The Soothing Effect Of The Bold Type's White Feminism

Photo: Freeform/Phillippe Bosse.

Freeform’s The Bold Type is back for its second season, and Kat (Aisha Dee), Jane (Katie Stevens), and Sutton (Meghann Fahy) are still meticulously dressed and having a ball as they navigate the modern world of journalism and publishing. Kat has just returned from traveling the world with her new boo Adina (Nikohl Boosheri) and overcomes her fear of cunnilingus. Jane has left Scarlet magazine for Insight, another site that will give her a vertical of her own, and is facing a dilemma about how her new gig handled coverage of a complicated menstrual cup company founder. Meanwhile, Sutton’s secret relationship with one of the magazine’s board members threatens to ruin her reputation if it becomes public knowledge because, sexism. Once again, the show that has been celebrated for focusing on the real issues that young women face today is flexing its feminist muscles. Per usual; however, that feminist spirit is really cute, and really white.

I know what you’re thinking: but what about Kat? Yes, Kat is a woman of colour, the daughter of a white woman and a Black man. She has loose curly hair, a lighter complexion, and features that still fit into classic definitions of beauty, something she shares with Jane and Sutton. She also never acknowledges her Blackness or the racial difference in the way most actual Black people must every day, whether they want to or not. Similarly, viewers rarely get to see how Kat's race, gender, and sexuality intersect in an impactful way, which new showrunner Amanda Lasher recently admitted she hoped to change by joining the series for season 2. The diversity that Kat offers the main character lineup is rooted almost exclusively in visibility. The kind of inclusion that works to make “woke” (supposedly-woke?) white people feel like they’ve done the right thing.

Even the second half of Tuesday night’s premiere, aptly titled “Rose Colored Glasses,” where Kat actually acknowledges how she’s maintained an intentionally neutral position on race, is settled quickly. After she is asked to write a bio for her new role as social media department head, she realises that she is uncomfortable making the public declaration about being the first Black woman to hold the post at Scarlet. Her queer Muslim girlfriend challenges her to think deeper about it. So she confronts her parents about why they rejected “labels” for their daughter, instead relying on the utopian notion that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Their defence is that they wanted to shield her from the harsh realities of racism in America, but what they’ve given her is an identity crisis. She ultimately decides that embracing the Black part of herself is important for the bio because she can inspire other Black girls. And the show’s race conversation is neatly wrapped up in a bow for the foreseeable future as a result.

The Bold Type is layered, but it is not intersectional. Multiple identities and issues are stacked on top of one another like a deck of cards. Writers and directors pull from the deck to generate the theme of each episode — immigration, queer sex, and slut-shaming are just a few of the issues that have been explored each week — and then put it back to talk about something else. Still, the over simplicity that defines The Bold Type is more than okay with me.

Each week, watching the show is like finding a lost pair of headphones in my bag. I’m happy to indulge. Following Kat, Jane, and Sutton as they navigate the problems in their love lives and careers is like having to untangle those headphones. It can be annoying, but I know before I start that things will be smoothed out in the end. Each episode ends with a satisfying resolution, that is not at all reflective of how real-life adults solve their problems. Teasers for the friction in the following episode don’t worry me. They get me excited about starting the detangling process again.

I watch The Bold Type for the same reason I never missed a single episode of Girls when it was airing on HBO: to dive into the fantasy of a life that is only superficially complicated. It’s far removed from my own experiences at a fat, Black, queer woman (even though I’m also a millennial working at a digital women’s publishing company). These shows make for nice, distracting television that takes me away from the complications of my own life and into the lives of three pretty girls in New York with nicer apartments than I’ll ever be able to afford. It’s not radically progressive, and that’s more than okay with me. I get enough of that in my real life.

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