When Teen Vogue began covering the current administration with pieces like Lauren Duca’s op-ed “Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America,” media observers were shocked that a teen magazine would make such a gutsy political statement. But Teen Vogue editors knew something that those pundits didn’t: The younger generation could care about fashion, pop culture, dating and current events.
That’s why Freeform’s “The Bold Type” couldn’t have come at a better time. The show offers up its own take on the classic fashion magazine-meets-feminism genre made popular in films like “The Devil Wears Prada” and TV shows like “Just Shoot Me” and “Ugly Betty.” Sure, it’s glossy, youthful, and wildly unrealistic about what it’s like to work in journalism and publishing, but it’s still ultimately a rom-com, and therefore subject to those fantasy trappings.
Despite this shiny veneer, “The Bold Type” channels its inner Teen Vogue by weaving in weighty stories about self-expression, politics, equality, sexuality, religion and freedom. The show’s three main protagonists work at the fictional Scarlet women’s magazine: Jane (Katie Stevens) is Duca-lite, an intern who was recently promoted to writer and doesn’t want to just write about sex and fashion, but cover politics as well. Kat (Aisha Dee) is the magazine’s confident social media director who is on the leading edge of engagement. Sutton (Meghann Fahy) is an assistant to the executive editor and dreams of making moves elsewhere in the company.
Here are seven reasons why “The Bold Type” is one of the most addictive and progressive series on TV this summer:
A Feminist Call to Action
True to its punny name, the show demonstrates that fortune definitely favors the bold, as the trio of friends find time and time again that taking a risk pays off – whether it’s in their careers, writing or love lives.
At the same time, it’s not a mindless push to action but one that champions maturity, empathy and wisdom. In one episode, Kat gets targeted by tech bros and their followers online who harass her, dox her and threaten her with rape, much like what happened to real female tech reporters during the so-called “GamerGate” controversy. It’s only when Kat takes a well-considered, proactive stance on addressing cyberbullying as a whole, instead of firing back insults to each of her critics, does she regain her equanimity and power.
Sex & Sexuality
Although “The Bold Type” is on basic cable and meant for a young audiences, it is as sex positive as it can possibly be – even it that means acknowledging that not everyone who is open sexually is a sex god. When tasked with writing a sex column, Jane must face a truth about her performance in the bedroom that she’s been avoiding. She explores pornography, sex toys, masturbation and fantasy, all in the name of unlocking her sexuality. It’s simultaneously sweet and hilarious, but non-judgmental.
Also, one character identifies as straight, isn’t interested in the female anatomy (other than her own), and yet is drawn to another woman. This storyline explores how sexuality isn’t just about sex or physical attraction, but could encompass romantic attraction. It’s a meeting of the minds and hearts, something that isn’t always acknowledged in the binary gay or straight definition of sexuality.
The cast is racially diverse, which is more just matter-of-fact casting than an actual plot. But in an ongoing storyline, the magazine is working with Adena (Nikohl Boosheri), an artist who also happens to be a lesbian and Muslim. She encounters issues both in her home country and in the United States that pertain to her freedoms. She also makes a statement by wearing a hijab because it liberates her from “society’s expectations of what a woman looks like.” In the first four episodes, she has already dealt with death threats, racism, and possibly being deported.
Jane is politically engaged and wants Scarlet magazine to represent her views and those of many other young women who are aware of the important issues. In one story, Jane pursues a politician to hold her accountable for her spotty voting history when it comes to environmental causes.
Despite the prevalent image of Millennials as entitled and not willing to work, Jane & Co. live for and agonize over their jobs. This workplace comedy doesn’t focus so much on the wacky interactions and characters, but more on ways that the young women develop in the workplace.
Sutton is trying to reconcile what she sees as a lucrative job opportunity within the company versus pursuing a more creative gig that represents her real interests and talents. She’s also someone who has made sacrifices in education because of finances. These jobs are their livelihoods and help them define their identities as women, artists and citizens.
An Overall Message of Acceptance
While this series has an outlook so rosy it blooms, it fits in with the aspirational message of young America: be smart, be good, be kind. Nowhere is this seen more than in the friendship between Jane, Kat, and Sutton. Although they make mistakes, they’re mostly supportive of everyone’s differences and foibles. Their sanctuary is the magazine’s fashion closet, a magical place where conversations are confidential, epiphanies are had and all clothes and shoes are flattering. “Squad goals” might be a hackneyed phrase at this point, but that doesn’t make it any less important when it comes to women supporting other women.
The Show Is Hilariously Self-Aware
Despite its earnestness, “The Bold Type” puts comedy first and will sometimes poke fun at its too-serious, politically correct messaging. In the pilot, editor-in-chief Jacqueline Carlyle (Melora Hardin) greets her employees and board members by saying she’s happy to see their “ethnically, sexually, and gender-diverse faces.” Later, when Jane and Sutton marvel over Kat’s admirable self-confidence, it’s explained by the usual Millennial accusation of being over-praised as a child.
“The Bold Type” airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET on Freeform, On Demand and online.