I’ll be honest. I don’t really watch romance-y, feel good TV shows that often. I’ve been let down in the past by shows that say they’re women-positive with accurate representations of relationships (both queer and not), and with plots that don’t just revolve around love-triangles. This is why I was really skeptical about watching Freeform’s new show The Bold Type. That being said, it looks like I and so many others were pleasantly surprised.
The Bold Type focuses on the lives of Kat, Jane, and Sutton. They work for Scarlet magazine and are all working through finding their place in the professional world while navigating love and friendship. Jane is a newly-promoted writer who started out as an assistant, Kat runs social media, and Sutton is an assistant who is also mostly just trying to figure out where she belongs within the magazine.
Jane, Kat, and Sutton work for Jacqueline Carlyle, editor-in-chief at Scarlet. As soon as we meet her, she is powerful, surprising, and intimidating. She is what the boss is supposed to be. But (spoiler alert) as the episodes go on, it becomes apparent that she’s everything Meryl Streep’s The Devil Wears Prada character could never be- she’s vulnerable. When Kat starts getting death and rape threats on Twitter, she initially doesn’t want to say anything. She laughs it off. This move is something many a woman in the public eye do every single day. But suddenly Kat’s address is leaked and her private, nude photos shared by strangers. Instead of telling her she should have been more careful, Jacqueline pulls her aside and tells her to take some time for herself. She tells her that these people are miserable trolls, and they won’t go away if they know they’re getting to Kat. It is with this support from another woman in a position of power that Kat is able to slowly gain control back and attack the situation in a way that stays true to who she is as a character. Jacqueline also supports and mentors Jane through her confusion as a writer.
Jane is constantly worried that she’s going to write the wrong thing or pitch something Jacqueline won’t like. In doing so, she forgets to consider what she actually wants to write about. Jacqueline sees this and continues to work with her as the episodes go on, telling her to stop worrying about the writer she thinks she should be so that she can become the writer she could be. She isn’t a cutthroat, uncaring boss. She isn’t “bossy.” She’s just the boss, and she does her job well enough that things get done while the people are taken care of. She doesn’t need to make fun of what her workers wear as a way to get respect. She has earned it by being exactly the kind of boss she knows her employees deserve.
We are also introduced to Lauren Park, who is Sutton’s boss. Right off the bat, Lauren seems very no-nonsense. She’s serious, always walking with a purpose, and demanding. She’s the type of person we might call “bossy” but she’s also the type of person that will help you when you prove yourself. Two separate times Sutton needs help finding a new job within the magazine, she is initially afraid to go to Lauren. She knows Lauren is about her business and doesn’t want to come off the wrong way, but once Lauren realizes that Sutton is serious about moving departments, she supports her, offering recommendations and setting up meetings for her.
As a part of the queer community, I was immediately excited. Within the first few minutes, we are introduced to a queer, Arabic, Muslim woman named Adena El-Amin (portrayed by Nikohl Boosheri), who owns both her sexual identity and her sexuality as a woman. While Muslim and Arabic women are often portrayed in Western media as subservient and meek, Boosheri’s character is open about the fact that she disagrees with the oppressive policies of some “Muslim” countries. She actually gets arrested and detained within the first episode going back home to an unidentified country in the Middle East because she smuggled vibrators into her luggage, which were illegal there. In the same episode, she makes clear that she sees her hijab as a tool of her liberation from society’s expectations of her as a woman. She is a prime example of why the notion that all Muslim women are forced to wear hijab is simply wrong. It is, for many, a choice made with respect to modesty, self-expression, and love of God and oneself. Adena is unapologetic. She is the representation so many shows attempt to achieve but fall short on.
Maybe this is because she hits a lot of the boxes on a diversity checklist, but she also isn’t missing her human aspect. She is queer, she is Muslim, she is a woman of color, but she is also a person. We don’t forget her personhood, at all. Not when she’s showcasing art of women defying stereotypes, not when she’s receiving death threats for standing up to an oppressive government, and not when she’s talking openly about queerness being more about heart than sex. She is also at one point yelled at in the street by a white stranger for speaking Arabic. He tells her to speak English and go back to her country. Kat, her African American friend, ends up punching the stranger and being held in prison overnight. Adena runs away because she fears deportation, as she was in America on a work Visa that she was trying to extend. She is the type of person that exists in modern-day America, afraid of many of the same things as so many of the people I pass on New York City streets every single day.
Kat is also another queer character, although she only discovers it once she meets Adena. Her character shows a more realistic, less tragic side of queerness. Her friends accept her and mostly just have questions about when and if she’s going to tell Adena how she feels. For her friends, it’s mostly a non-issue. Kat doesn’t panic about her bi-curiosity and is mostly just a little bit surprised. She tells Adena at one point, when they’re fighting, that she doesn’t have problems being in a gay relationship, but that she’s never been in a relationship, in general. She navigates her new sexuality in the same way she navigated heterosexuality. She is someone I and many of my queer friends can truly relate to.
The human aspect is what gives her and the shows many other characters their appeal. It felt like for the first time, I was watching a show with fully fleshed-out women as characters. They were allowed to cry, to laugh, to be embarrassed, to make mistakes, to feel sexy, to question themselves, to comfort each other, to be vulnerable, to be strong, to be cunning. They didn’t use each other’s vulnerability as something to exploit. They didn’t gossip when something went wrong. They felt as real as any of the women I call my friends and family.
The women on The Bold Type use their womanhood to their advantage when they need to, and, while they recognize what being a woman means in this world and in the workplace, they also never let it hold them back. They are truly the bold type.