Are you an intersectional feminist? Have you ever campaigned for more representation on TV? Do you tweet woke thoughts and write a political Tumblr blog? Then The Bold Type is the show for you!
This latest Freeform gem premiered on July 11 and it is currently receiving nothing but praises from audience and critics alike. Everyone in the trade press (and on Twitter) is in love, but what is it that makes this type so bold?
The three main characters are twenty-something year old girls who meet whilst working at Scarlet Magazine, a fictional version of Cosmopolitan. Trying to make their way on up in the world, they encounter and overcome many obstacles. At the start of the series, which is only four episodes in, Jane (played by Katie Stevens) finally receives a promotion from assistant to writer, Kat (Aisha Dee) is happy with her position as social media director, whilst Sutton (Meghann Fahy), who’s been the perfect assistant for three years, begins to want more.
When Sutton’s storyline was first established, I expected Sutton to complain about how it wasn’t fair that she wasn’t getting anywhere and to become jealous of her friends for moving up the career ladder, especially when she works just as hard as them. It was actually here that the show first surprised me: none of these things happened. Sutton is happy for her friends and proud of their achievements with no hint of resentment whatsoever, but this does lead her to finally decide it’s time to take a leap and try to do what she’s always dreamt of.
Meanwhile, Kat struggles with her sexual orientation, even if “struggle” is not really what happens. She soon meets Adena—a self-defined proud Muslim lesbian—and this causes her to realise she might not be as straight as she thought and said to be in Episode 1. Over the few episodes that have aired, Kat gets to know Adena and realises she has feelings for her and gradually comes to terms with her changing sexuality, and of course, so do her friends who cheer her on at every opportunity. Her two best friends don’t appear to be weirded out, nor do they complain if Kat smacks their asses, or calls them ‘sexy’, so it’s quite entertaining to see this change doesn’t affect their friendship in any way.
Jane deals with some sexual issues of her own, but her storyline is mostly about being taken seriously as a new and young female writer, especially since she wants to write political pieces, and not just ‘girly’ fluff pieces. She is “mansplained” to and stigmatized because she writes for a young target audience, but Jacqueline, the editor-in-chief, believes in her. Jacqueline is a fierce advocate for women and when the board members of the magazine refuse to listen to her request for a new political column, she tells them: “Young women want to be politically engaged. So let’s engage them,” and that line could honestly be the motto for the entire show.
But more about Jacqueline, Scarlet’s chief editor. From the second you see a pair of red heels stride into the office, you immediately make the assumption she’s going to be a terrible boss, just as we’ve seen in The Devil Wears Prada and Supergirl where the powerful female figure is portrayed as, well, a bitch. But The Bold Type twists our expectations once more and gives us an incredibly caring boss. Although she may be an imposing figure who demands respect and excellent performance from her staff, instead of yelling at them constantly, she takes the time to sit down and discuss why an article is not working, or even help them with their own personal dilemmas. She acts as a great mentor for the girls, trusting and supporting them until they become confident enough to stand on their own. (Plus her desk has a treadmill where she still wears her heels while walking on it, how cool is that?)
The Bold Type actively reassures the audience it is so much more than the next flick chick. In a very self-reflective way, Scarlet Magazine is emblematic for the show in its entirety when, in the pilot episode, Adena accuses the magazine of being antifeminist. “It’s a common misconception,” Kat defends Scarlet—and reflexively, the show—by saying that it embraces stealth feminism: girly and stylish doesn’t have to mean unfeminist. Providing advice on sex is not antifeminist, “It’s no longer about how to please your man—or woman—in bed, it’s about how to please yourself.” The magazine, and therefore the show, is all about self-empowerment and self-acceptance. It actively fights all the overt and internalised signs of sexism, double standards, racism, embracing diversity, and inclusiveness.
In Jacqueline’s speech to her staff, the chief editor symbolically speaks to the entire generation of millennials, encouraging them to be proud and unstoppable.
You are the women and men who work at Scarlet. And sixty years ago, this magazine set out to redefine the rules, and now that responsibility falls to each one of you. And I want to make sure you understand what I expect of you. I expect you to have adventures. I expect you to fall in love. To get your hearts broken. I expect you to have sex with the wrong people. Have sex with the right people. To make mistakes and make amends. Take a leap and make a splash. And I expect you to unleash holy hell on anybody who tries to hold you back. Because you don’t just work for Scarlet. You are Scarlet.
Translation: we don’t have to work at Cosmo to be “stealthy feminists”, to make an impact and to change the world one tweet at a time. We can all be The Bold Type. It’s like Freeform met Tumblr and struck true. The Bold Type has all the potential to be the defining show of this generation, if only we let it.
Have you watched The Bold Type? Tell us your thoughts on the series in the comments below and check back each week for episode recaps!