It’s difficult to describe The Bold Type without inevitably describing the many tropes that have been prominent since the success of Sex and the City. Yes, a dramedy about best friends living in the city and navigating their personal and professional lives together is not an especially new or distinct concept, but there are ways in which The Bold Type makes it feel fresh and significant.
The Bold Type follows three women in their mid-20s, Jane, Kat, and Sutton, who work at Scarlet, a fictional women’s lifestyle magazine that is heavily based on Cosmopolitan. Jane is a staff writer who is especially interested in contributing to Scarlet’s political coverage, but is also assigned stories that incorporate the themes of the episode, including health, fashion, sexuality, morality, and personal growth. In other words, The Bold Type is interested in a comprehensive depiction of young personhood and the aspects of human life most pertinent to young people, with an emphasis on women.
The show also features Melora Hardin in a standout role as Jacqueline Carlyle, the editor-in-chief of Scarlet. At first, Jacqueline’s character seems like another version of The Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda Priestly: the cutthroat woman boss with unrealistically high expectations of her employees. But The Bold Type takes this trope and subverts it entirely. While Jacqueline is the editor-in-chief and maintains her seniority over the other characters, she also acts as a mentor to the protagonists. The series maintains that an effective editor supports their writers, an idea that is reinforced in the second season when Jacqueline is compared with the editor of a different publication.
If the friendship between Jane, Kat, and Sutton is the most important relationship explored in the series, the mentorship between Jacqueline and Jane is the second most important. Throughout the series, Jacqueline often encourages Jane to broaden her horizons or explore a specific issue through a different lens. I would argue that The Bold Type encourages this of its viewers as well.
It’s not that The Bold Type broadly addressing social issues is groundbreaking, it’s that the show does it so effectively. When it comes to political storylines, The Bold Type feels more grounded than Jane the Virgin, more universal than Dear White People, and more sincere than Riverdale. There are episodes that bring social issues and movements such as racism, gun control, affirmative action, sexual liberation, immigration, and, most notably, the #MeToo movement, into conversation. The show doesn’t attempt to drill a specific perspective into viewers’ minds; instead, it shows just how nuanced these issues are through characters who approach these complex topics from different perspectives.
While I’ve emphasized why The Bold Type is so admirably political, the main draw of the series is its characters. The friendship between Jane, Kat, and Sutton feels lived-in. There is a tangible history to their friendship and their intimate understanding of each other is clear in their interactions, and Jacqueline is that mentor we all wish we had — someone who consistently encourages us to elevate our art. The show is character-driven, bringing real faces and voices to the political issues that it approaches. Lesser political shows focus on the politics themselves, often forgetting how those politics affect specific people.
The Bold Type is not an easy sell. In a television climate that values high-concept series with high production value on prestigious networks — think Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale — it can be easy to overlook the importance of this series.
Personally, I’m a fan of the less-is-more concept. I enjoy series that tackle everyday issues and function as reflections of ourselves. These are characters who I feel I know personally, and who I can have casual conversations about writing, relationships, and politics with over a bottle of wine and an episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race. This is a show that I find myself thinking about when I consider my own life, my goals, and my personal growth. The Bold Type is not necessarily a show that everyone will enjoy, but it is one that should be on your radar.