Life of Kylie seems to have missed the memo on why people enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians.
The success of Keeping Up with the Kardashians is, of course, fueled partially by a combination of schadenfreude and wish fulfillment, as we eat up every instant that real, unscripted drama encroaches on the First Family's aspirational world of chef salads and private jets. But what has helped Keeping Up with the Kardashians become a cultural touchstone more than anything is simple, really: it's fun.
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. It's Kourtney burning Khloe's vagina while giving her sister a bikini wax. It's Rob having to go to the hospital for an erection after Kris accidentally drugged him with Viagra tea intended for Caitlyn. It's Khloe getting arrested and Kim taking non-stop selfies in the car ride over.
This family is wonderful and weird and wacky and I love them for it. But all of that is missing from Life of Kylie.
Over the course of Keeping Up with the Kardashians' run, I've watched Kylie disappear into herself. During the early seasons, Kylie was outgoing, animated and weird in that way only pre-teens are. However, as she grew up and began gaining more attention — and therefore more scrutiny — it began to feel like Kylie's brand as the Ultimate Cool Girl superseded Kylie's real personality. She didn't joke around nearly as much and even in her (increasingly brief) appearances on the Kardashians, she began to employ the same, vacant stare she put on for all her Instagram and Snapchat posts. It was as though Kylie was there during filming but never really present. And what Life of Kylie proves is that this detachment wasn't all in my head.
The majority of Life of Kylie's two-part season premiere details Kylie's disconnect between who she wants to be and who she feels she has to be. And though there are produced attempts at silly shenanigans that are the Kardashians' bread and butter (Kylie goes to prom! Kylie spies on Jordyn's date!), 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.
When Kardashians started, Kylie was only 9 years old. She never signed up for this life. Her parents signed her up for it. As she grew up on camera and the series became a runaway success, Kylie saw her old, normal life slip away from her — something the now 19-year-old still appears to regret. And if you thought Rob & Chyna was depressing, you haven't seen Kylie discussing the catch-22 situation that is her life.
Already anticipating the hate she'll eventually get for complaining about being famous while continuing to play her role as a celebrity, Kylie explains in the premiere that yes, she keeps up with the lifestyle her family forced upon her, but she doesn't truly enjoy it. In fact, if Kylie even lets herself think too much about the pressure on her to keep people "entertained" and the attention that results in, she gets freaked out because it reminds her that she isn't just allowed to be herself, she's always going to be "Kylie f---ing Jenner."
In one particularly dark moment, Kylie, who had to be homeschooled because she missed too much class due to work, admits she previously unfollowed all of her school friends on social media because it was too painful seeing them live normal lives and do things she'd never get to do anymore. "They probably thought I hated them, but I just couldn't see it, you know?" Kylie reflects to her entourage. And even when Kylie does attempt to capture some of that normalcy by going to prom, her appearance immediately disrupts the entire event and she's forced to spend the evening sequestered on a balcony, watching teenagers have the time of their lives from afar.
If anything is a metaphor for Kylie's life, it's this.
Life of Kylie appears to be an attempt to break down the walls between Kylie and the rest of the world, but it's clear this won't be easy for the reality star. After 10 years in the public eye, Kylie has learned to protect herself by disassociating her true self from the person she plays in the media. When people online insult her (and they do. Constantly), Kylie tells her therapist in the premiere that the hate "doesn't really hurt me because I know that's not really me [they're talking about]." It's even gotten to the point where Kylie says it's easier for her to interact with the world through Instagram and Snapchat than actually go out into it.
Unlike her sisters Kim and Kendall, and peers Bella Hadid and Hailey Baldwin, Kylie isn't built for this life and she knows it. "Sometimes I wish I could do what they do, but it's like, that's not me," Kylie tells her best friend Jordyn. "The only reason why I keep it up a little bit is Kylie Cosmetics, but it's so much pressure. I want to grow as a person the way I want to grow and the path that I want to take."
In the teaser for the rest of the season, Kylie says that she feels like she's finally starting to get her personality back, which was a welcome ray of hope in this surprisingly emotional hour. Unfortunately, that was the only moment in Life of Kylie's premiere that gave me even a hint of joy. Unlike Keeping Up with the Kardashians — which has found the magical balance between real issues (armed robberies, substance abuse, infertility, etc.) and the lighthearted escapism fans still desire — Life of Kylie is like its star: searching for purpose, but mostly very, very sad.
Life of Kylie airs Sundays at 9/8c on E!