Kylie Jenner’s New Show is Accidentally Genius
08.08.17
Photo by by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for New York Fashion Week

If I were a true Kardashian fan, I’d have found out Kylie Jenner was getting her own spin-off sooner than the day the thing aired. I would have watched it Sunday night instead of Monday and I’d have provided you with more than a lukewarm Tuesday take. But here I am, and let it be known: I think Life of Kylie is genius.

Most people disagree:

In a Complex post titled “‘Life of Kylie’ Might Be the Fakest Show in the Kardashian Empire,” Mariah Smith writes: “What’s nice about Kylie’s original Keeping Up With the Kardashian’s home and their other spin-offs, is that the bread and butter there is actually touching on tabloid stories, or real events happening in their lives.” Although audiences are forced to “endure contrived story lines” and pranks, Smith concedes, there are tragically real stories underneath. “But, with Kylie leading the charge, and starting the series with a storyline so contrived and formulaic, we may come out of this show knowing less about her than we did before.”

Sadie Gennis of TV Guide has a different take: “Looking back at 10 years of Kardashians, my favorite moments have nothing to do with the serious soap opera-worthy drama. It’s not the breakups or the fights. It’s the wacky shenanigans… And though there are produced attempts at silly shenanigans [in Life of Kylie] that are the Kardashians’ bread and butter… they’re all tainted by the bleakness of her reality: Kylie Jenner is trapped in the lifestyle of an A-list celebrity and she has no way out.”

Their diametrically-opposed definitions of the Kardashians’ “bread and butter” tickled me. I’m personally with Smith — the all-but-scripted “pranks” that have come to define the Kardashians’ reality shows are what always turned me off of them. What’s the point? But where I disagree is that Life of Kylie doesn’t churn out any of the real shit. The show is straight-up harrowing, and I learned so much about Kylie – the most fascinating Kardashian/Jenner, if you ask me — over the course of the two-episode premiere.

“What do you say to people who say you have a perfect life?” an off-camera voice asks Kylie, kicking off the eight-episode series.

“Laugh in their face,” she responds. The low-key poets who edit this show were thus satisfied. Her answer didn’t quite make sense, but told a story nonetheless – a concession the show makes over and over, to poetic ends.

“I don’t need makeup,” Kylie says at one point, after describing makeup as her only passion in life. “A lot of the time I’m not wearing makeup but…[pregnant pause]…no, I need makeup.” And then a second later: “This is like therapy. I should go to therapy!”

Is this not next-level insightful? I’m not being facetious.

Later, an off-camera voice asks her, “Do you want kids?”

“I do want kids. Who doesn’t want kids?” she answers, betraying her insular worldview. Then she orders her assistant to take care of her barking dogs. The camera lingers on her face, her lips move around in an unnatural, unsettling way. The point is perfectly unwritten.

There are plenty of what Gennis deems “shenanigans,” including Kylie finally getting the chance to go to prom, as if her life hasn’t essentially been a 19-year-long prom. The opportunity presents itself in the form of a charity case: some “outcast” kid who doesn’t have a date — a thought that pains Kylie so acutely she mimics a stabbing motion. There’s a figurative knife in her heart. “I have a soft spot for the outcast because…I was the outcast I guess in a lot of ways… and I still feel like an outcast, in different ways now, because I can’t relate to a lot of people so it’s like, in this little world I do feel like an outcast,” she says, using the expressions “outcast” and “lonely at the top” interchangeably.

She may be the opposite of cast-out by the world, but her evident loneliness cannot be underestimated, nor can the disillusioning effects of her fame. It’s communicated through her tone (flat) and expressions (blank) more than her own words. But her self-awareness, which delicately waxes and largely wanes, does occasionally deliver:

“I can’t say that was a very normal prom experience,” she says, following the total shit show charade of a prom. “But I can say that I’ve checked that off my bucket list. That I’ve been to prom.” She smiles demurely/dead-ly, and I do a stabbing motion in my own heart.

I respect that she doesn’t shy away from the topic of her own anxiety. She’s confused, sad and ill-equipped to handle her situation and she knows it. She’s still a teenager, after all, and the experiences shaping her personality are incredibly niche.

“My dad always told me you gotta be nice to everybody,” she says at one point, no trace of emotion on her face, “because you never know who…[pregnant pause]…that’s not how he said it. I dunno.” She’s been saying things like this into cameras for years. Wisdom never quite surfaces in the satisfying way you want it to. But why should it? We still watch anyway.

Her struggle with fame, which has clearly been the main focus of her life since she was nine and first appeared on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, may not be relatable, but she navigates it like any teen would: waywardly.

“It’s hard to do normal things when every single person knows who you are,” she says. (That sounds impossible.) But also, she has to post on social media “to stay relevant” — but she “hates attention” and “isn’t like that.” At one point: “I just don’t know who I’m doing it for.” Another time: “I want to feel normal. That’s my goal in life.” By the end of the premiere, she’s on a beach with her best friend, Jordyn, saying she doesn’t feel cut out for this world, that she’s getting “that feeling” again, that she wants to run away.

She’s constantly changing her mind. She’s lost. Who wouldn’t be? She may not be adept at communicating the nuance of what she’s going through, but she doesn’t really need to. It’s poignant anyway. Maybe some people wish she said more (Complex) or did more (TV Guide) in Life of Kylie, but when have Keeping Up With the Kardashians and its myriad spin-offs ever really been about that? They’re too edited to convey anything real on purpose. They’ve always been a shrouded meditation on fame, and Life of Kylie does that better than all of them.

Gifs via Giphy.

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  • Rosie

    I’ve always been an unabashed Kardashian fan, they absolutely FASCINATE me, but I wasn’t considering watching Kylie’s show until reading this! I think it’s true that there’s so much beneath the surface… even if what’s below is trite or contrived. It all speaks volumes. Now BRB while I try to discreetly stream the first episode at work right now

    • Haley Nahman

      good luck thinking of u

  • PJB

    I mean, who doesn’t wish they could wear heelys every day? ~relatable~

    • Amelia Diamond

      i wish this always

      • Haley Nahman

        @heelys pls send us some shoes at Man Repeller to test

        • Maren Douglas

          Looking forward to the “how to style heelys” article

  • notinlondon

    She’s dead inside, and I love it!

    • Haley Nahman

      lol

    • ihaveacooch

      she does come off as totally lifeless, huh? no soul behind those eyes.

  • Autumn

    It actually made me kinda sad when she was talking about how silly and weird she is but anytime she would post stuff like that she’d get so much hate that she stopped doing it. So she’s suppressing part of her personality and “not being her true self” (as told to her New Therapist).

    Ps. This is totally dumb but thanks for using ‘myriad’ correctly instead of ‘…a myriad of…. Total pet peeve of mine.

    • Haley Nahman

      you are SO welcome

    • Kaitlyn Reinan

      I used to have the same pet peeve about myriad… but according to Merriam Webster, it is in fact the older definition and equally correct.

      “Recent criticism of the use of myriad as a noun, both in the plural form myriads and in the phrase a myriad of, seems to reflect a mistaken belief that the word was originally and is still properly only an adjective… The noun is in fact the older form, dating to the 16th century. The noun myriad has appeared in the works of such writers as Milton (plural myriads) and Thoreau (a myriad of), and it continues to occur frequently in reputable English.”

      https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myriad

  • Micah Lpez

    I find her extremely vapid, reading this review seems like Hayley is finding more nuances in Kylie and her presence than she is aware of herself.

    • Alison

      I thought this was another of Hayley’s satires.

      • Haley Nahman

        Hahaha

      • Cristina

        Legit, I did too. And I’m still unsure lol

    • Haley Nahman

      I don’t know if I think SHE is nuanced, but the show as a whole is an accidental interesting commentary on fame

  • Jeanne Zamansky

    👍🏽👍🏽👍🏽

  • Mae Copeland

    I feel for her. I can’t imagine having all this fame that you really didn’t ask for and everyone is telling you you don’t deserve it so you feel an obligation to prove that you do. It’s like she agrees with the whole world but that’s the way it is so she’s gotta keep it up.

    • Haley Nahman

      Totally — also wouldn’t it feel like shit for people only to like the most curated version of yourself? It would make me so self-conscious

  • MF

    I think the saddest part to me was when she listed the most important people in her life: Jordyn, and that’s really it. The show tries to masquerade her stylist Tokyo, makeup artist Ariel, and assistant Victoria as her friends, some rag tag fivesome of under 30s who don’t need others. She doesn’t actually have friends, yet it seems like this show will focus around the “antics” of their group “friendship” with Kylie. Pretty depressing if you ask me. Besides Jordyn, they’re all decently older and ARE EMPLOYED BY HER.

    first MR comment ever. how was that?

    • Haley Nahman

      YOU DID GREAT

      (that IS sad)

    • Pretty good. I’d give it a ten. (Your comment, not the show.)

    • Cristina

      Welcome! And it WAS great 🙂

    • Rachel D.

      I haven’t watched the show, but my heart goes out to Kylie, honestly. =/ The flat done/lack of expression in her kind of worries me… I hope she finds herself and real friends one day.

  • tmm16

    I can’t decide if I want to watch this. I kinda do, but I also don’t. Just reading this and reading the comments, I get the gist of it. I want to feel bad for her, cause she didn’t ask for this fame and the stress and pressure is immense, but I kinda don’t. Very conflicted with feelings, rn.

    • Haley Nahman

      I probably won’t continue to watch, if that’s helpful

    • Ayden Vizcarra

      She didn’t ask for the fame but she could have chose to be who she is like Kendall and show young girls your body and looks are not the only thing that makes you important in life.

      • Ayden Vizcarra

        I do feel sad for her though because it was not just society that made her feel like she had to look better because her family and this industry has pushed her and many many others that the only way to be noticed is from your perfect body and looks… So sad.

  • Néo Bourgeois — Christum

    Santa Monica!

  • Vida Rose

    I feel so bad for kids like this, who never got to have a childhood. Taking away someone’s childhood is the worst thing you do to someone. I just want to hug her. There should be something like a witness protection program for kids who grew up famous, where they can change their clothes and be anonymous. Its so ironic that she owns so many different looks and wigs, but will never get to be incognito.

  • Mon Valdés

    I honestly can’t stand her, but at the same time, I can’t help to feel so bad for her.
    She’s been under the spotlight for 10 years, with people being fascinated and idolizing her and her family, but simultaneously tearing them to shreds… Khloe and her don’t even look like themselves anymore because people kept calling them fat or ugly. That must be a miserable existance.
    What I really don’t understand is the “she hates attention” line, but she comes up with a reality show to say it? These people are wacko

    • Cristina

      I agree. But I also feel like, you didn’t HAVE to stay in the spotlight. Or maybe she did. I bet she did, I bet her momager forced it on her to stay on brand. So that does suck. I just feel like every single aspect of them, their looks, their lives, is planned out for ratings. It’s like they aren’t even real people. Also, why won’t they just own up to all their plastic surgery?! CMON it’s 2017, fake butts, fake boobs, people remove ribs to slim their waists, they shave down their hip bones.. like it’s a normal thing these days. That ain’t your revenge body giiirlll. That is the part that really bothers me. That these are the women that young girls see and physical role models. I understand none of them chose to be role models morally, but physically these are the standards of beauty and it makes me sad and exhausted.

      • Mon Valdés

        I’m with you a 100%, Kris Jenner looks like she would literally give her firstborn (poor Kourtney) to stay relevant for the rest of her life. I remember one of the episodes, back when I watched the show, when she wanted to change her name back to Kris Kardashian, because that was a “better and more profitable brand”… that just speaks volumes of her, and how she has influenced her children.
        And don’t get me started on the plastic surgery, as you said, it’s 2017, we have internet and we know how you looked before… I’m not even opposed to people getting stuff done, but just own up to it… I mean, every time I see a skinny tea advertising picture from them, my eyes roll back to my brain…

        • Ayden Vizcarra

          Is what’s funny to me… And should show young girls..Kim… The favorite one is looking more and more like her mom which shows she is aging. Plastic surgery or not beauty does not last forever unless it comes from within and honestly I think Khloe regardless of little or bigger is the prettiest any the one who is not fake just for the cameras. She is the one who should have her own show so ppl know it’s ok to be you and not to worry about what others think. Love your life and be happy because In the end nobody is going to talk about their bodies or anything else. They will talk about their heart and what they have given back to this world and how they effected those near and far. Money would help in many ways but I would never want Fortune n fame because u never who is there for u and who would be there even without the money. I believed it really is lonely at the top.

          • Cristina

            Oh gosh. Khloe is all surgery these days. I don’t know when she made the decision, but she is basically Kim now. Her butt is out of control (so are her lips) and she posts all these workouts and diets and she’s super skinny now and to me, she has just gone wayyyy off who she used to be. But, it’s none of my business I guess lol

        • Down the rabbit hole

          I think that she wanted to change her name because she knew more about the Bruce/Caitlyn fiasco. That is when i really started liking Khloe & the way she stood up for Bruce. But later was the one so affected by the whole transition because I think Bruce hid it well. But I think Kris knew (maybe not that he’d ever really go through with it) but I think she knew enough to be disturbed. I’m not sure how any of us can imagine how we’d react. Though I agree. She is a momanger and she has created quite an empire. But it’s a double edged sword. They have traded privacy and a normal life for celebrity and more money than they could have wished for. Thus why Kylie’s show might actually be a hit. If Kylie can call the shots and provide honest content.

      • Lil

        I so agree. I don’t care about everything they’ve had done, but why try to deny it? With great power comes great responsibility. Whether they like it or not, they’re influencing millions of girls to hate their bodies.

        • Adrianna

          “Whether they like it or not, they’re influencing millions of girls to hate their bodies.” well put. dark but true use of the term “influencer”

          • Lil

            Also I hate how most celebrities use the defense of, “It’s not my responsibility to parent your child.” & “I never intended to be a role model.”

            It’s such pathetic excuses to use because reality stars who are famous for nothing, like the Kardashians, make their millions by getting others to follow them… An actor or musician has the legitimate defense of being able to say that their content is of a specific genre and for a specific audience. But these reality stars aim to win over anyone and everyone because their, “product,” (aka their bodies which will age with time) has an expiration date

  • Brown Crow

    Hey, I am looking for a WoC review of Life of Kylie, most mainstream reviews like the one here, don’t get why she’s problematic for WoC in the first place, any leads?

    • ihaveacooch

      this definitely needs to be discussed when it comes to kylie and her “image”

    • I’m not going to try and deliver on what you’ve asked for because i can’t give an adecate perspective. But here is my take: I have the extreme misfortune of having such a weirdly deep connection w/the Kardashian-Jenner family. The show was not entertaining in the way that KUWTK is and I dread the inevitable episode where we watch her makes millions of $$ in a matter of seconds simply by lying about and then subsequently appropriating the beauty of black bodies. Nonetheless her life is utterly intriguing. Sad, poetic?, funny, insightful…. it’s all there but hiddeb under the blanket of a pop culture phenomenon’s lifestyle. It creates some serious cognitive dissonance for me since so much of who she is hurts me (emotionally, psychologically, etc) but then there is this obsession or dare I say love that I’ve had for Kylie since the dawn of KUWTK. She and I are just a few years apart and I started watching keeping up far before I understood the concept of microaggressions and cultural appropriation. But still, I get a crawly feeling just watching her…. 🤷🏾‍♀️

  • starryhye

    Hates being famous, but now has her own reality show. Huh?

  • Natty

    I had to turn the show off after 10 mins because it made me feel so… sad. I love me some trashy reality TV, but her loneliness and confusion were so depressing. Never thought I’d feel sorry for someone like Kylie Jenner, but, here we are.

  • Timothy Tobin

    I have to agree with the article I believe Kylie is definitely very smart and a Savvy business woman eventually she will overtake Kim and establish an Empire and who knows, someday she may be considered a candidate for office

  • Lil

    I don’t feel sad for her. Poor little rich kid never got to go to prom or have a normal life?

    Well this same kid has also never had to worry about being able to make bills, about her next meal, or how to pay back student loans.

  • normal person

    I really get frustrated when people feel sad for her just because she grow up under the fame and really didn’t have a chance to be normal. SO?? we all had shitty life, ah if that was my problem? I would be really happy. As individuals we deal with everyday shit which she doesn’t so how is that sadder than our problems? Boho she missed out on being normal well I missed out on being rich! With her status and money she could attend college and find her passion. With her money she could travel the world and learn about different and unique cultures. Yet shes the most vapid person (worst than kim imo) that likes to take selfies, inflate those lips to no extend and complain. Ekh, how can I pity this person? I am ashamed of her and feel bad for the teens that look up to her.

  • Yep I agree totally with this article. I started watching but got v bored with the contrived ‘prom’ storyline so gave up after about 5 minutes, but I will give it another go. I feel very sorry for all people who become extremely famous. In many ways I think extreme fame is a form of trauma. I feel particularly bad for her and Justin Beiber.

  • Catarina Assunção

    OMG this show is so sad to watch… The poor Jenners….. Give me a break!

  • Maria

    i hate myself just for clicking on this (not because of the article, because i just cant with these people) really, pls, just no more of this family—-

  • Nina

    I feel sad for her… I feel sad for us.
    We sit here and judge and complain about her having all this money and being able to do what she wants, but what we don’t realise is that we created her.
    We created the Kardashians. We created the shit storm that is reality TV. We put our money into their hands- we watch their shows, we buy their products and the ones that they endorse.
    So I feel sad that we have put this whole family behind glass and watched what would happen. They’re so detached from reality, but we created the reality they live in.
    I don’t know whether or not I would want to fast-forward or rewind this.

  • jillygirl

    She would have to divorce her family in order to develop her own authenticity. The level of sheer familial pressure to be “Kardashian” appears inescapable. Can you imagine the amount of inner strength it would take to escape the vortex of that expectation? Let alone the press, etc. Do-able, in fact, I’d love to see her pull it off and become a total nature girl writing best seller mystery novels under a working psuedonym in the Alaskan outback or something. Just drop off the media map into her own actual life, whatever that looked like.

    • Sheila

      I also wanted to see her break free from the family franchise. I keep reading that Kylie idolizes Kim the most, and that she wants to learn from Kim, but do her own thing. OK. So why not join the Peace Corps. Or go to college. (This is starting to sound like one of my Duggar rants.) Talk about a young woman that can literally do whatever she wants to do. But she’s like a crack baby born addicted to fame. Her entire family, including her Dad Caitlyn, are a bunch of prima donnas. They spend the majority of their time staring at their faces in mirrors. It’s their go-to frame of reference. When Kylie went under the knife and came out looking so much like her then-boyfriend Tyga’s ex – Blac Chyna I couldn’t help but wonder how much of a role Tyga might have played in deciding who or what Kylie should wind up looking like. Just yuk. As others have stated, her flat tone and lack of affect are troubling. But that face. It’s the face of a blow up sex doll. I have a daughter who’s in her mid-twenties and a son nearing 30. I can’t imagine witnessing them cut up their beautiful faces. I look at Kris and just want to scream “Help her, for God’s sake!”. In my mind, it all comes back to Kris. She’s been playing a very dangerous game with her adult children, and I don’t think her game is going to end well.

  • Isabelle Belzil

    I love the Kardashians with my whole heart- Kim is an amazing woman who controls her own destiny- who wouldn’t worship her!! But Kylie frustrates me- if she isn’t made for being a celebrity as she continuously is quoted, she does not need to be one. She has more money than most people will ever make in their life time, thus there is another reason… she still involves herself because she enjoys the life. It seems like the love/hate relationship to fame that you are hinting on Haley. Which admittedly is an slightly intriguing reason to watch the show, but not enough for me to give a scheduled time every week to devote to her.

  • Kristy Nguyen

    This review is more of a recap than an actual review. I was basically reading a transcript of what I already saw so needless to say I’m a bit disappointed. I wanted to read more about the opinion of the writer!

  • LY

    She should just pull a Rob and turn into a fat hermit… although im sure she’d still get the same amount of attention as she does now…

  • Down the rabbit hole

    I need to back-track my first comments regarding the show. At first I judged more on the clips leading up to the first episode which seemed choppy, scripted & contrived. But after really watching the first couple shows (rather than just having it on in the background while I do other stuff) I have to say that I am watching and looking forward to the next.
    The intriguing thing about Kylie is that she didn’t ask for any of this & has had to figure out her own journey. The older sisters knew more what they were getting into. Kylie and Kendall were just kids. Though people can roll their eyes at their problems; Never going to a prom but getting to walk the red carpet etc. it is all relative. And in Kylie’s poetic way she draws you in and you kinda grow a heart for her and find yourself interestingly enough wanting to know more about her life from her perspective. Take it from someone who didn’t expect to like or watch the show to totally changing my mind. It is a cute show!

  • Dinar Rahayu

    I must confess, at the certain point I like the shows, Keeping Up and Life of Kylie. The faces and bodies are skillfully sculpted for the media consumption and for the collective idea of “beautiful”, “sophisticated women” etc. It’s like a dream in conscious state of mind, like we know it is a dream and we know it will be over after 30 minutes and when it’s like “awrite people, dream is over go back to work!”