We love to see Jonathan Van Ness as Queer Eye’s grooming expert, and now he’s added yet another tool to his bag of tricks: helping people feel less shame after dropping a deuce.
In a new commercial, Van Ness makes his debut as the new spokesperson for Poo-Pourri, the natural air freshener spray that keeps the smells, particularly those from your toilet, at bay. But there’s something else special about the Queer Eye star’s ad: No one gawks or harasses him for using the restroom of his choice, regardless of gender.
Van Ness, who is nonbinary and uses he/him/his pronouns, shows up as his exuberant self in a few different and presumably gendered restrooms, giving his usual humored yet grounding advice to men and women who feel bad about their poop’s smell. Throughout the commercial, Van Ness appears in each restroom styling and profiling in a baby blue sweater, a flowing navy blue skirt and pink heeled boots — colors that typically signify either side of the gender binary.
Two of the characters, a man and a woman, each sit on the toilet stool, alone and apprehensive about doing the deed. But before dropping trou, they hear heels tapping the floor and then their door opens.
“Nerves to poo?” Van Ness asks, before they come clean about their embarrassment. As a solution, he offers the product along with some reassurement.
“Queen, you should be living life to the fullest, not in here playing ‘poop chicken’ with your co-workers. There’s a diva inside of there honey, and it is time you let her our,” Van Ness says to one lady. “P-O-O-P. C’mon girl, set that ish free!”
Van Ness is not only pitching Poo-Pourri, he’s also making an otherwise controversial issue plain and simple. Van Ness simply enters the restroom to seek refreshment and relief just as any cisgender counterpart would do, and there’s no fuss about a visibly nonbinary person being present in the same space. Everybody needs to pee and poop, and there shouldn’t be any shame about it.
Unfortunately, the restroom experience in this otherwise witty ad doesn’t mirror reality for many trans and nonbinary people, who often face violence and stigma instead.
The commercial offers some much-needed levity during an otherwise tense nationwide battle over bathroom bills that would restrict usage on the basis of sex, as well as other moves towards gender-inclusive restrooms and public accommodations.
For example, amid death threats and harassment to a school superintendent, one Georgia school district this week reversed its policy allowing students to use the bathroom that best corresponds with their gender identity. As a result, they’ve left it up to the Georgia Department of Education to decide what they’ll do, as the Pickens County school district intended to follow the precedent of a federal court ruling that allows schools in Alabama, Georgia and Florida to establish gender-inclusive restroom policies.
Meanwhile, other states and municipalities are forging ahead. Illinois recently passed a bill requiring that single-use restrooms be marked as gender-neutral rather than be gendered for men or women.
That’s what makes JVN’s Poo-Pourri commercial both humorous and profound at the same time. Without preaching or pandering to the audience, the ad drives the point home.