It’s been a rough week for lots and lots of people and it’s been hard for me to get up the energy to fangirl, which is normally my haven from all things shitty. This week has proven an exception to that rule, and I’m struggling to get back into the swing of things.
But I did finally get caught up with the TV show The Bold Type, which is in its first season.
I had been seeing some of the people in my various fandoms raving about it, so I decided, “what the hell?” and started watching it and I will admit, it’s enjoyable and addictive.
So what exactly IS this show?
The premise is this: Three young (20-something) women work at a fashion mag and deal with life, love, and everything in between while just starting out on their careers.
It’s inspired by the life of former Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles, who is now chief content editor of Hearst Magazines. Coles sits on the board of Snapchat and on the board of Women Entrepreneurs New York City, which is an initiative to expand female entrepreneurship, with specific emphases on underserved women and communities.
Coles is a badass in the media world. She served as the New York bureau chief for The Guardian then became the New York columnist for The Times of London. Hearst picked her up in 2006 and she started with them as editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, becoming editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan in 2012. I didn’t know this, but Cosmo is considered the largest women’s media brand in the world. Anyway, Coles was recently described by the New York Times as one of the most powerful people in media.
So, yeah, I can totally see a TV show inspired by her and her badassery. And, for even more trivia for your next cocktail party, Joanna Coles is the executive producer of The Bold Type.
Okay, so that said, this show is not about Coles or the woman who heads up “Scarlet” Magazine — Jacqueline Carlyle — which is modeled loosely, I suspect, on Cosmo but geared more toward younger women, as the three main characters are 20-something women who work at the magazine in various capacities.
Here’s the trailer!
Those three women are Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), the social media director; Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy), who starts out as an assistant to one of the muckety-mucks at Scarlet but then does sort of a lateral move into the fashion department; and Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), who gets promoted into the writers’ bullpen as the show starts out. These three women are BFFs, and that is a primary theme, is how tight the three of them are and how they support and call each other out when they screw up.
And oh, lordie, do they screw up. But that’s part of the appeal of this show and these characters, is that they do screw up, they talk it out, they generally take responsibility for their screw-ups even as they’re pissed and stressed about them, and they continue on. You cringe at the screw-ups, but you also celebrate their accomplishments right along with them because their enthusiasm is utterly infectious.
Jacqueline Carlyle (the supremely elegant Melora Hardin) is the editor-in-chief of Scarlet (modeled after Coles, I suspect), and she is the woman all of us would totally have massive crushes on if we worked there. She’s professional, calm, blunt but warm, and very supportive of her staff (LET US ALL DREAM OF JOBS WHERE MORALE IS SUPER GOOD AND THE HIGHER-UPS SUPPORT US AND WANT US TO SUCCEED). She doesn’t micromanage — instead, she’s honest with her employees and encourages them to do their best and get out of their comfort zones. She also calls them out when they’ve screwed up, but she never belittles them.
Throw in a strong supporting cast, good dialogue, some hilarious situations and solid storylines, and you’ll end up getting sucked into this, too.
I’ll quote Variety writer Sonia Saraiya, who had this to say about it:
As should be the case for a show about young women and aimed at teenagers, a lot of “The Bold Type” is about the frothy but endlessly captivating drama of dating and texting and trying not to make your boss too upset. Magazines aren’t what they used to be, but for a generation that is exponentially more media-savvy than their parents, the grammar of presentation and posting — of likes and shares — is so obvious as to be inherent. The three lead characters live in that boundary-free world that we all increasingly live in — where the lines between social and private, personal and political are harder and harder to locate. — Sonia Saraiya, “TV Review: ‘The Bold Type,’ From Former Cosmo Editor Joanna Coles”
Go ahead. Start making your comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada and the original Sex in the City. Yeah, there’s a bit of each in here, but also some Laverne and Shirley (if they had a third lady friend in the mix). Because those comparisons are probably apt. But The Bold Type is unabashedly and overtly feminist, has some outrageously fun moments as well as some really poignant ones, and doesn’t take itself too seriously, though it delves into some serious topics.
So we’re following our three main characters just starting out in their adult career lives. Here’s a bit more about each of them:
Kat is the social media guru/go-getter who can be impulsive and, if she’s not careful, ends up railroading people or making some errors in terms of social media and campaigns. She comes across as insensitive sometimes, but she’s all heart. One of her major character arcs this season is her attraction to Muslim lesbian artist Adena El Amin (Nikohi Boosheri), and it freaks her out because she considers herself straight. Nevertheless, she’s drawn to Adena and these two do have some nice flirtatious chemistry. I won’t tell you where that goes so as not to spoil it for you should you watch. 🙂
Sutton (love that name — Sutton Brady) is the assistant to one of the higher-ups who has a dragon lady rep. Sutton’s dream is to get into fashion. She’s one of those self-taught people who really does have an eye for it. She’s really creative and has a quirky but also elegant style. There are two major arcs for her in this season. One is her attempt to move into the fashion department, but she doesn’t have academic training in fashion. We find out that she has a hardscrabble background and lived at home while going to Penn State, and that it was hard for her. The other arc, and we find this out in the first episode, is that she’s having an affair with one of the board members and legal counsel of the magazine, Richard (Sam Page), who is a bit older than she is. I’m estimating he’s in his late 30s. This relationship is obviously frowned upon, and creates stress and angst though I do actually like Richard’s character.
Jane is the hungry writer (and Sutton’s roomie) and she really, really wants to become a great magazine writer/journalist, but she’s interested in meaty subjects so she’s always trying to find those to add to the mix, since Scarlet comes off as a fashion/trends venue. Jacqueline, however, likes her ideas and encourages her to find new angles. A couple of her plotlines include having a fling with a fellow writer from another mag in the building — he’s a rakish sex writer and she figures some things out about herself while involved with him. She also has to deal with some things that all journalists to — subjects they feel strongly about and trying to write about them fairly. For example, one of her pieces gets the magazine sued, and it’s interesting to see how Jacqueline and Richard handle it. They’re a good team, these two, and I like the professional rapport they have.
The plots are surprisingly fast-paced, and there’s lots of fun, snappy dialogue, as well as loads of serious dialogue when the situation calls for it. A few more things that I like about it:
1. The characters. I love the bond that Kat, Jane, and Sutton have. All three from different backgrounds but they unequivocally have each other’s backs, and that includes calling each other out when necessary, knowing that it won’t make them love each other less. MOAR SISTERHOOD LIKE THIS, PLZ. I also like the secondary characters, including Alex (Matt Ward), one of Jane’s fellow writers who is a great foil for her and for Sutton and an all-around nice guy.
I really enjoy the diversity of this cast, and it’s freaking nice to see a work environment where everybody is supportive of each other, for the most part. WHERE IS THIS FAIRYLAND SO THAT WE CAN ALL GO AND FROLIC WITH THE UNICORNS AND DANCE UNDER RAINBOWS EVERY DAY?
2. The subjects that the shows tackles. This is a clever writing team, that has worked some relevant issues into the episodes that not only reflect larger political and cultural currents, but also some personal stuff that hits home for a lot of people. For example, Kat’s struggle with trying to figure out why she’s attracted to another woman, and what that means. There’s an episode in which Adena and Kat are confronted on the street by an anti-Muslim white man and Kat ends up in a physical altercation with him while Adena disappears because in these times, even if your paperwork is in order, she could be deported if she’s involved in situations like that and watching Kat — who seems to have lived a sheltered life in some respects — come to grips with that is quite moving.
And there’s Sutton’s forbidden workplace relationship with Richard, and all the issues that can bring up, especially since Sutton is in the most precarious situation employment-wise at Scarlet. She’s an assistant — a secretary, basically — and should someone find out about her affair with Richard, guess who would most likely be the one to pay the heaviest price? Probably not the wealthy white dude who sits on the board.
Jane, too, has her issues. One episode deals with her stress when the magazine is sued because of a piece she wrote and she learns a lesson about her own internal biases during the ordeal. Another episode has her dealing with a piece she absolutely does not want to write, about women in their 20s getting tested for the BRCA gene mutation that increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer. We find out why she’s having so many issues with this piece in the episode, and it hits close to home for a lot of us, because I doubt there’s anybody out there who doesn’t know a woman (or even a man) who has dealt with breast cancer and some have no doubt dealt with it themselves. Plus, it really addresses the fact that young women, too, can develop breast cancer and it’s important to monitor your bodies.
So, sure, the issues generally get resolved amidst the sisterhood lovefest, but damn, it’s so nice to see women supporting each other so wholeheartedly and it’s so nice to see that the men in their lives are also supportive.
3. I actually like that this is a show geared toward young women. I hear grumbles among the olds. “I’m not gonna watch some damn bubblegum crap about the vacuous problems of youth!” Whatever. Give it a whirl and think about yourself as a young person trying to negotiate your first jobs and networks and the world at large. Get up out of your rocking chair and think young again.
A lot of the mistakes the three MCs make are cringe-worthy because oh, shit, I’ve been there. High drama, seemingly really high stakes, and caught in a maelstrom of feeeelz. It’s interesting for me to watch this show as an older woman, because I definitely no longer have the types of drama that they get up to (my drama is much different now…lol), but I do enjoy seeing how younger women relate and the things that they’re capable of. I love that they’re so comfortable with diversity and interpersonal relationships and navigating the world in ways I didn’t. I also really enjoy the mentorship that Jacqueline’s character provides to the young women, and the absolute respect they (and the male characters) have for her, whether it’s her expertise, experience, or authority. I love that. And Jacqueline doesn’t squander it. She offers nurturing when necessary, tough love when she knows that’s the approach needed, and sees in these young women the future. It’s really quite empowering watching the relationships between the staff at Scarlet (which may be a cross between rebel Teen Vogue and Cosmo?) and seeing how this setting allows the cast to explore different issues.
Jacqueline being her mentor self to Jane:
4. The music. Y’all know I’m a music fanatic, and I absolutely LOVE the soundtracks to each of these episodes. I always comment aloud about a third of the way through, “Damn, this show has some fucking good music.” You can find a lot of it on Tunefind by episode. I can tell care was put into song choice and when it plays in each setting. So kudos to the music arranger person/people at The Bold Type.
5. I like to see how things might work at a magazine. And yeah, yeah. I get it. This ain’t no damn real life, Andi. This is not how things really are at a major young women’s mag! Yes. I understand that. But I’m sure some of it is based on reality, and I like watching how things APPEAR to work. I like watching Jane as she settles into the beginning of her writing career, and her bouts of insecurity and jealousy (been there!) as she tries to get cool stories and impress her boss while also trying to improve her craft. Or maybe I’m just missing Season 1 of Supergirl, when Cat Grant (Callista Flockhart) ruled the roost and tough-loved Kara’s development.
I’ve found myself enjoying this show quite a bit, even though, yes, there are some things that may or may not be flaws, depending on your perspective.
For example, who the hell is able to look so damn gorgeous 24/7 like these people? I mean, every single one of these people in this show is a walking glam shot. They’re also all able-bodied, fit, and healthy. I’ve known a lot of people who work in magazines and newsrooms and most of them took a lot of smoke breaks, had tons of stress, sickly pallors, drank a lot of beer, and had the bellies to prove it. Maybe it’s different at high-power fashion/lifestyle mags. Maybe they don’t hire you if you look like most of the people I’ve known who work in other fast-paced mags/newsrooms.
So, yeah, this is a show with Beautiful PeopleTM. And speaking of, how is it that our three young intrepid women can afford all the different outfits they wear and live in New York in such nice apartments on their respective salaries? Have you checked the rents in Uptown and Midtown Manhattan? The average rent for, like, a 2-BR is $5400/mo. I’m guessing that our crew lives in Brooklyn, because in one episode, they’re walking around in what’s supposed to be Brooklyn, I’m guessing, across from Manhattan, and Kat gets a text from Jacqueline to stop by her office when she gets in and Kat then tells her BFFs they need to go, that the boat is arriving.
Speaking from my own experience with NYC and Brooklyn — and I go there several times a year — 90% of people in Brooklyn who have to commute to Manhattan take public transportation, and that usually means the subway or possibly a bus, but the subway’s the better bet, even right now with all of MTA’s horrendous problems. It’s so bad that the governor declared a state of emergency in June with regard to NYC’s trains.
So, not to suggest you can’t take a ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan (and pretend you’re Melanie Griffith in Working Girl taking one from Staten island), but most people, in my experience, are riding the train.
Point being, if our intrepid crew lives in Brooklyn, they’re paying around $3300/month for a 2-BR apartment. So how are our heroines able to afford all the different outfits they wear AND pay those rents AND pay for all the other things in NYC that are invariably more expensive than elsewhere? Inquiring minds, people!
My other quibble is how easily the crises are resolved. Sure, it’s great having a couple of BFFs who are with you through thick and thin, and I love seeing it, but seriously? How is it that these crises are usually resolved by the end of the episode? So, yeah, maybe a little bit unrealistic.
And, yeah, the Kat/Adena situation feels a little trope-y — allegedly straight woman is attracted to lesbian — and angst ensues. I do like, however, that Adena is Muslim, and we get some glimpses of her navigating her culture as a lesbian and a feminist while also having to navigate American culture and its terrible anti-Muslim sentiment. These are poignant moments, so is it any wonder that Adena might be hesitant about some things? There’s also another circumstance that adds extra angst to this situation, but I won’t reveal it. Go see. 🙂
Here. A scene between Kat and Adena. The latter is returning to her country for a visit and Kat is helping her get some dildos and vibrators together for Adena to smuggle in (feminism!!!! WOOOO!).
But if you suspend disbelief, put your jammies on, get some popcorn and your fave beverage, and settle in to watch, I guarantee that if you don’t totally love it, you’ll find some things that you really like. It grows on you, and I do appreciate the empowerment message.
Happy Friday, and may the odds be ever in our favor.