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Review: Caitlyn Jenner’s Gold Medal Debut in I Am Cait

I don’t want to overstate anything here but, after watching the first episode, it feels like Caitlyn Jenner’s new docuseries I Am Cait could be the most resonant and groundbreaking piece of television to come around in a long time. It follows the journey of Caitlyn Jenner, formerly gold medal-winning decathlete Bruce Jenner, as she adapts to her new life and introduces herself as a woman to friends, family and the public. As executive producer, the series has been made under Caitlyn’s complete control – right down to the font choice. And what a font it is. The hovering I AM CAIT over the ocean has an ethereal immensity to it – symbolic of the enormous tidal change that this series is sure to represent in years to come.

Almost immediately, you realise this is not Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Apart from many of the same faces appearing, the scale couldn’t be more different. It’s a calmly-paced documentary, observing this momentous cultural event as casually as Ozzy Osbourne picking up dog poo, or Kim and Khloe getting a wax.

From intimate vlog-style footage of Caitlyn grappling with her deepest 4.30am musings, to being a fly on the wall as her closest family members meet her for the very first time – it feels like absolutely nothing has been left out of the story. Just as Caitlyn has been on a journey to find her authentic self, the series aims for an honest and pure representation of that voyage. The interactions are all raw, capturing the most pivotal moments as she meets her mother, sisters, Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West for the very first time.

There are varied responses from family members to Caitlyn’s reveal – but the one feeling that permeates all the meekness and confusion is overwhelming support. Her mother still calls her Bruce, still refers to she as a “he” and seems a little concerned about where her soul has gone – but it doesn’t stop her endless declaration of love. Kanye and Kim swing by and Kanye mutters, alarmingly gently, about how this could be one of the biggest perception shifts in human history. He then takes off one of his shoes like an excited little boy and talks about how light they are.

It’s just so fascinating to see these superhumans all in one room, all involved in this seminal moment, just having a chat about shoelaces. You realise that everything even amongst this momentous event, the mundanities of family life still run on.

For those of you who thought of this as a flippant excuse for more ridiculous shopping trips and endless displays of wealth, Caitlyn immediately acknowledges her privileged position. She directly addresses that the process she is documenting is nowhere near the same as those with less emotional, financial and social support would experience. You can feel a real conflict in her negotiating the use of privileged position to raise public awareness, without creating certain expectations as to what a trans woman should be.

The documentary also shows Caitlyn spending time in the transgender community, and visiting the mother of a recently-deceased transgender boy – lost to suicide. It’s heartbreaking to hear the suicide rates and even more so to see the families affected – you can get a real sense for Caitlyn’s urgency in trying to help everyone all at once. “I have a voice,” she reminds herself more than once. The camera lingers on her as she stares down the barrel, eyes whirring excitedly with the weight of the world. It’s electric to see this very specific type of hero be reborn, and prosper forth as a heroine.

There are plenty of light moments peppered through the show that reflect the more frivolous activities that come with her newfound femininity. Caitlyn plays tennis for the first time as woman, struggling with new obstacles like sports bras and hair getting repeatedly stuck on lipstick. She has to decide how many blouse buttons to do up when her Mum comes over, dancing with a new decorum and enjoying every moment. Although these things sound annoying, and could whip up anger about female beauty trappings – to see Caitlyn relish in every moment was enough to make me want to skip down to the nail salon almost immediately.

Much like her hot pink talons, I Am Cait is bold, brave and sure to carve a lasting impression on society forever.


 

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