At first glance, "The Bold Type" isn’t a show for everyone. Set in New York City and following three women in their 20s and their jobs at a popular women’s magazine, it seems quite niche -- and it is! But despite there being a lot of stilettos, winged eyeliner and lattes in this show, it speaks to a larger crowd that I don’t think would, upon an initial watch, be interested in learning about its nuances.
"The Bold Type" features Jane, Kat and Sutton working at Scarlet Magazine under boss lady Jaqueline Carlyle. They’ve been friends for years, meet in the office’s fashion closet for daily vent sessions and operate under the watchful eye of their boss, who they simultaneously fear and adulate. And it airs on Freeform (though all episodes end up on Hulu, too).
I’m right, right? At first glance, this is your typical basic show, made for teenagers and millennials. And, sure, our protagonists deal with boy problems, self-esteem issues and workplace drama, but it’s more than that when you get down to the nitty gritty. With a cast stacked with impressive emotional complexity and plot lines that don’t quiver in the face of progression, "The Bold Type" makes it possible for people beyond the realm of the fictional Scarlet to relate.
First of all, there’s the cast and characters. Actors like Aisha Day (Kat), Nikohl Boosheri (Adena) and Stephen Conrad Moore (Oliver) spruce up the make-up of what you’d picture a New York City-based women’s magazine to look like. Day’s (biracial) character is the manager of a whole-*ss department; Boosheri’s Adena could very well be the first lesbian Muslim character on primetime television; and Oliver, who was upgraded from a recurring role to a series regular after season 1, is a confident gay African-American man who adopts his ex-boyfriend’s daughter. I mean, the range!
What’s important about the casting here is that these aren’t diverse actors playing non-diverse characters. Showrunners take care to make sure that these actors aren’t wasting their screen time, instead facing issues on the show surrounding acceptance, identity and self-confidence that they’ve likely faced in their own lives.
Which brings me to my next point: You can have an ensemble that represents so many different things, but it’s what you do with them that matters. The fact that these 20-somethings find themselves dealing with some serious real-life issues, rather than just the petty drama that a lesser show would stick to, comes across meaningful and heartfelt instead of showy and put-on.
Kat, for example, realizes her sexuality isn’t quite as binary as she thought. She’s a millennial dealing for the first time with the idea that she hasn’t been quite true to herself and spends seasons finding out what the means to her now -- especially as a woman of color. And especially as she decides to run for city council. (Oh yeah, she does that.)
Then there’s Jane, whose whiny arc over season 2 (she quit her beloved job, and then messed up her new job, and then came crawling back) can almost be forgiven when you look at what kinds of matters she’s faced. Jane’s role as a writer acts as a convenient way for the show to push their more progressive agendas, and Jane’s stories lead her to important topics, like a #MeToo investigation that played out well on screen.
And the more recent dilemma she’s faced can’t be ignored: the BRCA1 gene. With a mother who passed away from breast cancer and the chance that she, too, could develop the disease, Jane makes the decision to freeze her eggs. While this was, of course, played up for entertainment purposes, women face choices like this every day -- to explore it onscreen (and with a millennial protagonist, at that) is, well, bold. But it works.
The issues surrounding Jacqueline (Melora Hardin), too, are more complex and therefore more notable than you’d think. Our first impression of the face of Scarlet is a "The Devil Wears Prada" Miranda Priestley type: a hard-*ss, only worried about the work and success, has everything handed to her on a platter. But not only is Jacqueline not terrible, but she’s a balance of encouragement and inspiration that’s important to the backbone of the show.
She helps her employees and handles her sh*t with poise, and her most confident moments are yet to come. When we left off in season 3, Jacqueline was facing pressure from her board of directors, nearly stepping down from her position in the wake up of a push to go digital (we know, we know -- print is dead). We’ll find out where she stands soon enough, but the fact that "The Bold Type" puts her at the center of a power struggle like this to begin with fleshes out her character.
So, even though we’re talking about an inherently millennial show, "The Bold Type" delves into so much more than hapless kiddos trying to form their careers. Season 4 premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on Freeform.