Freeform’s “The Bold Type” is basically a millennial version of “Sex and the City,” following the lives of three twenty-something best friends who work at Scarlet Magazine.
It’s loosely based on the life of Joanna Coles, the former editor-in-chief at Cosmopolitan, which is probably a good indicator of the show’s sexual content and feminist messaging. With a plethora of reviews praising the show for being “compelling fun” and “fresh and energetic,” I decided to give it a watch.
From the start, the show’s appeal is clear: a trio of best friends who live their best lives and have each other’s backs. There are storylines about girl power and a healthy dose of too-nice-for-New-York apartments. Not to mention, the characters’ outfits wouldn’t be out of place in the pages of their fictional Scarlet magazine. Kat, Sutton, and Jane attend parties, date men and women in New York, and climb the ranks of their various positions at the magazine. It’s pure glamor and escapism. But a closer look beneath the glitzy surface reveals some problems with this misguided narrative of empowerment.
Ignoring Women’s Biology
Jane, a writer at Scarlet, goes through the egg-freezing process when she discovers she has the BRCA mutation, putting her at an increased risk for breast cancer. Before deciding to freeze her eggs, however, she also considers early motherhood. Ultimately, the choice between her career and a family, as well as her lack of a partner (a common reason for egg-freezing among women) causes her to freeze her eggs. In Jane’s case, egg-freezing was the right decision for her health and her body.
But what the show doesn’t mention is that only a small percentage of frozen eggs are viable, and from those viable eggs, there’s only a one in five chance of a successful birth. Overall, egg freezing is an incredibly expensive procedure with a questionable success rate. The Bold Type glosses over these problems. Instead of asking why women feel the need to delay motherhood for their careers, the show treats Jane’s job as the end-all, be-all of her life.
Women don’t have the same biological clocks as men, and we shouldn't be living on a man's timeline. Plenty of men can have children at 50, but the same can’t be said for women. Men and women are different, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but shows like The Bold Type treat female fertility like a defective version of male fertility. Women’s bodies and our natural biological functions are treated like something dysfunctional instead of accepted.
There's So Much Drinking
Another issue with the show is the constant drinking. If I were to play a drinking game — take a shot every time someone onscreen does! — I would probably have liver disease by the end of the first season. In nearly every episode, the characters are shown drinking wine, cocktails, and other alcoholic beverages. Now, I’m no teetotaler, but the partying depicted in The Bold Type winds up with negative effects on the characters.
As we all know, alcohol fuels poor decision-making and clouds judgment. The characters of The Bold Type prove this: Kat, after drinking too much, cheats on her girlfriend at a lesbian bar. Sutton parties with a popular influencer, who ends up charging cocaine to Sutton’s Scarlet company card. Despite these subplots, almost every episode sees the trio drinking to find solace in stressful situations. These scenes make alcoholism (or reliance on alcohol) seem normal and mundane. They shouldn't be.
Hooking Up Isn’t Empowering
I’m all for a dash of romance in a TV show. But, the characters’ sex lives aren’t always a good time. In one episode, Kat, after confessing her infidelity to her girlfriend, ends up in an open relationship with her. But after a few secretive hookups, she later realizes that she doesn’t want to be with other people and isn’t suited for polyamory. In a different episode, Sutton breaks up with her boyfriend, Richard, because their relationship could damage her career (he’s a board member and she’s a lowly assistant). Afterward, she immediately hooks up with two different men before reconciling with Richard.
First, she has a one-night stand with Dylon, who turns out to be already married. Then, she has a fling with her friend and coworker, Alex, who is a bit of a creep (he hit on Sutton knowing she had a boyfriend and is later accused of coercing another woman into having sex). Sex is an enjoyable way to build intimacy with your partner. But hooking up with strangers and investing your body, time and emotions into a short-term relationship is a recipe for heartbreak, especially if you’re in love with someone else.
Instead of trying to make women keep up with men or insist that all women act like men, why not let women… act like women? Why not decrease the pressure on women to have a thriving career in the prime of their lives? What if our society and culture encouraged women to lead lives that matched their biological clocks? Ultimately, The Bold Type and third-wave feminism aren’t interested in answering those questions, but more interested in perpetuating the narrative of hollow "empowerment."