I am sick of watching television shows that paint women in their 20’s as codependent, emotionally infantile, and shallow people, not to mention completely lacking the real mindset of young women. I find shows like Girls to be insulting because they claim to represent women my age (25), but all I see are whiny spoiled white characters who refuse to take responsibility for their lives. So I was a bit hesitant when I started watching Freeform’s The Bold Type, but I was willing to give it a try, since it’s about three female best friends (Jane, Kat, and Sutton) fighting for careers at a feminist magazine, for sexual understanding, and for overall success. Though I have a few issues with the show, overall I was pleasantly surprised and I think it may be one of the best dramatic representations of millennial women to date (note that Broad City is a comedy, not a drama).
The show provides more representation than most shows like it. It takes place in NYC, which is a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities, and yet there are so many shows with similar settings that don’t reflect this in the main cast. I’m happy to report that The Bold Type does. Two out of three main characters are women of color, the CEO of the magazine is female, and a number of supporting characters are people of color. I would still love to see some Native American people represented, but this diversity is definitely a huge step forward. The best part is that it is believable and the characters are multidimensional, unlike other shows, which just seem to have a token woman or a token black friend. They also have representation in the plot. There is an entire storyline dedicated to a talented female Muslim, lesbian artist who at one point is detained in the Middle East for having vibrators, at another point becomes the victim of a hate crime, and another point helps one of the main characters realize she is bisexual, which then creates a storyline of its own. So not only does this show provide racial representation, it also provides religious and sexual representation.
These women are also professionally driven, and the men around them view that as a turn-on instead of a nuisance. It’s clear that this is a world created with strong females at the center while the men orbit around them, illuminated by their ambition, which is a complete role reversal for television dramas. Sure, the majority of millenials don’t know what they’re doing at this age and they’re all a little lost, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know where they want to end up. It just takes some strategic maneuvering to obtain their goals, but for once a television drama doesn’t doubt that young women can figure out how to get there, which empowers the audience. I’ve read a number of comments from young women saying they were inspired to work harder or create something new that took them a step closer to their dream after watching The Bold Type, which is telling in and of itself.
One of the most unique pieces of this show is that none of the three main women linger in toxic relationships. They may take a few extra days to figure out what they want, but as soon as they do, they act on it, either by maturely breaking up with a partner, or by finding the courage to stay. For example, when Jane realizes she wants more out of a relationship with Ryan, but Ryan isn’t the kind of guy to offer more, she calmly meets up with him, informs him of her feelings, and tells him she needs to walk away because she doesn’t want to change him, but she can’t be casual about it anymore. It was maturely done and honest in the best way. On the other side of things, when Kat tries to run away from her feelings for Adena, she becomes self-aware enough to stop herself from pushing Adena away and instead accepts the possibility of a relationship. I think these are great messages to send to the audience watching this show because it shows that women aren’t always hysterical messes when it comes to relationships. Also, although the third protagonist, Sutton, is forced to mutually end her long-term relationship, the break-up episode ends with the three friends together, telling Sutton she’ll be okay, and her agreeing. The fact that she was broken hearted, but recognized she would get past it shows the strength of this character and thus the women she represents. When a similar scenario happened in Girls, Lena Dunham’s character becomes helpless, unable to leave her apartment for weeks. I understand breakups are hard, but in reality our worlds don’t stop when our relationships do, and we as women should know we’re strong enough to handle the pain. Maybe if Lena’s character had a show like The Bold Type to look up to, she would realize that.
The strong female characters in The Bold Type aren’t made out to be cold, distant, or harsh like they are in many other shows and movies. Consider Pride and Prejudice, where the only female character in the story who has any type of notable status is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Although she wears beautiful gowns and has her hair impeccably done, she keeps everyone at arm’s length and shows no warmth whatsoever. The reasoning behind this is that she is considered to be in a man’s role and often times in films and TV shows, women in so-called male roles are depicted as harsh to show they’re strong. Just look at The Devil Wears Prada. Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) is the strongest woman in the movie, with an executive role in a successful company, and is extremely mean. As Andy (Anne Hathaway) becomes more confident in her work and thus stronger as a person, her boyfriend breaks up with her, claiming she’s turned into a terrible person.
Time and time again strong women are shown through harsh characters by Hollywood, but The Bold Type shatters that stereotype. Jacqueline, the CEO of the feminist magazine where the three protagonists work, is more of a mentor than a critic. She helps bring out the best in each one of the protagonists by guiding them and encouraging them to listen to their gut and believe in themselves. This is a complete 180 from the Miranda Priestly archetype and one that I completely support. It almost feels unnatural because I’m so used to seeing female bosses depicted as the Miranda type, but I must say I have had a boss like Miranda and a boss like Jacqueline and nine times out of ten, the more supportive boss was able to increase my work performance. On top of that, although the protagonists all started on the same level at the company and rose through the ranks at different speeds, there’s little-to-no competition between them. All they look for is support and they don’t ever try to tear each other down. Two of the protagonists even developed a plan to support the third protagonist in case she didn’t get the promotion she wanted so that she had the courage to go all in for it. It’s the epitome of women supporting other women and I am completely here for it.
For all of its positives, there are definitely some places where the show gets it wrong. There are a few instances where the protagonists are too ruled by their emotions, so much so that it feels a bit stereotypical. For example, I don’t care how mad or upset I get, there is no way I would ever be caught screaming insults at my boss in front of the entire office like one the protagonists does, or run out crying during my important presentation to the board like another one does. It’s just not an option in real life, but at the same time, women don’t have room for those types of mistakes in real life. As Michelle Obama recently said, “I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do,” so maybe this show is giving room for women to do that by showing the female audience that it’s okay to fall apart sometimes. It doesn’t make you weak, it just makes you human. I think it’s worth noting that The Bold Type has a female showrunner and a female creator, which is pretty rare in Hollywood, so, although there are faults, it’s important to know that the show isn’t portraying “hysterical” women through the male gaze.
Overall, I highly recommend watching The Bold Type because it gives a positive, current, and representative look at fierce young females paving their own ways in the workforce. It has already been renewed for two more seasons, so you can bet that this show is going to have a lot more feminist storylines. I strongly believe that film and television shape a big portion of society, so when shows like The Bold Type crush stereotypes, it can have a big impact on the people watching.