The Bold Type: Modern ‘woke’ woman’s Utopia

The Bold Type has been trending for a while now, ever since it released on Netflix India. Most of my girlfriends urged me to watch it, deeming it to be the ‘Sex and the City’ for the woke times. And it is. It seems like the writers of the show took all the modern, woke, millennial issues and made a checklist. Then ticked them off, threw them one by one on the characters regardless of their journey.

I use the word woke because it’s been overspoken as well as oversold in the series. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed bingeing on this show, but at some point it became excrutiatingly painful to look at the lead characters (even supporting ones) make decisions that were so out of character for them, it felt like the writers were being held on the gunpoint of popularity and social relevance.

The three protagonists are what hold the show together, but there’s the supporting characters who make a larger mark here. Jane, Sutton and Kat are best of friends, and the most important people in each other’s lives. So much so that their friendship makes each woman out there envy, except those who do have such friends in their lives. It made me crave the kind of bond they have – but the feeling passes after looking at their borderline co-dependency. There are a lot of ways I can talk about it. But let’s go character wise and the millennial issues they deal with.

Jane:

She’s the ‘writer’ filling in for the Carrie Bradshaw stereotype – single writer in New York gallivanting with girlfriends and navigating life by being organised to the point of Monica but has the decision making powers of Gunther. But, according to Jane, Jane ’empowers women’ for a living through her writing. Right. How many stories does she even write?

I worked in a magazine, believe me I did not have time to go pee in the second half of the month towards the closing, and the first half would be dozen rejections through the first week, getting approval in the second one to a story that my editor FINALLY liked, and then furiously spend hours typing a story and proofing it a gazillion times myself. Jane? Oh she has the time to be in the fashion closet, restaurants, drinking, hanging out, anything but writing as much as she should.

Her issues range from boyfriend troubles to a genetic health condition which is talked about openly in the entire show. This is one aspect that really made me want to look deeper into my own life than just be working from home right now and cribbing about my green tea stock getting over. The BRCA1 gene mutation – that increases the risk of breast cancer in women – is something that every woman needs to consider getting checked for. It’s a commentary on American health care system and how it affects women in particular.

In India, the test for BRCA mutation itself costs up to Rs 20,000 (I just skimmed through the internet but this is the tentative figure I have. Apologies for inaccuracy) Mammograms cost lesser in India, upto Rs 5,000 so atleast while one approaches their 30s, getting one done is precautionary. I do need to speak to my doctor about this, but just speaking my mind out here. The one amazing thing that came out of Jane’s character is the heathcare awareness.

But while her character has been shown to battle something as grim as this, there is a stark contrast in the tone of the show as while on one hand her entire character arc for the majority of the show was based on this illness that took her mother, on the other hand she’s gallivanting with Ryan ‘Pinstripe’, then dumping him because of him being a Casanova and moves on to the cute Aussie-accented doctor Ben Chau.

Ben, after knowing about her condition, goes through detailed research and passes it on to Jane. Jane then goes to a shady little bar in Harrisburg to ‘help Sutton’. Because God forbid if either of these three women want to face something directly. While the three of them are the most important parts of each others lives, or, ‘a package deal’, their relationship at times seems too co-dependent. As if they’d stop breathing if one of them wasn’t there.

Coming back, Jane’s journey goes from being a new writer to having her own vertical by Season 4. Impressive career graph for someone who actually does not know much how journalism works and passing off harsh, stuck up opinions as ‘award winning article’. (And the number of times ‘article’ is said in the series blows my mind. As if not calling it that will make it a school girl’s essay.) Jane grows as a writer in the show, but as a human being, I doubt. She dumps The Good Doctor Ben and goes back to Ryan the Casanova the second he makes googly eyes at her. He then cheats on her. *dun dun dun* *audible gasp* I AM (not) SHOCKED! How could a Casanova who self-admittedly is not into committing suddenly become a ‘cute boy next door love of Jane’s life’?

Jane’s career is no different. There’s style, panache and a whole lot of unnecessary drama. She actually complained about being White and not having access to White privilege. She has zero regard for orders from the Editor and chases ‘the truth’ like a crime reporter from a Madhur Bhandarkar movie while wearing 6 inch stilletos and strutting through NYC being the biggest passive victim lamb.

Another issue addressed by the writers here is gun control. Sutton has a shotgun for recreational purpose – skeet shooting to be precise. An entire episode is spent by her colleages and friends to convince her that Sutton won’t shoot anyone, and Sutton had her own deep seated issues and reasons to keep it. Her early teen years were spent there where she felt safe and in control. Somehow by the end of it through a very ridiculous monologue by Jane (even after trying skeet shooting and knowing it’s harmless), Jane says I cannot sleep in the house with that. Viola! Sutton throws away one piece of her childhood due to an ameteurish speech from a stuck up dumbo.

Jane is fine through the first season, admirable even with the kind of vision she has. We’re all young and naiive enough at that point. But, instead of growing as a character, she becomes a cry baby victim lamb, and then that annoying little character who you can’t wait for to shut up.

Sutton:

I fell in love with her initially. She was headstrong, determined, relentless, tenacious and oh-so-beautiful. Right from the first season where she demands ‘more’ in a relationship from Richard, not wanting to be his dirty little secret, to taking risks in her career and becoming a lot more as a person.

Sutton has mommy issues. She’s seen life the hard way. The way she rises though the ranks in the office is so inspiring that a younger viewer will idealize her as a career mentor. Sutton’s character sees the most consistent growth unlike Jane and Kat who oscillate between ridiculous to stuck up every few episodes. Those ladies don’t know how to let go and be smart about their lives. Sutton does. Like the modern woman that she is, she puts her career first.

She lets go Richard when she thinks he is not good for her career, and dating a board member of her company would nullify her success. You go, girl! That’s when I root for her and Richard to be endgame. I want a Richard too, infact. Supportive, feminist, knows how cook AND do laundry, is a total cinnamon roll on the inside but MAN is he one of the most ruggedly handsome men I’ve seen on screen!

Sutton really seems to have made it. From an assistant to stylist, her journey reminds me of my own. While I have been a reporter for a living for 8 long years, it is Sutton’s hustle that is reminiscent of my own.

But, all’s not rosy. If Jane was a Gunther and Monica, Sutton’s a flaky Phoebe. Sutton, in a minute wants to become a stylist. She becomes one. Then she wants to become a designer. She enrolls in a design seminar and almost becomes one. But then, she wants to become a stylist again because ‘I had to know I want to become a stylist and not a designer by becoming a designer first’. Hmm. For someone so decisive, in control and having taken care of her mother all her life, Sutton’s surely not herself. Yes, we’re allowed to be confused, but making a character act totally out of it is the writer’s mistake here and it did not go down well with me.

Her now-on-now-off relationship with Richard finally sees a ray of light when they reveal their relationship to the world. Seeing Richard fly to Paris just to get her back is possibly one of the most romantic scenes there is. They go steady for a bit, Richard proposes and Sutton says yes. For some reason her self-assuredness goes for a toss here.

She tells Richard she wants to move to San Fransisco with him. But she gets a promotion at Scarlet. Her Plan A was to move with Richard and use her 70K followers for a job as a stylist. Question: does the west coast have no fashion magazines? Boutiques? Fashion houses? Will Sutton not find a job anywhere as a stylist?

That’s what she feels and ON THE GODDAMN WEDDING DAY she tells Richard she cannot move with him. Her logic: I did not know how much I wanted this job until it was offerred to me. But, was Sutton not the most clear headed one knowing exactly what she wanted? Richard compromises for a long distance after a brief ‘gyaan-sesh’ with Jacqueline. Finally they get married.

Not much later, the writers decide to pop another major issue, which I appreciate is being brought up, but the way it is executed is downright embarassing. I was bored through the entire set of episodes that time.

Sutton gets pregnant and is really excited. She is stressing about becoming a good mother, but she’s still happy with Richard and the way things are moving forward. The miscarries the baby, but she has a mental breakdown – of relief. Okay.

Later, she has one good day at work. One. And she decides she does not want kids because she cannot have good days like those anymore. My point is, YES it is her body and she is pro-choice. I am too. And it’s okay to not even know if she wants to have kids or not. The confusion is valid but keeping Richard not even in the know is not. Her explanation: I had to suffer a miscarriage to know I did not want kids. Did she not have this conversation with Richard before they got married? Is it also not Richard’s right to know your decision? Or atleast your doubts about it if not decision? I felt that this whole power to choose idea was not executed well.

It breaks my heart when Richard says “one of us loses out of this, and I’m sick of it always being me.” Her character may have been flaky, but the S4 finale really outdid itself when it came to mocking everything Sutton fought for to be with Richard, and mocking her character itself. That hurt.

KAT:

There’s a whole episode around astrology in the show, where it’s repeatedly shown Kat’s a Gemini. But her traits are really not. I know my fair share of astrology. She’s an Aquarius. Did they show Gemini just to represent her bisexuality? Or maybe I just read too much into it considering how Kat’s annoyance spikes up with a steep vertical post season 2.

She’s the youngest social media director at Scarlet. Is a daughter of two shrinks (repeated every episode maybe). And has an identity crisis about her black roots. Now this, I do not relate a lot with because in India, social system doesn’t just credit you on colour, but caste, sub-caste, religion, academic position, residential area and everything else one can imagine. There may be some similarities in the social structure, but looking at Kat not wanting to be identified as ‘first black social media director’ because her mother is white and father is black, and both are psychiatrists, I sort of did not expect it. Again, I cannot relate to it, so perhaps found that bit confusing.

Kat was the most likeable characters. Until she decides to run for city council. She’s 26. Not that I’m an age-ist (is that a word) but she is impulsive, irrational and most of all, inexperienced.

But the most important part that she is in the show for, is be the poster child for LGBTQ community, demanding equality. I really liked her transformation, especially with Adena. I was rooting for them. Until it became just another toxic relationship. Later, Kat realises she’s bi. And the next time she’s pegging a guy, and she seems to be into him as much as he into her but he just disappears from the show.

Her own sexual confusion apart, her character does bring out some really important issues on the table. Problems of those struggling with gender identity that interferes in their daily routine as well as hobbies, helping people come out of closet and be supportive, the prejudce against bisexuals in the lesbian community (this I did not know but I gotta find out) and perhaps promoting the freedom of simply being – Kat, the lover of people.

Her motive to do something larger for the community and society is a great one. But Kat’s attempts to be mature and solve things end up being just like her – young and not mature enough. It’s okay to make mistakes, but not willingly sabotage all that you have built in your life. Just like Jane, Kat too needs to know when to let go.

Despite repeatedly hammering the nail in the form of the line ‘shrink’s kid’, Kat is surprisingly confused and really knows how to set an example to make the wrong decisions at the worst possible times. What are the writers smoking while doing this?

While Kat’s ‘finding your own voice’ trope is fantastic and did put a lot of things into perspective for me, it was so overdone after a point that I felt sick of it. Her impulse is her downfall, and the writers did absolutely nothing to make her grow. She’s still impulsive and now dating a queer Republican after getting her father fired. Kudos, Kat!

Kat’s character was probably the best among the 3. I like how she’s open to everything but at the same time her character did not grow at all. She’s the same impulsive, emotional fool she was at the start of the show.

OVERVIEW:

It’s a great show to binge, no doubt. But the unconditionally fair treatment of these woke millennial women and glorifying their mistakes as ‘cool’ is not what I expected. Their office is a slice of heaven, their boss is an angel without wings (Jan Levinson, who knew you had it in you!), their colleagues the most understanding and their lives a modern version of SATC.

This is my dream life, not the decisions, but the life itself. The Bold Type is a show for those looking for a Utopia to escape in an alternate reality where everything they do is validated, coddled and friends are more blood-bound soulmates, couple of notches way higher than just sisters from another misters.

Created by former showrunner Sarah Watson, the drama has had three of those change over its run, and it is evident in S4. As the show returns from final season, I look forward to more of Alex, Jacqueline, Oliver and Richard finding happiness. As for these three, they have the ‘wokeness’ immunity. I’m sure they’ll be fine.

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