THE BOLD TYPE IS TOO SAFE, HERE’S WHY
This show could be so much better.
It’s not everyday that a television show strives to address issues concerning women and with a focus on the nuances involved but some have chosen to be the frontiers of a new way of thinking, which also happens to be a risky brand to uphold. In its first episode of the season two premiere of The Bold Type, the producers and writers of the show tackled oral sex and it’s introduction to a newly found bisexual woman and her lover, work place bullying and gossip, power dynamics in relationships, all while managing to also drop in a dash of journalism ethics and what it takes to produce good writing.
The Bold Type is outstanding in its stance to fully commit to representation in the LGBTQ community and they do it in a brazen way. Yet some narratives in the show seem rushed and poorly developed and fall short of the trailblazing show it could be. Namely, the interaction between Richard(Samuel Page) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy), Kat’s (Aisha Dee) racial identity as well as Jane’s (Katie Stevens) journalism abilities to name a few.
The Millennial centered theme of the show focuses on a trio of friends created by Sarah Watson, which promises to assert feminist, strength, and youth in the setting of an office environment where all the characters work for Scarlet, a women’s fashion magazine.
In their endeavours to produce lively story lines that stay true to the independent millennial narrative and feminism identity, viewers follow Sutton, the fashion assistant for Scarlet, as she develops a clandestine relationship with her superior and boss, Richard, an executive at her company and manages to choose her career over love.
Instead of enjoying both the benefits of a career and a healthy relationship, Sutton is faced with either protecting her reputation or her relationship and inevitably is reminded that she would be taking the brunt of the gossip surrounding their relationship. Yet realistically, isn’t that how some relationships pan out? There are people who are involved in relationships with their superiors and some manage to navigate that. The Bold Type missed an opportunity to address power dynamics in relationships, how it effects workplace culture and even highlight issues within relationships like that in a constructive way. Sutton had an opportunity to get out of being in a dysfunctional secret relationship and finally enter a mature one.
More, the story line falls flat in taking advantage of an opportunity to showcase why Jane is a great hard news journalist.
As a young writer and journalist who has established her name enough to secure a byline in both a magazine and online publication at the age of 25, Jane sounds amazing. She was strong enough to be considered as a writer at Scarlet which is no short stride. It’s a huge accomplishment, a fact which viewers were reminded of when all girls congratulated each other on their recent promotions in the first season. However, for some reason the story seems to be pushing the idea of Jane as a screw up which is confusing to the narrative that she is a great writer. It is very possible to have confidence issues while also maintains a career and excelling yet, the mistakes Jane seems to make, namely calling to apologize after a story goes wrong, or speaking too candidly in an interview only seem to take away from her professionalism and her abilities as a writer. Can she or can she not do the work? Also the ease with which she finds employment at the age she’s at, regardless of her writing ability seems a little unrealistic. Getting a journalism job, let alone a great one like she has, takes a while, or at least some effort.
Still, the narrative that Jane is unable to do her work because she gets emotionally invested in her subjects is disruptive and unnecessary given that she is supposed to be an overachieving writer. It almost makes her seem immature and completely confuses the ideas about who she is because of how often her professionalism and her incompetence are interchanged within episodes. It is very possible to show her as being professional with flaws with out conflating the two depictions of her as a writer which are complete juxtapositions of each other because Jane can’t both be incompetent and great enough to be successful in her industry at such a young age. The show writers had an opportunity to instead show a writer who faces lows, the relationship between a writer and an editor and how in some cases bosses abuse their power and delegate responsibilities that they should solely be responsible for. The story with Jane and her editor at Incite is a story of a boss who does not take responsibility for tough situations and instead lays blame and delegates irresponsibly. It’s actually one of an editor who is vague in giving constructive feedback and who is not transparent and forthcoming with information that affects their employees.
The second episode however, which was also aired on the same day as the first, finally addresses a topic that felt lapsed from the first season. Kat, the biracial and edgy social media head who recently discovered her bisexual identity acknowledged her dual race and how that places a part in people’s view of her. In the first season Kat seemed very removed from race which made the show seem stifled and almost unrealized in its potential to deliver stories that break boundaries. The Bold Type is marked by its initiative to start a conversation and take initiative and while producers and writers for the show seem to push past social boundaries with sexuality, even showing two women in the heat of performing sexual acts together, they fall short of really pushing the envelope when it comes to race.
Kat is black yes, but she also happens to be half white. It’s this biracial distinction that started off strong as Kat explains her feelings of neglecting one identify for another. This would have been viral content, a real trailblazing way to address the issue of identity for biracial individuals and the feeling of having to choose a race. Yet again, this line of thinking was undeveloped because of the choice she ended up making. The fact that she ended up saying, “this is the part of me I need to focus on right now,” points to the fact that our society currently pushes biracial people to remove themselves from one aspect of their identity and boxes them into another. It is important to recognize labels but by forcing Kat to only acknowledge her black side in her biracial identity ignores the fact that she has grown up in an environment with mixed cultures, mixed believes and therefore is no more aligned with one race than the other. It’s important for her to acknowledge her blackness, but she can no more remove herself from being white like she can with being black.
Let’s face it, Kat is very fair-skinned and due to colourism, benefits from all the privileges afforded those with lighter skin tones, so she hasn’t really been forced to attend to her black heritage (remember she has no black friends apart from Alex and seems very distant from the black New York scene). As a result streamlining her journey and removing her white identity, and pigeonholing her as a black person when she’s biracial almost feels irresponsible. Yes, Kat should know her African-American grandparents and her fathers roots just as much as she knows her white grandparents but she should never feel the need to choose which side or group she is part of at any moment because at every moment she is still biracial and still fair skinned enough to benefit from that. And so her response to the question of race is rushed and superficial at best.
The Bold Type had an opportunity to be unprecedented in the way they talk about race and propose a new way to think about it, but they ended up following the typical narrative of a person recognizing their internalized racism which in this case is almost negated because she shares both of the races which are seemingly being opposed.
The show seems to fail at modern interpretations of social issues regarding race, identity politics, capitalism and privilege and instead follows the regular carefree narrative about white women in corporate America. But to be at the frontier of change, to really make a mark and push a conversation like the show seems to be aiming for, there needs to be a little more grit and an imposition. You can’t go for comfort if you’re trying to make a difference.
Updated August 11, 2018: This post was corrected to remove the labeling of Kat as white passing.