The Bold Type - Show time with Mitrajit Bhattacharya

The drama series, inspired by the life of longtime magazine editor and executive Joanna Coles, who also serves as an executive producer of The Bold Type, revolves around the trio of 20-something besties working at a glossy women’s magazine Scarlet. In putting together the magazine month after month, they lean on one another as they try to find their own voices, while struggling to find their own identities, manage friendships and navigate through complex love relationships.

I must at this point out, I haven’t watched season 5 and base this review largely on the first four seasons together and not season-wise. Overall, the seasons 2 and 3 are sharper and build nicely on the introductory Season 1.

The show offers a vision of magazine journalism where all three protagonists are working their way up from being assistants and striving to succeed in media. In the mix are Jane (Katie Stevens), who after a promotion from assistant to writer, writes a preachy piece on ‘how fashion is actually political’ that goes viral and Kat (Aisha Dee) who is trolled mercilessly for her an article titled ‘Hey, VR Bros, Don’t Forget the Female Gaze.’ When Jane and Kat get to know Sutton (Meghann Fahy) has been secretly sleeping with an executive at the magazine’s parent company and a member of the Board, they fear damage to her career. This is where the show’s feminism triumphs: the company’s ambient misogyny is real, but also how it is not unsurmountable. Sutton breaks up with Richard Hunter (Sam Page), only to get back together after HR policy changes. The personal bonding between the three is touching when Sutton moans to Jane about the company’s fast-rising magazine’s social media director, Kat, “I want to be as confident as her, how did she get to be so confident?”. Replies Jane, “She was overpraised as a child.”

You cannot but find similarities of the series with the Sex and the City. The Bold Type prides itself on its vision of female solidarity and feminist principles quite like the earlier one, though set in a different context. According to Kat, the magazine practices “stealth feminism … it’s no longer how to please your man or woman in bed, it’s how to please yourself.” The camaraderie between the girls here feels even more genuine. But the swanky offices in touristy New York, the designer clothes and the high heels look too close to the predecessor.

The show also features Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline (Melora Hardin), whose character is modelled on Joanna Coles. She’s creative, clever, beautiful, on first name terms with her entire team, and happy to coach her junior writers in being true to themselves. “Here’s a fabulous pair of jeans—now go climb a mountain,” Jacqueline says at the magazine’s 60th anniversary gala, explaining her vision of marketable feminism. White-washing of her character to an almost saintly level is probably the biggest flaw in an otherwise brilliant show.

The Bold Type also becomes a white book for media as it handles complex topics concerning race, class, and sexuality, providing both a rom-com feel with its dramatized fun moments, and unexpectedly affecting when it veers towards the real. In the Season 1 finale, Jane is assigned to cover a performance artist who protested against the prevalence of campus sexual assault, and its adjudication, by carrying a mattress around for a year. The artist on the show stands in Central Park holding two weights shaped like scales: this burden could only be relieved by other assault survivors. Jane, having a bit of a breakdown, quits her job and runs away from a Fashion Week event, ending up in Central Park, to stand next to her. Kat and Sutton track her down and join her there. Then Jacqueline shows up and silently takes the weights—giving Jane, and Scarlet, a blockbuster story, and moving Jacqueline’s narrative into new territory. For the first time, The Bold Type had made a real and complicated statement about its true subject.

In the second season, things start getting noticeably sharper. Kat, who is being pressured by colleague Alex (Matt Ward) to identify herself as Scarlet’s first black female department head, starts dating a woman photographer of Iranian origin Adena (Nikohl Boosheri). Jane gets her own vertical at Incite and is steamrolled by the buzz and aggression of digital media, failing to live up to her hype. Sutton befriends a demonic influencer to increase her clout at work. Jane and Sutton have major differences too when Jane learns that Sutton keeps a rifle in their shared apartment.

The show delivers consistent quality all through the first three seasons, deals with real issues that media is faced with: threat of digital over print, serves as a great reminder that truth and integrity go a long way in delivering professional success even in the most challenging working conditions and women can be women’s best friends at work and beyond.

Watch on Netflix

 

 

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