Despite Ratings Dip, ‘I Am Cait’ Is Important And Informative
Critics can and will rip on I Am Cait for many different reasons. Ratings for the show plummeted since the first episode. And many publications are unsatisfied with the content of the show: New York Post reported I Am Cait is an “unwatchable mess” that “shifts from “Real Housewives”-type fluff to Lifetime-like melodrama to 60 Minutes-style seriousness.” Many other publications have stated that the show suffers from an identity crisis between a serious docu-series and a Kardashian-esque reality show.
Regardless of the show’s identity, there are things happening on I Am Cait that are historical, meaningful and unprecedented. Never has a large, mainstream, television audience been introduced to anything to do with the trans movement from the perspective of someone who is transgender. What Caitlyn Jenner is trying to do is commendable as it is so difficult to pull off in a sensitive and entertaining way.
In episode 2, Jenner’s friend and trans activist Jenny Boylan comes over to Jenner’s house for drinks. Boylan invites other activists and prominent members of the trans community over, including Jen Richards, Drian Juarez, Chandi Moore and Candis Cayne. Here, audiences are given an opportunity to be a fly on the wall to a conversation between trans women. They listen to the difficulties of being trans; from what it’s like to wear a bikini as a trans woman; to the pros and cons of signing up for vocal training to develop a more feminine tone to their voice.
As the episode continues, Jenner suggests the ladies go on a road trip to San Francisco (read: a prototypically “unscripted” scene where the rest of the cast pretends they had no clue the invite was coming, but are still all ready to go, with bags packed and a conveniently cleared schedule).
The ladies immediately board a private bus and head to San Francisco, where they engage in a serious conversation about the lack of entry-level jobs for trans youth. Unsurprisingly, Jenner finds it difficult to understand and empathize with these women.
Their first pit stop is at Jenner’s cabin in the woods in Santa Cruz. We see them hang out in the hot tub, where Jenner’s CIS gender friend, Ronda Kamihira, tries to insinuate that Jenner may have feelings for Ms. Cayne (read: plug by producers to stir up some Kardashian-esque drama).
The episode ends with Jenner going to bed, explaining that she isn’t ready to start thinking about relationships, nor is she ready to join the other ladies in a bikini in the hot tub.
Despite the ratings dip, episode two of I Am Cait offers viewers a never-before-seen look into the trans world. We hear first hand about transphobia from a wide range of trans individuals. We see how interpersonal relationships differ among trans people only in the sense that this community faces specific forms of oppression that have yet to be addressed in popular culture. Perhaps the plummet in ratings is because the show is more educational and informative, and less melodramatic than one would have thought from a full-time cast member on Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
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