The notion of Caitlyn Jenner appearing in her own E! reality show is enough to give people pause. No, it has nothing to do with the subject matter of Jenner’s transition or the emotional breakthroughs she experiences with her family. Keeping Up with the Kardashians (and all of its spinoffs) is, to be blunt, the cesspool of reality television, and supporters of Caitlyn will probably want to ensure that her new show doesn’t become synonymous with those shows. The premiere of I Am Cait does a rather emotional job of introducing Jenner to the television world—Kardashians and all.
The majority of the first half of the new show focuses on Caitlyn introducing herself to her family. Her two sisters and mother stop by for a seemingly casual meeting. We see her nervously getting ready as she receives well wishes from Rob Kardashian, and Kim calls to reveal Caitlyn’s meteoric rise on Twitter (she gained one million followers quicker than President Obama). That Vanity Fair cover shoot is very much a constant topic.
The footage of Caitlyn and her mother, Esther, is easily the most emotionally captivating section of the premiere. She repeatedly says that the transition is going to take time, but you can’t help but feel the unconditional love she has for Caitlyn radiating through her huge smile. Esther may refer to Caitlyn as “he” or “Bruce,” but, as Caitlyn reminds us, it is a transition for her family as well as her. It wouldn’t be a show on E! without the appearance of other Kardashian offspring. Kim comes over with Kanye (who surprisingly shows his overwhelming support), and Kylie Jenner obviously has no qualms with her father’s new life. Caitlyn does, however, express concerns over the absence of Kourtney and Khloe. Are they more uncomfortable than they originally let on?
We must all take a moment and acknowledge that not everyone is as privileged as Caitlyn Jenner. Not every transgendered woman has a closet full of Tom Ford clothes or has Diane von Furstenberg sending over dresses. She watches a news report and mother of a young trans teen taking her own life, and Caitlyn even recounts her own personal suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t come across as a “me me me” Keeping Up fodder but a small reminder that coming out as a transgendered person is only the beginning.
People can criticize Caitlyn’s decision to use a reality show to showcase her life, but, surely, she wouldn’t care. While Kim or Kourtney may come into the episodes, I Am Cait has a definite air of purpose surrounding it. It feels earnest and tender even though it’s glossy and obviously edited. An early promo of the rest of the season assures us that it’s not going to be all about makeup and looking pretty. Caitlyn Jenner merely wants to tell her story in order to relate and learn about other experiences within her own community. She says very early on that “everyone has their own experience,” so we shouldn’t expect it to be painted with the same E! paint brush. It’s a very good first step.