The Bold Dusted Type

A little over a month ago, when I was on oxygen support at the hospital, I found myself streaming The Bold Type on a tiny phone screen. Despite being able to focus very little, I would stream half an episode over breakfast, daily, before my injection routine could start. It was the only thing, besides Abbas-Mustan’s filmography there, that breathed life into me. I managed to stream the first few episodes there, but binged real hard in the last month at home, as I found myself getting back to watching things. 

If you’ve been feeling hopeful about your life, then chances are that you’ve binge-watched The Bold Type recently. In a world full of utterly believable television content made of animated talking depressed horse and incestuous family trees about dragons and thrones, The Bold Type faces immense criticism. Reviews on the series written over the years call it a fluff show, a forerunner to Sex and the City. There’s no denying that, The Bold Type is indeed a show about women, looking tall, thin, pretty, and endowed with perky tits, working at a fashion magazine that practices stealth feminism. Yet, it's a bit more than a lame SATC comparison— of a world full of fashion magazines and men to obsess over.

The women in The Bold Type own their lives on screen and in-process attract scathing reviews— on how unreal the TV series has been.

Unreal because things don’t ever seem to go wrong in the personal and professional lives of the leading characters, and if they do at all, they are rescued by the saintly boss’ or partners. Everyone looks fly as hell at all times, even while facing their troubles in the worst possible situations. Most of their days are spent partying, running around looking good, and never working, which makes it an important question—when do they get anything done in the show?

Yes, all the reasons to envy and hate. And yet, we hate them cause we ain’t them.

The Bold Type amplifies on the lives of Kat Edison (Aisha Dee), Jane Sloan (Katie Stevens), and Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy), social media director, features writer, and an assistant to the junior editor respectively, all of whom forge a friendship at their workplace- Scarlet, a fashion magazine under Safford Publications. Their boss and editor-in-chief Jacqueline Carlyle (played by the brilliant Melora Hardin) is based on the executive producer of the show Joanna Coles, who led Cosmopolitan at Hearst in the tens as their editor-in-chief. With the description above, the show seems like an extension of The Devil Wears Prada (2006), 13 Going On 30 (2004) but it’s more than that.

 I view The Bold Type as a show with characters who hop between islands— each of these islands constitutes their personal arcs as well as the larger story of working at a magazine— of juggling their ambitions and managing expectations in relationships and at their workplace. If Sutton Brady is dating the hot board member from the Legal Department at Safford, she has to defend herself from not being labelled “easy” or a “slut” or someone who’s "sleeping with a senior to make her way up" in the magazine. At the same time, she has to demand what she expects from her relationship with this ridiculously hot gentleman named Richard Hunter (seriously, why don’t I get such hot superiors to work with ever?). Between these two islands of issues, Sutton hops between her own ambitions and constantly configuring her relationship with her day job, on what she expects from this career and where does she see herself grow while bringing green juice to her boss. In the case of Kat, her islands include coming to terms with her queerness, her racial identity, and making a room for her activism which she often enables via her day job as a social media director for Scarlet. Jane, on the other hand, jumps between islands with personal issues which find their way in her words as an outlet for emotional release, in her writing for Scarlet (print and digital alike), some with her health, and relationship with her on again off again boyfriend Ryan aka Pinstripe (seriously, how are all these writers hot and accessible at the same time?).

Between this island hopping and resolution of difficult situations, The Bold Type may appear unreal to our cynical, deeply skeptical selves stuck in underpaying and overworked jobs. Yet, it thrives in my life, especially at a time when we’re losing hope. In the midst of losing family members, friends, employment, the show is a beacon of hope and guiding light to the idea of doing right by people and things. It does preach, without getting in-your-face preachy. All of this with a pinch of fun and games while dressed pretty. What’s not to like about The Bold Type?

In the last month or so, I’ve been able to re-look at some of my personal boundaries and relationships courtesy of the inspiration from Sutton, Kate, and Jane. So what if you lose your job outing your company's CEO who donates to the campaign of a political scumbag? You did right and you did good— and this gives the viewer hope to live and carry on, especially if the viewer is Indian and is actively terrified of the UAPA. So what if you lose your job defending your work ethic while also defending the magazine on national television—you’re better than the editor who threw you under the bus to safeguard her actions.

To me, The Bold Type has brought about a sense of validation and closure about losing my last job, prioritizing female friendships, and being direct with your needs in a relationship.

The Bold Type boldly takes on a host of subjects, including but not limited to, political activism, SJWs at the workplace, female solidarity, vaginal infections, workplace dynamics, racism, queer identity politics, egg-freezing, BRCA gene mutation, mastectomy, in a way that TV series in similar nature have not in the past (I’m looking at you, SATC). The Bold Type is also incredibly sex-positive, especially in the radical right, the conservative and regressive society we happen to live in, and is quite a relief for the show to take a stand where women wanting to have sex are celebrated and its portrayal is not limited to the cis-het male responsible for the pleasure of the woman.

I don’t know any other TV series that prompted the question, “Why don’t we talk about this stuff?” and by this stuff, I mean more interpersonal conversation around vaginal health and pleasure. Tip of the hat to the person who wrote the lines for vagenda. A fitting ode to the Vagina Monologues, just as the show proclaims in the title to be the bold type.

The Bold Type may be the only show which will inspire you with its giddy optimism to give it a shot with a guy who’s ghosted you five times in five years. Mostly because everything works out in The Bold Type and thus, it ought to work out in your life too. No, do not peg your bad dating decisions on the show, but yes, do take a leaf out of the rugged positivity the show embraces. Speaking of pegging, the show has a blink and you miss appearance from Tom Austen, and if you don’t think that’s a reason enough to dig hard, I don’t know what can convince you.

The truth is, I could write a solid 1000 piece, a sharp critique of all the reasons why The Bold Type fails to impress, and how despite having it all, it cannot be as culturally significant as SATC was back in the day to the women. However, some TV shows are for the heart and self-care, and others for critique and a wry reviewer’s essay. The Bold Type comes from the heart, and it has no business in seeking accolades from critics when it can be comforting and lovable, especially at a time when we could do with some love.  

The series is available for streaming on Netflix in India.

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Anisha Saigal

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Pop-culture omnivore. Survived publishing, academia, film school. Struggling with the pandemic.