescent, "Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness" will keep you engaged with its brisk pace and, by the same token, make you feel like you've just experienced a whole course in whatever subject JVN is looking into. Tune in and prepare to have your appetite for fascinating avenues of inquiry whetted.

"Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness" premieres on Netflix Jan. 28.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.