The Bold Type: Fearless Feminism at its Finest | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

The Bold Type: Fearless Feminism at its Finest

Jessica Green reviews Amazon Prime's recent original series The Bold Type, as it tells a story set in a fashion magazine with an empowering feminist angle for a new generation

Being hailed as the new Devil Wears Prada for a generation of young women empowered by movements such as the #MeToo campaign, The Bold Type follows best friends Kat Edison, Sutton Brady and Jane Sloan and the upwards trajectory of their careers at global women’s magazine Scarlett. Going far beyond the bounds of a mere office-drama though, this hit US show leaves no stone unturned when interrogating issues surrounding gender, sexuality, friendship and love by delving deep into the personal lives of these three young New Yorkers.

Seen throughout the series sporting an enviable collection of outrageous heels, it’s only fitting that we’re first introduced to Editor-in-chief of the magazine Jacqueline Carlyle with a close up of her striking red stilettos marching down the hall. Everyone’s thinking the same thing; this woman means business, and if she can do it in 6-inchers on a daily basis, then props to her. Jane is eager to impress her no-nonsense boss on her first day as a newly appointed writer, but is instantly shot down when she receives an email saying that her pitches aren’t quite up to scratch. It turns out that the email is from Jacqueline herself, who casts Jane a meaningful glare and a pursed lip across the room to go with it – not quite how you want your first day at your new job to go, and Jane is understandably stressed out about the whole thing.

The people behind The Bold Type have no intention of falling victim to the overused stone-cold-female-bitch-of-a-boss stereotype
It soon becomes clear though that the people behind The Bold Type have no intention of falling victim to the overused stone-cold-female-bitch-of-a-boss stereotype. They instead opt to characterise Jacqueline as an employer who truly cares about her staff, often spending more time giving pep talks than actually doing any editing for the magazine. In particular, she decides to take Jane under her wing and relentlessly push the young journalist out of her comfort zone. Set on writing big political stories about the important issues of today’s world, Jane is less than impressed when Jacqueline repeatedly assigns her sex columns to work on for Scarlett. However, in allocating her features on what Jane considers to be trivial subjects, Jacqueline is in fact encouraging the often uptight writer to embrace her own sexuality and make her writing more personal – not just a concoction of facts and figures.

Whilst she (begrudgingly) explores these new avenues, Jane is forever conscious of being branded as a ‘sex writer’ or a ‘fashion writer’, and continues to search for bigger subject-matters to write-up. Jacqueline occasionally relents, praising Jane in particular when her profile piece on congresswoman Helen Woolf has an unexpected angle. Jane ends up with a series of both political articles and relationship columns published in the magazine and the message to viewers here is clear; if a woman enjoys reading about fashion, makeup, sex and relationships, she can still be smart and politically engaged. If a woman picks up a copy of the magazine to read about world issues, she can still be feminine and care about her appearance. And the novelty idea that a woman could be simultaneously interested in a feature on oppressed groups breaking through the glass ceiling, and an advice column on the best technique to get their winged eyeliner looking on point? That’s okay too. It’s a learning curve for Jane and for us as viewers, as we realise that a woman doesn’t have to be shoehorned into a one-dimensional category – she can be interested in multiple things, and by extension, be multiple things.

The message to viewers here is clear; if a woman enjoys reading about fashion, makeup, sex and relationships, she can still be smart and politically engaged
As well as being able to rely on their Editor’s unyielding support, Kat, Sutton and Jane are always on standby to lend each other a shoulder to cry on after a ruthless breakup or a much-needed confidence boost during a particularly bad day at the office. Having started at the magazine together as interns four years ago, the trio formed an unbreakable friendship based on trust, loyalty and secret heart-to-hearts in the fashion closet at Scarlett. When asked how she would define her sexuality in the first episode, viewers see Kat declare herself a ‘proud hetero’ – but that’s before she develops feelings for professional female photographer Adena El-Amin whilst simultaneously struggling to envisage herself being attracted to a woman’s anatomy. Rather than pushing Kat to label herself and define her sexual orientation to them, the girls’ focus remains firmly on helping their friend through her confusion and encouraging her to go after the woman that we all know she’d be pretty damn good with. Despite struggling with her own identity, Kat still has plenty of time for her two besties, in particular encouraging Sutton to take a massive leap and go for her dream job within the fashion department, despite her having limited experience in the industry. The show is also unafraid to confront more difficult issues too, with Kat and Sutton relentlessly pushing the reluctant Jane to attend a medical exam for the BRCA mutation, which led to her mother’s battle with breast cancer and subsequent passing. The two friends reassuringly grip the hands of their fondly nicknamed ‘tiny Jane’ as she bites the bullet and takes the test, remaining firmly by her side when she receives the distressing news that she has indeed got the mutation. In a series that could very easily portray women as tearing each other down in order to make their own way to the top in a highly competitive work environment, the writers instead place the emphasis on women supporting women in this wonderful display of female friendship.

Some have branded The Bold Type as just another rom-com, attempting to entertain its viewers with nothing more than trivial relationship crises and a couple of makeup and fashion tips thrown in for good measure. But to those people I say, give Amazon’s American drama another chance. So much more than a mere chick-flick to myself and many other young women, this show is unembarrassedly bold, unabashedly brave, and most importantly, unashamedly feminist.

English Lit student and aspiring journalist. (@jesslaurengreen)



Published

18th March 2018 at 9:00 am



Images from

Amazon and Freeform



Share