Feminism has, of late, become a dirty word. It can create anything from eye rolls to heated debates of its necessity in the western world, and it can very easily be depicted as a belief centred around hating men. It’s within these conversations that feminism loses its heart and meanders into the dangerous territory of destruction over equality.
These are the thoughts I had before stepping into the pilot of The Bold Type. Explained to me as a fun, feminist, fashion series, I was hesitant to watch it. Feminism is difficult to get right in entertainment and can often edge too close to painting all men as misogynists. Having grown up with two older brothers, I can quickly become defensive against entertainment that villainises its male characters.
Because feminism is equality, not conquering.
The question is, has The Bold Type kept from treading into the territory of destruction?
The Bold Type follows three friends (Jane, Sutton, and Kat) as they try to balance their personal lives and being women of the future at their place of work: Scarlet magazine. In the pilot, we see Jane write an article around her ex-boyfriend and their sudden break up; Sutton secretly dating a magazine board member; and Kat who tries to get her story published with a near disastrous end.
The show has an edge of Devil Wears Prada (what fashion magazine drama doesn’t) with a friendship at its core not dissimilar to Australia’s Winners and Losers. The pilot starts with a lot of exposition and unnatural dialogue that leaves the audience disconnected to the characters and their relationships. The build of the cast’s connections is made robotically which makes it hard to connect with the characters. Only one had my attention from the start
Kat, a familiar face from the Australian TV show Ghost Girls, is played by Aisha Dee and is the most compelling out of the whole cast. While Jane (Katie Stevens) and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) are both introduced with stories rooted in relationships, Kat is throwing all the career punches to get her story published. She is driven, kind, and topped with rebellion, all of which are organically revealed in one of the best side plots I’ve seen in a drama series.
Jane is the leader of this small crew and, although Stevens does a great performance, is asked to write an article about stalking her ex when he doesn’t have social media. The final story has Jane turning in an article more about closure with unexpected breakups, but the story that gets her there isn’t anything new. So often we see the new kid at a magazine/ newspaper company struggling with an idea for their first article, held back by low self-confidence, only to succeed after an inspiring figure in their life. I saw this recently in Supergirl and I don’t tend to watch office work drama.
It’s an unfortunate, overused story trope that doesn’t truly get to the heart of Jane’s character like Kat’s story does. However, they do break one office drama cliché in the form of Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) and Lauren (Emily Chang).
These two ladies seem to run things at Scarlet. They’re everything you expect in a television drama female boss: powerful, fashionable, and all with a slight smirk. However, the cliché break comes from the surprising drop of bitchiness. And this takes us back to Devil Wears Prada and Meryl Streep. Remember how hard she was with Anne Hathaway? Supergirl remembered and put their own remarkable twist on the boss lady with Calista Flockhart which lead to one of the most beloved characters in the CW Arrowverse. But has The Bold Type succeeded in reworking the boss lady trope to their advantage?
This remains to be seen. Lauren certainly seems demanding, but she is also very practical which is shown as she stops Kat’s character from making a bad situation worse. Jacqueline is definitely not the bitchy boss lady, but I’m not sure is she is compelling enough. It is very nice to have a woman in power who cares for her workers and inspires them to be great. But her character lacks conflict, and conflict is what makes stories great.
So, does The Bold Type support equality or conquest? Apart from Kat’s story and Jacqueline’s speech at the end, this show isn’t actually feminist. Well, not in the way you might think. It doesn’t strongly push an agenda, but it also doesn’t shy from investigating different women’s ideas of feminism. It’s lead by a strong cast of woman, but at times it feels like just another drama show. And with this small investigation into different women’s perspectives on feminism, I would say it’s for equality. One that reminds women that they are sisters at arms.
However, if it wasn’t for Kat’s story there wouldn’t be any investment from me. So, for her story alone, I would recommend you watch the pilot. Otherwise, there is not enough fresh ideas for this pilot to make me want to keep watching.
Review by Brittany Howarth