The Bold Type
“The connection between Kat, who is newly bisexual, and Adena, a Muslim lesbian, is one of the highlights of the show.”
Title: The Bold Type
Episodes Reviewed: Season 1
Creator: Sarah Watson 👩🏼🇺🇸
Writers: Sarah Watson 👩🏼🇺🇸 (10 eps), Justin W. Lo 👨🏻🇺🇸 (2 eps), Wendy Straker Hauser 👩🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), Lynn Sternberger 👩🏼🇺🇸 (2 eps), and various (2 ♂, 1 ♀, all white)
Reviewed by Tinker 👩🏽🇺🇸 and Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
The Bold Type has been making waves, praised for its witty dialogue and feminism while quickly garnering a modest if ardent fan base. The show explores themes of identity and adolescence through office drama at a fashion magazine, much of it informed by real-life Cosmopolitan whose editor Joanna Coles also serves as an executive producer for the show.
The Bold Type follows three main characters, Jane (Katie Stevens), Sutton (Meghann Fahy), and Kat (Aisha Dee). They juggle career, friendship, and love in New York City while drinking wine, doing yoga, and fighting the patriarchy. Its niche appeal may not be for everyone, as evidenced by scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic which compromised the grade down from what we would have given. Still, The Bold Type performs with excellence inside its own genre, which follows in the footsteps of trailblazers such as Sex and the City or Ugly Betty with notes of The Devil Wears Prada.
The Bold Type addresses a variety of female-oriented topics ranging from breast cancer, the treatment of women in politics, sexual expression, and even sexual assault, while presenting them through the varying perspectives of our three heroines. Women are the indisputable focus of the show. They build each other up, learn from each other, inspire one another, and all display developed, multi-faceted identities.
However, it must be mentioned that the feminism in The Bold Type does stumble in two small ways, both minor enough to still firmly entrench this as a pro-female show. First, the men are noticeably more mature than the women with the sole exception of the CEO, Jacqueline (Melora Hardin). This is a minor hiccup though, due more to flat writing than anything. After all, plenty of male-driven shows such as Silicon Valley or Better Call Saul similarly use women as the mature or sensible foils to the exciting and messy lives of men.
What feels a bit more flawed is the second stumble: Jane, Sutton, and Kat are often so self-absorbed that their friendships can at times feel coincidental. Considering that female friendship is meant to be the bedrock of The Bold Type, this makes the characters a bit difficult to root for when we see them interrupting or talking over each other about their respective lives.
Luckily, one of the major themes of the show is the process of growing up so we hope the characters will have the opportunity to do so in future seasons if the show is renewed.
The Bold Type has a confusing relationship with race. On the one hand, there is a diverse cast including major characters Kat, played by a biracial actress, and Adena, played by Nikohl Boosheri who is Pakistani-Canadian. We also see recurring minor roles for Lauren (Emily Chang), Oliver (Stephen Conrad Moore), and Alex (Matt Ward), which feels authentic to its setting of midtown New York City. However, the expression of non-white identity can feel sporadic and studied at times, rather than fully lived in. This is especially evident in the romantic relationship between Kat and Adena.
Adena’s character is wonderful. We see her encounter various struggles, whether it’s harassment for wearing hijab, visa troubles, or a tumultuous relationship with a previous girlfriend. In contrast, Kat’s identity as a black woman is completely erased, with an unshakeable sense that the show didn’t want to “go there.” For example, Kat is arrested at one point but the threat of police brutality is ignored. Or when Kat receives threats on Twitter, the comments are vehemently sexist yet strangely devoid of racist sentiment. As Jordan McDonald explains in her article “Be Bolder: The Bold Type Glosses Over Race,”
“By failing to address how Black women experience racism, the show makes its sole Black female character unbelievably neutral, and turns Adena, a queer Muslim woman, into its most heavily politicized character…The show asks us to believe that a Black woman who navigates social media for a living has never seen one of the many unnerving, painful, and recklessly posted videos of Black people dying at the hands of police. This disconnect is a major red flag on a show that’s supposed to ask the ‘tough questions.’ In contrast, The Bold Type consistently addresses Adena’s politics and oppression while also exploring her intimate relationships with Kat as well as her ex-girlfriend. Those details give Adena dimensions while Kat’s Blackness is treated as an aesthetic difference, which creates an ineffable hollowness.”
And yet, later in the series, the lead character Jane mentions the necessity of intersectional feminism. It’s disappointing when we know the writer’s room are capable of artfully depicting women of color, as with Adena. But the decision to ignore race altogether for the other characters shows some immaturity in the writing and development yet to go.
The Bold Type’s execution of Kat and Adena’s budding romance is excellent in how the relationship is treated with respect and made a forefront plotline of the series. Sexuality is an important aspect of the show, one in which the season finale hints at exploring even more in depth. Encouragingly, creator Sarah Watson states,
“I made a solemn promise that I will not kill lesbians off this show, because I know that’s a trope that gets a lot of negative attention. I promise! There will be lots of drama, but [Adena] will be okay.”
With that comforting thought in mind, viewers can simply enjoy the relationship between Kat and Adena which is multi-layered, sweet, and engaging. Their connection is one of the highlights of the show.
Mediaversity Grade: A- (4.50/5)
Laura Bradley states in her article for Vanity Fair that “The drama [of The Bold Type] is often contrived; the understanding of how magazines work is misinformed even for a TV show; the tone is saccharine enough to give even the most patient viewers cavities…But in reality, it’s tough to make it through an episode without finding yourself strangely and startlingly invested in the series and its charming cast.”
All that’s left is for The Bold Type to take the last leap into the complexities of race so that they may depict a more believable world without losing any of the optimism that makes it such a delight.