REVIEW: ‘Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness’ is Beautiful Slice of Edutainment

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Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness - But Why Tho

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness is a new Netflix show spinning off of Van Ness’s podcast of the same name. Releasing on Netflix Friday, January 28th with only 6 episodes, we deep dive into questions that Van Ness needs to be answered. The premise is simple to follow, for each 27-minute episode, Van Ness explores a topic and brings on experts within that subject field.

Starting off, the style incorporates a visual exploration of Van Ness’s personality. There’s an instance where we see an angel and devil Van Ness bickering whether bugs are gorgeous or gross. There are little interludes of Jonathan Van Ness dancing around the screen. Sometimes, there are cute little animations to aid in the theme of the episode. This particularly stands out in the episode about the food where Van Ness explores why they loves snacks so much. There is an animated mouse that, at times can be a little much, but captures the enthusiasm and childlike wonder that fuels Van Ness being so infectious with their curiosity.

The visuals cannot be sold without how intricately Van Ness breaks gender norms so organically. Episode three is an exploration of the gender binary. Late last year, I finally came to terms with my own gender identity after grappling with it for so long. I have never really had the words, friends, or exposure to understand myself. I was able to discover this by engaging in queer spaces that gave me the tools to articulate my feelings. Seeing, on screen, a predominate public figure discuss pronoun preferences, that complicated feeling of bending gender norms and not feeling wholly male or female but a person not restricted by a social construct. It feels… amazing that a conversation like this can take place for everyone to understand.

Another thing that makes this show so thrilling to watch is how unabashedly it breaks down barriers of visibility. The best example of this is the episode about the history of hair. Starting off with a brief musical number about different people and their hair culture, we segue to historians. The history of hair is told by academics who have different field specialties whether it’s how hair is preserved or if it’s how hair is used as a means of gauging personal wealth in society.

While history is important, Van Ness is also interested in the culture of hair and people’s different experiences. In one of Getting Curious more powerful episodes, he sits down with Michelle Buteau to discuss how western beauty styles have warped how other people interact with their hair. She talks about how her Caribbean parents were convinced that their natural hair wouldn’t make them seem attractive or professional enough. With the usage of old ads to display the kind of advertising used to convince people that the western standards of beauty were the right standard to achieve. It was really great to hear a conversation that should be reaching a wider audience.

Van Ness engages with people who offer different life experiences and isn’t afraid to dig into a subject, even the uglier sides of it. As this episode continues on. They eventually sits down with U.S. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley to talk about how she overcame internalized racism from a world that said her natural hair wasn’t beautiful. The conversation is one of the best sit down’s in this first season of Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. It showcases what a great show host they can be, asking questions that allow for deeper understanding and empathizing with the topic and their quests.

I have a few criticisms of season one of Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. While the visual effects certainly bring lots of fun to the show, they can occasionally lessen the importance of the topic being discussed. In the snack episode, the repeated gag of the animated mouse made the exploration of the good and bad aspects of sugar feel a little too childlike. This episode had some great talking points about how our food culture can be very indulgent in sweets, even when it’s not good for you. However, sometimes the over-enthusiasm and camp of the “fun” aspect of the topic can be too much. The translation from podcast to live-action mostly works with the exception of the visual zaniness dragging it down a little bit.

Regardless, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness is a beautiful, educational slice of tv.  I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun legitimately learning. The intersectionality, voices uplifted, and creative delivery make this first season wonderfully binge-able. What makes this show stand out from others amongst the genre, is the flexibility and authenticity of the host and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness is available now exclusively on Netflix.

 


Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness Season 1
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    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Regardless, Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness is a beautiful, educational slice of tv.  I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun legitimately learning. The intersectionality, voices uplifted, and creative delivery make this first season wonderfully binge-able. What makes this show stand out from others amongst the genre, is the flexibility and authenticity of the host and I wouldn’t have it any other way.