Blogging The Bold Type: How We Got Here
Recently, I found myself curled up on the couch, sipping tea and watching The Bold Type with my best friend from Swarthmore.
We grew up on the same street, so our tradition of movie/TV nights goes way back—as teenagers, we watched The Perks of Being a Wallflower on repeat, filmed in Pittsburgh, not too far from our own small town in Pennsylvania. Back then, we made ice cream sundaes and scampered down to the basement where we could turn up the volume without waking my parents.
So watching The Bold Type was a normal night for us—except my best friend and I weren’t actually in the same room. She was in Swarthmore and I was in Belfast. Instead of my parents, it was my housemate who was asleep upstairs. My friend was watching the show at her mom’s new house (which, funnily enough, was still on the same street where we grew up). We are no longer teenagers watching teenage coming-of-age stories. We are twenty-five and we’re watching The Bold Type, a show about three women in their twenties, a perfect mix of late-night heart-to-hearts, workplace drama, and sexy hook-ups—all accompanied by an amazing soundtrack.
My favorite character on the show is Jane Sloan, who writes for the fictional women's magazine, Scarlet (based on Cosmopolitan magazine). Scarlet is where the three main characters (Jane, Sutton, and Kat) all work, albeit in different departments. Jane is a writer who writes, which is to say, she demonstrates that writing is not always glamorous, and it’s rarely easy. She turns in drafts of her articles and her boss Jacqueline, the Editor-in-Chief, actually gives her feedback on her work. Sometimes Jane struggles to get the interview she wants, or she gets the interview but her notes are ruined when someone spills beer all over them.
As a PhD student in creative writing, I like to try to channel Jane’s bravery and Jacqueline’s wisdom. When I’m worried about showing someone my latest poem, I remember how Jane writes an article about how she’s never had an orgasm, plans to publish it anonymously, and then embraces her experience and puts her name on the piece. If Jane can write and publish that, than surely I can handle some constructive criticism about my poetry.
When I’m feeling like my work isn’t living up to some invisible/internalized standard, I remember Jacqueline saying, ‘You have this idea of the kind of writer you should be, but don’t let that keep you from the kind of writer you could be.’
After being so close as teenagers, my friend and I are re-discovering a new kind of closeness in our twenties. Last spring, we traveled to Greece together, navigating heat exhaustion, allergic reactions to laundry detergent, and a lack of gluten-free snacks. Despite these hiccups, we had an incredible time climbing up to The Acropolis and learning how Athena’s olive tree bested Poseidon’s salt spring thus securing Athens as her namesake. Turns out Athena is the OG HBIC. My friend and I accidentally flirted with a waiter in Athens (how nice of him to give us his phone number ‘in case we got lost’) and laughed at the PDA of couples in Santorini.
Being a twenty-five year old woman is hard for a lot of reasons, many of them different for different people, depending on one’s race, sexuality, class, etc. And I think one of the reasons it’s difficult to be a twenty-five year old woman is that we rarely see twenty-five year old women on TV—that’s what makes The Bold Type special. Katie Stevens, who plays Jane, describes The Bold Type: ‘Most shows start in high school and transfer in the twenties and that’s where it ends, but it’s nice that our show is showing these women navigating, finding, their place and figuring out their lives and love and their careers and all of that…’ In other words, finding a path from sixteen to twenty-five in real life can be overwhelming and confusing for women because there is no blueprint. As Stevens says, ‘Before this show, I was playing sixteen for years…I literally went from sixteen to twenty-five overnight.’
By the time my friend had started watching The Bold Type, I had already finished binge watching its four seasons, but that didn’t matter. The best things in life are meant to be shared, and not even the five-hour time difference could stop us.
Her after-dinner show was my I-really-should-be-asleep show. She was watching with ads whereas I wasn’t, but we used the time-stamps to keep track of our progress. We texted each other throughout the episode, sharing all the little things that we loved (no spoilers).
My friend and I are both all caught up on The Bold Type for now, but luckily, the show returns on June 11th and will keep us laughing during these strange times. We may be far apart, but there’s something comforting about watching other twenty-something women mess up and figure it out and have each other’s backs.
In its first four seasons, the show sensitively addressed a wide array of topics—what happens if someone cheats or how to negotiate your salary without pissing off your boss. The characters are complex; their backstories involve rape, conversion therapy, illness, death, neglect, alcoholism and more. But there’s also a lot of lightness—hot pockets at 3 AM, karaoke, queer prom-themed parties, and naked photo-shoots.
We may be old friends, but watching The Bold Type helps us find new ways to relate to and to communicate with each other, and that’s something to celebrate.
Sending love an ocean away!