“I expect you to unleash holy hell on anybody who tries to hold you back, because you don’t just work for Scarlet. You are Scarlet.”
After premiering on June 20, The Bold Type, a new Freeform series, became a major topic of conversation among its viewers. The show follows three best friends — Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), and Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy) — who are also coworkers at Scarlet magazine, based in New York City. Scarlet is run by editor-in-chief Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin). The first season came to an end on Sept. 5, and here are our thoughts on the first 10 episodes of the series:
LOVE: The aspiration of it all.
The Bold Type is a shiny show. Viewers get that impression from the series’ first promos, which featured three young women dressed in richly colored fancy dresses, screaming in unity on a subway platform. That’s the gist, right there: great friends, doing something relatable — who doesn’t want to scream sometimes? — while wearing clothes that are definitely out of the price range of many of the people watching.
I watch The Bold Type from a very specific vantage point: I’m a woman working in New York City's editorial world — the exact industry they’re representing — and I have a tight-knit friend group not unlike the one the show is centered on. In other words, I’m primed to see all the ways the show gets it ~right~, and all the ways it veers off into glitzy fantasy: the strange avoidance of Brooklyn, the fact that Jane seems to report directly to the editor-in-chief...there is an edge of unreality to things.
I don’t begrudge them this reality gap, though — that’s half the fun of TV. The Bold Type isn’t trying for the bumbling, angsty realism of, say, Girls’ depiction of twentysomethings in the city. They’re also not trying for the Gossip Girl tradition of showing us a world that’s almost entirely untouchable unless you’re born into it. Instead, the show hits a sweet spot somewhere in between — it’s recognizable and warm, but oh so shiny. That can be a nice escape, especially with our real-life era marked by so much turmoil. The Bold Type is the TV equivalent of a warm, good-smelling bath. It feels like self-care. And truly, the clothes are amazing.
HATE: How the show handles race.
The Bold Type reminds me of the kind of glossy magazine they work for on the show (Cosmo, Marie Claire, Glamour, etc.), full of fun, juicy celebrity gossip and "girl power" that often doesn’t represent me — a black woman. As much as I enjoyed watching the show, I couldn't help but notice how the show has at least three recurring black characters who never address their blackness, making race seem like the elephant in the room for most of the series. There's Kat, who has the highest-ranking position out of the three main characters despite being black. And while that can come off as a bold diversity casting at surface value, putting her there without the context of how she managed to land such a position at 25 when black women make even less on the dollar than white women, plus the fact that the show never depicts combating work issues that are specific to black women, is lazy. There's no payoff to having her represented in that manner if her race is ignored.
The same can be said of how Alex's (Matt Ward) character is handled. When Jane gets the job at Incite over Alex despite him having more experience than her (the season starts with her being promoted to a staff writer, a position Alex already held), the series sloppily glosses over how race could have played (and often does play) a role. And then there's Oliver — a black man who somehow managed to land the job of fashion director at a magazine whose audience (like any other “mainstream” women's magazine) is white women, despite not coming from a traditional fashion school background. HOW?! Please tell us! When it comes to being a truly diverse TV show, casting black actors as main characters is only half the battle. Their experiences, storylines, and dialogue must be representative of their race as well.
LOVE: Kadena’s romance.
It’s not uncommon for teen dramas and other shows like The Bold Type to give fans a couple who they can be excited about and ship together for the rest of the series. Kat and Adena — or Kadena, as viewers call them — are definitely that couple.
Their arc as a couple has had its ups and downs, causing viewers to feel like they’re on an emotional rollercoaster: They met professionally, they flirted a bit, Kat had what she thought were unrequited feelings, and then she learned her feelings were actually mutual. Then Adena broke up with her girlfriend, Coco; Kat gave in to her fear of commitment; the two decided to finally give it a real go; and then Adena had to fly back to the Middle East — where she’s originally from — because her work visa expired and she wasn’t allowed back into the US.
Nothing came easy for Kadena, but their onscreen moments that involve just the two of them walking along the streets of New York, sitting in Adena’s apartment, or aimlessly walking around the airport are fun, sweet, and intimate. It’s exciting to root for two people to make it when the odds are stacked against them. Not to mention, as two queer women of color, their romance brings an important representation to television.
—Krystie Lee Yandoli