The Bold Type is a dramedy revolving around women working at a popular magazine. Not something that’s immediately intriguing to me. But it’s awesome.
The premise is pretty similar to the movie The Devil Wears Prada, but while that involves an entire workplace filled with people that don’t like each other, a terrible boss, and a whole host of sexist tropes, in The Bold Type, women actually support each other instead of competing. The characters don’t all have the same goals or interests, but they support each other and learn from each other.
Jane Sloan is kind of everything to me, because she neither belittles the so-called “feminine interests” like fashion and makeup nor considers caring about those things an inherently empowering, feminist choice. She doesn’t believe ignoring politics is an option. She’s far from perfect – she has internalized misogyny to work through. She can be judgmental and insensitive. There are times when she behaves in a manner that, if she had a less understanding boss, could get her fired. But she gets called out when she makes errors. She was pointed out as being in the wrong for her behaviour in the entire debacle with Morgan Stanley, the stripper that used to work in finance, and she recognized that. She tries to not be a White Feminist™. She tries to listen.
There’s no Hollywood Homely nonsense here. She’s acknowledged as pretty without any comments of her not dressing well or being boring/ugly because she’s smart. This is the quintessential “chick flick” except it’s not a romantic comedy, it’s a workplace comedy that’s primarily about friendship. Even when part of Jane’s storyline involves sex, it has much more to do with who she is and exploring her character than it does with any guy. Pinstripe could be literally anyone, and it wouldn’t matter. She loves where she works, and is hugely grateful for the job and what she learned, but has bigger goals than writing about butt facials. That’s okay – more than okay, that’s great.
Sutton and Kat are also individual characters beyond just there to support Jane, the lead. Sutton is terrified of failure and not having a safety net. She went to business school, even though she didn’t love it, because it’s practical and pays the bills. But she could only do that for so long before realizing, no, she doesn’t want to keep doing that for the rest of her life. Kat has massive amounts of confidence when it comes to work, but is very confused and uncertain about her sexuality, as well as unsure whether or not she’s ready to make any kind of big decision in regards to her personal life.
If the most important relationship in the show is between the Jane, Kat, and Sutton, and the second is the one between Jane and Jacqueline, the third – and first romantic – has to be Kat and Adena’s. Pinstripe guy isn’t really a character in his own right so much as a plot device to develop Jane’s. As refreshing as that is in a world where so many female characters are used like that, it doesn’t do much for building a relationship that’s actually a pillar of the show. The same holds true for Richard – he’s slightly more developed as a character than Jane’s love interest, who I’ve been referring to as Pinstripe guy not just because that’s his in-show nickname but because I honestly don’t remember his name, but not that much.
Adena is an actual character, with her own goals, flaws, and life, which results in the most important important romantic relationship being between two women of colour. As much as I enjoy depictions of fictional interracial relationships with no white people, I often worry that they exist for the sake of a token minority couple. Not the case here at all.
I’ve heard some complaints about the show not handling race well, because while characters of colour exist, there’s never any disconnect between said characters and their white friends/coworkers or exploration of the impact of race on job opportunities and pay. While that’s a fair criticism, I don’t personally agree, because I like escapist works. I don’t want everything involving people of colour to be grounded in reality. I want escapism and lighthearted fun to not be limited to white people.
The Bold Type is fun. It’s a comforting, low-stress, low-stakes show that you can enjoy with no worries. I don’t like the phrase “chick flick”. It’s largely synonymous with “romantic comedy”, or “about women” and while I don’t really have anything against romcoms, and I love shows about women, I think it’s gross to try to define one genre as the interests of an entire gender. It’s nondescriptive nonsense, but The Bold Type would certainly be considered one, and that does a disservice to the show.
The label “chick flick” often turns people away from a work, even if it’s something they would enjoy, and that’s because of the generic romcom in the US: white, straight, predictable, and, to varying degrees, sexist. But there are other chick flicks that are pretty great – Legally Blonde, Miss Congeniality, Bend It Like Beckham, Thelma and Louise, this. Movies and shows about women that, regardless of whether or not they also include a romantic subplot, focus heavily on the lead character’s friendships with other women.
The main characters on The Bold Type are almost exclusively women. They’re different people without being stereotypes or caricatures, and have complex relationships with each other. It was clearly written for women in mind – and largely by women – and it’s fantastic. Go watch it.