‘The Kardashians’ Gave Us the ‘Renaissance’ Visuals We’ve Been Craving
The last thing I expected to do when firing up the third season of The Kardashians was laugh. And I don’t just mean a little chuckle, either. I’m talking about a full-out, gut-busting cackle.
Season 3 of Hulu’s saga following our great American royalty, premiering May 25, is typically an incredibly rigid watch; The Six K’s—Kim, Kourtney, Kris, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie—meander around the greater Calabasas area in their matching black lycra body suits, skimming the surface of just about every single topic that the press shares about their family. Unlike in Keeping Up with the Kardashians, where the family only gradually came on as producers and were beholden to the budgetary constraints of parent company NBCUniversal, the Kardashians have full creative control at Hulu. Initially, I thought this might mean they’d feel a sense of safety, allowing themselves to intimately reveal more to their audience. Alas, their walls have never been more fortified.
However, this reluctance to truly open up on camera—beyond a few tears and the repeated declaration that, “things are just so hard right now”—can sometimes result in magic. The Six Ks must resort to sheer nonsense to entertain us, when their individual fortresses of solitude prevent them from authentically serving that purpose. And that is precisely how they were able to get my laughter: by casually slapping a completely produced music video to Beyoncé’s “Cuff It” into their Season 3 opener.
This totally random—and sincerely hilarious—sequence may be the only visuals from Beyoncé’s Renaissance that we ever get. And they are wild; my jaw hit the floor so hard, it broke through four layers of concrete and landed in my building’s lobby. I experienced something that I hadn’t in far too long with this family: joy. Happily, it was only the first of a collection of blessedly bonkers production choices in this season’s premiere, the most consistently buoyant 45-minute stint this family has accomplished since their move to streaming.
Back to that “Cuff It” music video for a second. I tried to describe it to a colleague using words alone, and it simply could not suffice. This is something that must be seen to be believed. But let me break it down for you just a bit more: Kim exits a car worth more than what my organs would sell for on the black market in slow motion, before entering a roller rink and jumping into Khloé’s arms. How Khloé can possibly hold Kim without her thin pins buckling is beyond me, but she did it! The five sisters and their intrepid momager all roller skate together; their dance moves might be stiff, and they might look more like they’re trying to recreate Beyoncé’s “Blow” video, but they’re having the time of their lives regardless.
And so was I! Especially because of how ridiculous it is that the version of “Cuff It” chosen was the radio-friendly edited one, despite The Kardashians being a premium streaming show and not airing on cable. Why they can say “shit” but not “fuck” continues to confound me. I know that it has something to do with Disney+ streaming the show internationally. But I don’t care! Hearing Beyoncé sing, “We’re gonna roll up tonight,” her effervescent “fuck up the night” from the album version stripped from us, took me out of my body. This isn’t Kidz Bop, it’s Kimz Bop—let them cuss it on “Cuff It.”
The reason for this ridiculously expensive production? “Why not? We wanted a music video. It’s fun,” Kim tells us in her confessional. Finally, someone with a producer credit who’s concerned about making this show fun. Much of the great mood that kicks off this season has to be attributed to the infectious ecstasy of Beyoncé’s song, but it’s a not-so-cheap tactic that really works. At least until that energy tapers, that is, when the real show begins, and Kim and Khloé convene with Scott Disick to take the temperature of their individual lives.
It’s August 2022. Kim has broken up with Pete Davidson and is under duress, mostly because of the rapper formerly known as Kanye West. Khloé has had a cancerous melanoma removed from her cheek, just weeks after a surrogate gave birth to Khloé’s second child. Things aren’t looking so great for our girls. Whether it’s the stress, or Hollywood’s alleged favorite prescription drug, Ozempic, to be attributed to their dueling slender frames is a question only they can answer, it’s clear that the summer was not easy for either of them.
Khloé, Kim, and Scott’s discussion of the difficulties of emotional attachment after surrogacy is one of the most fascinatingly candid moments that The Kardashians has offered so far. And, in what I suspect will be a surprise to those who still think this family is only capable of vacuous self-possession, the three consider the mental impact on both Khloé and the surrogate who carried her new son. Khloé’s expression of guilt, and her difficulty in accepting what she calls the “transactional experience” of surrogacy, is genuinely one of the show’s most affecting dialogues yet.
But it’s not entirely doom and gloom, at least not for the first episode. That “Cuff It” energy remains, just waiting to be revived! There’s a wacky 15-minute sequence that begins completely out of nowhere, where Kendall teaches her sister Kylie to drive a stick shift car. An absolutely bizarro, royalty-free music selection of an English rapper spitting about drunk driving plays over this extended bit. Soon after, Kylie balks at stick shift cars having three driving pedals. “We do not have three feet,” Professor Jenner says, schooling us in her confessional. It’s absolutely wackadoodle, and I majored in wackadoodle at clown college.
And not long after that, Kendall hosts a party for her 818 tequila brand, which looks like one of the simple, boring garden gatherings the Kardashians often host. That is, until a man flies in on a literal jet pack, and hands Kendall a bottle of her own tequila. Five minutes later, on a different day, Kourtney asks Khloé to wait in a separate room, because Kourtney is ovulating, and she and her husband Travis Barker must do the deed. Kourtney then returns only 15 minutes later, seemingly filled to the gills, and continues her conversation with Khloé as if nothing happened. I’m not making any of this up!
These are, of course, just some highlights. I could write a separate dissertation on everything The Kardashians continues to do wrong, simply because its stars are just too famous to still be doing a reality show. They are only able to travel between each other’s palatial estates, because anywhere else could be dangerous. They’re essentially Molly Shannon in Season 3 of The Other Two, unable to take a stroll without a week-long security clearance process. They’re all dressed the same, like commanders of their own empires. And they still continue to only touch on their true feelings about their fame, happy to circle around them for 20-minute stretches on couches as big as my entire apartment.
However, a glimmer of hope does remain. With Kanye speaking about his ex-wife to the press incessantly during the filming of Season 3, Kim is already opening up more than ever, to denounce his abhorrent comments. And a sister rivalry between Kourtney’s Dolce & Gabbana-sponsored wedding and Kim’s D&G collaboration line promises a tiff that should spice things up a bit. (Though I can’t think of bigger flop behavior than arguing over working with designers that have a history of remarks ranging from prejudiced to downright racist).
And while history has proven that the premiere’s sense of whimsy is all smoke and mirrors, and it probably won’t last past the first two episodes made available for critics, it’s enough to keep me coming back. I’m forever chasing the strange high of that edited version of “Cuff It.”