Hit or Sh**: Freeform’s THE BOLD TYPE
In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.
The year is 2017: the women’s march draws record breaking crowds, Patty Jenkins’s WONDER WOMAN is the highest grossing film by a female director, and TEEN VOGUE is now the forefront of youth activist journalism. As a big fan of the glossy pages of TEEN VOGUE and COSMOPOLITAN, I’ve adored watching both these publications shift their gaze from not solely a world consumed in fashion and celebrities, but to the entire world at large. Freeform capitalizes on this trend with THE BOLD TYPE. Although this can seem like a corporate feminist tactic, THE BOLD TYPE feels incredibly genuine despite its polished young adult drama. In what appears to be a perfect mix of SEX AND THE CITY and GIRLS, this show brings together fun young adult misadventures along with plenty of female empowerment.
You can argue that THE BOLD TYPE is trying its best to feed off a generation that did not watch SEX AND THE CITY as it follows a writer, social media manager, and assistant living in the city that never sleeps while working at SCARLET, a fabricated magazine akin to COSMO. But even though this concept feels redundant, this show is definitely fit for the modern generation, one that is tired with the overabundance of sexism, racism, and general lack of human decency rampant in our nation in the wake of the latest election. It is created with the help of executive producer Joanna Coles, who is an actual editor of COSMO. Its showrunner, Sarah Watson (PARENTHOOD, GREY’S ANATOMY), actively discusses in interviews the amount of research she had done in COSMO’s offices in order to accurately portray their role in the journalism industry. She elaborates on the multitude of strange occurrences that happened in the offices that directly influenced certain storylines in THE BOLD TYPE, and those stories hold true in its writing.
Screaming won’t fight the patriarchy, but it’s still nice to let out some steam
After watching the pilot, I realized that this isn’t the most intersectionally feminist show on television like Freeform advertises it to be, but it’s still a step in the right direction. The television industry has continuously relied on tokenism to be able to advocate about diversity, and THE BOLD TYPE is no exception. Two of the three main characters are still white, with Kat, the social media manager, being the only person of color and the only queer character of the group. The pilot highlights a lesbian, Muslim photographer named Adena, who Kat begins to develop feelings for, but as the show progresses, I can’t help but wonder why the show couldn’t be about her instead.
To elaborate, one of the side storylines of the pilot follows Kat attempting to get Adena’s permission to use Adena’s inclusive photography in the new issue of SCARLET. In an attempt to convince her, Kat gives Adena some personal vibrator samples courtesy of the magazine. However, Adena gets detained at the airport due to the vibrators being illegal back home. In comparison to the other girls, Jane the writer has to stalk her ex-boyfriend in order to write a good article and Sutton the assistant is struggling with keeping her fling with one of the magazine’s board members under wraps. Sutton’s story is much more Carrie Bradshaw-esque and trite, as we’ve all seen the ups and downs of a well-off white woman in the big city before.
And in this moment, Sutton’s character is zapped into nothingness as she stares into the eyes of a coworker she’s sleeping with
However, THE BOLD TYPE deserves praise for discussing taboo feminist topics for a network show that almost ranks alongside the likes of Lena Dunham’s GIRLS. Take the second episode for example, which premiered along with the pilot, where Jane is tasked with writing a sex column despite never having achieved a real orgasm. Jane eventually delivers to her editor an expose on her lack of self-exploration. The final scene depicts her attaching her name to the article rather than leaving it anonymous, and the moment it is published, she is received with unanimous respect from her coworkers. That moment felt particularly empowering and reminiscent of Hannah Horvath and her friends, which left me wondering if THE BOLD TYPE can replace the legacy Lena Dunham left behind in the series finale of GIRLS this past spring.
After all, if your best friends won’t help you stalk your ex, what good are they?
The answer is no, which one can tell just by the differences between HBO and Freeform, but what’s unique about THE BOLD TYPE is that it has the same feminist core as GIRLS, while maintaining the glamour of the polished corporate network that Freeform is. It does not come as close to feeling as genuine as Dunham’s creation is, but its soul still manages to feel authentic. It is a type of authenticity that Freeform failed to bring to FAMOUS IN LOVE, and an authenticity that–despite seeming at times all too familiar with its big city backdrop and crazy magazine editors–finally feels real and entertaining.
THE BOLD TYPE airs on Freeform on Tuesdays