The Bold Type and the Problem With White Feminism

Over the course of the last two seasons, Freeform’s The Bold Type has established itself as a glamorous feel-good television show, centered around the lives of three millennial women. The workplace dramedy, set mostly in the offices of the women’s magazine Scarlet, explores issues of sex, cancer, contraception, gun control, race and sexual harassment via the everyday struggles of Kat Edison, the bisexual biracial social media manager, Sutton Brady, the vibrant and stylish fashion assistant, and Jane Sloan, the scrappy, hungry journalist.

Like Sex and the City before it, The Bold Type is a show predominantly about female empowerment, sexuality and friendship, and isn’t afraid to bring the big issues to screen. Also like Sex and the City, the journalist character of Jane Sloan often leads the conversation, and like Carrie Bradshaw before her, comes across as an exhausting entitled woman who can’t seem to understand why the world doesn’t revolve around her.

In several instances over the first two seasons, Jane finds herself in one bad situation followed by another, often of her own creation. It’s a little difficult to believe that a character who works for a “woke” magazine and prides herself in her capability to write politically insightful pieces isn’t aware of how entitled it is to be complaining to her black friend about how Yes, Girl! magazine pushing for diversity costs her a job.

When Kat confronts her about how people of color find themselves constantly passed over for jobs due to their race, Jane immediately switches to the defensive, insisting that she isn’t racist (which no one implied she was), and then attacking Kat by pointing out that she lives in her parent’s loft, rent-free. When the girl’s road-trip to Sutton’s hometown, Jane, drunk and delirious over her reproductive issues, can’t seem to see past her own misery to notice that telling Sutton, “At least you have a mother!” isn’t as constructive as she thinks it is.

Repeatedly, Jane’s preoccupation with her own problems, and her belief that the people around her owe her something is a serious problem in her relationships with her friends and co-workers. Like Carrie, she cannot handle any sort of criticism or tolerate people having what she doesn’t, as shown when despite her ongoing (although undefined) relationship with Pinstripe, she insists that she be chosen to take the article about the dating app over Alex. The competitiveness often turns into pettiness, an insistence to be treated as special despite her all-together unspectacular personality, as when she asked Jaqueline for her job back towards the middle of the second season.

Jane’s character is undoubtedly lifted by the presence of the people around her. Kat and Sutton, who have their own character arcs and flaws, often call Jane out on her problematic behavior. “I’m tired of being made to feel guilty about something that me and my gun had nothing to do with, and no control over,” Sutton says, in the super popular episode about gun control. A statement that even I, someone who is strictly anti-gun can agree to.

It is testament of Jane’s self-absorption that she so confidently handed Jacqueline an article that was clearly more a diatribe than a nuanced piece of journalism, and which, once again, begs the question of how good a journalist Jane really is. The conflict resolution at the end of the episode seems, at first sight, to be a compromise: Jane figures out Sutton’s perspective, and Sutton gives up her gun. At closer inspection though, the Internet’s been asking: did Jane gaslight her friend into giving up something of sentimental importance to her, a la Carrie’s money problems and Charlotte’s engagement ring?

However, on the whole, Kat, Sutton, Jacqueline and even Pinstripe do hold Jane to a higher standard. It’s just hard, at times, to say whether the writers present Jane as the anti-hero, or a work-in-progress.

The common misconception that millennials “demand” their voices to be heard without really having anything of significance to say seems to be true in the case of Jane. At times, Jane’s annoying entitlement and self-absorption makes it easy to understand why the “guys upstairs” have such a problem with Scarlet’s millennial writers.

It’s not to say that Jane doesn’t try to be a better person, (she even Googled, “how do I check my white privilege?”), it’s just that in the twenty-three episodes of The Bold Type we’ve gotten to watch, it feels as though Jane has grown the least, even though her growth has been discussed the most. A major issue with Sex and the City was Carrie’s stagnant character arc through the six-season run, and it would be extremely disappointing if Jane walked that same path.

The Bold Type encapsulates the best and worst things of living in a connected world. The employees of Scarlet Magazine are interesting and complex characters who are constantly challenging each other to work better, write better, and hustle more whilst celebrating the everyday accomplishments and successes. In this environment that celebrates growth, and among the people who push her to be the best version of herself, I’m waiting in excited anticipation to see how Jane Sloan changes over the rest of the show’s run-time. And if she doesn’t, well, I can’t wait for a show that will improve upon her.

The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.