TV Shows Pop Culture

Yes, The Bold Type is unrealistic… just not for the reasons you think 

I had arrived home late from a long day at my first journalism internship. My head pounded from sleeplessness, six cups of coffee, and social media scrolling. However, just seconds after kicking off my shoes, dumping queso into a bowl, and hacking my parents’ cable account, I burrowed into a blanket and back into the world I had just escaped: I came across Freeform’s The Bold Type.

Of course, this flickering world broadcasted a bouncier pop soundtrack – why hadn’t Tove Lo’s disco tits ever spontaneously played as I strutted into work? – and outfits worth more than my paycheck. Yet I still beamed at Jane Sloan as she raced up the Scarlet Magazine staircase, blown-out hair bouncing, story pitches and best friends in tow.

Wistful, I grabbed my phone and posted a Tweet: What if my internship was like The Bold Type? The magazine’s editor liked it, then the social media guru. The next day, we laughed at our cold takeout lunches and the clutter overtaking our desks. There were no fashion closet gossip sessions. Like every girl who grew up watching The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City, I had finally realized I would not be a rom-com heroine. Oppositely, like most journalists, I now bore bags under my eyes and blistered feet alongside my bylines.

The Bold Type, many publications have been quick to point out, isn’t an accurate picture of today’s journalism. In an industry where everything seems to be prefaced with the word under – as in, underpaid, understaffed, underfunded – the show stands out as decidedly over the top. But unlike some other disenchanted viewers, I won’t stop watching it. And I won’t stop being inspired. 

The fact remains that when male-fronted shows like 24 and Breaking Bad take liberties with the realm of possibility, no one seems to care. In fact, these shows go on to achieve widespread acclaim. But when a talented female journalist I follow online posted a picture with her coworker and best friend, calling her the Sutton to her Kat, a disgruntled man and former reporter replied by telling them that they’d never be paid much, and that they got hired only because they were young and cute. He even accused them of pushing veteran, male journalists out of the business.

With The Bold Type, audiences gain insight into how Jane explores her deepest internal struggles in nuanced, thought-provoking writing. Though Scarlet Magazine doesn’t exist, I can’t be the only one who wanted to read about Jane coming to terms with a breakup, unpacking her hang-ups toward religion, recognizing her white privilege, and grappling with different political views in her friend group. I can’t be the only one who cheered from my bedroom when Jane’s editor published her unflinching critique of an employee health insurance plan that covers Viagra, but not fertility treatments. 

She dances better than I ever could. She makes taking a tequila shot look graceful… yeah, right. But Jane has shown me how to push against the status quo in small, realistic ways. For instance, when a speaker at an event I covered perpetuated unfair stereotypes about millennials, I wrote an op-ed about it. When I began to question my spiritual and religious beliefs, after identifying as an atheist for half a decade, I wrote about that, too. People reached out to me about both of those pieces, saying they connected with my words. It appears that readers just might be ready for the kind of personal, authentic, socially relevant journalism The Bold Type hinges on.

For all its frills, including alluring depictions of Paris Fashion Week and media award galas, the show’s central arguments may just be ideas we can all emulate: women can be fulfilled by their careers, infuse the professional with the personal and modernize an often male-dominated, occasionally stuffy industry from the inside.

Men’s equivalent “guilty pleasure” television – hmm, ever notice how that term never gets applied to Game of Thrones or football? – often revolves around seducing women who are way hotter than them, or mastering stunt-double feats. Instead, The Bold Type simply dares to imagine a professional environment where women are treated as equal and capable, and, as a result, are able to become more invested. In a media climate where women occupy just 17 percent of leadership positions at the top 100 local media companies worldwide, this smart, empowering show still represents a fantasy.

I’m bold enough to say it shouldn’t.

By Kara Lewis

Kara Lewis is a journalist and poet living in Kansas City, Missouri. She can usually be found talking loudly about feminism over a plate of nachos, making a Gilmore Girls reference no one caught, or listening to a thought-provoking podcast. Follow her on Twitter for okay writing and extraordinary gifs.