After seeing the trailer for Freeform’s “The Bold Type,” I was eagerly counting down the days until its premiere. As an aspiring writer, I am interested in the media field’s portrayal on TV and I also can’t resist a story about a tight-knit group of friends.
“The Bold Type” is about three women in their twenties who work at Scarlet, a women’s magazine that resembles Cosmopolitan, and their lives inside and outside of the magazine. Each woman works in a different department: Jane is a staff writer, Kat is the social media director and Sutton is a fashion assistant.
Having grown up reading glossy magazines reminiscent of Scarlet, I’ve always been curious about what goes on behind the scenes. Outside of my real-life experience working for the student newspaper at college and Study Breaks, I don’t have a point of reference for the accuracy of this show. However, there are some experienced media professionals who have taken issue with the show’s portrayal of jobs in the media field.
One specific criticism of “The Bold Type” was that it doesn’t show the true struggles of working for a magazine. Rachel Syme, the television critic for The New Republic, said that Jane’s storylines don’t directly address the problems real journalists face that are out of their control. “What she doesn’t warn Jane about is the system: the brutal grinding down of writers’ work for less and less money, and the probability that Scarlet may not exist in a few years, let alone sustain a whirl of endless glamour and personal development,” Syme wrote.
Another criticism was that “The Bold Type” doesn’t accurately reflect Kat’s job responsibilities. Anika Reed, a social media editor for USA Today’s Life section, pointed out the different aspects of the show that were accurate and inaccurate. Reed acknowledges that Kat having a lot of responsibility and freedom when running the Scarlet social media accounts was realistic, but also noted that it was weird Kat did a lot of the social media strategy by herself.
Not all the feedback “The Bold Type” got was negative; the show also received positive reactions as well. Allison Herman, a writer for The Ringer, applauded the show for its portrayal of the setbacks some experience when working in the media. Herman pointed to certain incidents that illustrate media industry problems, like the disaster that was Jane’s stint with news website, Incite. Jane quit Scarlet to work there, but was fired after not standing by Incite when her article was edited into a hit piece. Herman explained that people outside of the media field don’t know about the all of the changes editors make to articles.
Taking into account both the criticism and the praise for the show, it is worth asking if the “The Bold Type” would be a better, more engaging show if it portrayed the media more realistically?
There are a few aspects to think about when answering this question, with the first being the channel the show appears on. Keep in mind that Freeform doesn’t have a track record of putting out very realistic shows. Think “Pretty Little Liars,” one of the network’s most watched shows. What started out as a simple mystery of four teenage girls trying to figure out what happened to their missing best friend turned into a soap opera of black-hoodie clad stalkers who seemed to get away with everything, evil twins wreaking havoc and police officers who couldn’t solve a crime if their lives depended on it.
“The Bold Type” is certainly more realistic than “Pretty Little Liars,” but it has own issues. The first that comes to mind is the writers’ emphasis on the three women’s friendship, which decreases the time they spend working. A lot of articles point out that it seems like the women have all of the time in the world to hang out in Scarlet’s fashion closet (a.k.a. the private oasis where they can spill their guts to each other).
If you’ve paid attention to the show, you know that Jane, Kat and Sutton’s friendship is just as important to them as their jobs are. The writers wouldn’t be able to show the closeness of their bond without their closet meetings or time spent together outside of Scarlet. Seeing how a magazine is run is cool, but so is following the three women’s crazy adventures together. Watching Jane type at her desk all day is not as exciting as seeing her and the gang hide from her ex-boyfriend while stalking him for a story.
Simply put, all television is a mix of real and imaginary elements. I will admit it is satisfying to watch an authentic television show, or at least marvel over the more realistic aspects of a show, but it is unrealistic, for entertainment purposes, to think that shows would simply air the day-to-day routine of anyone’s life.
In one of my earlier Study Breaks articles, I noted that “The Vampire Diaries” characters dressed more realistically than other teen show characters. Fantasy genre aside, there were plenty of aspects of that show that still weren’t realistic For example, one of the protagonists, Elena, was a pre-med student who said that she had good grades, but I had troubling believing it because I don’t remember ever seeing her do homework.
“The Bold Type” is the same way. There are some aspects that are questionable, like how their salaries can cover the expensive cost of living in New York or why Sutton is left to run fashion shoots even though she is only an assistant. But those aspects coexist with the more natural ones, like the supportive relationships between friends, romantic partners and co-workers.
“The Bold Type” doesn’t have an obligation to be accurate. There are times where the show could afford to be a little bit more authentic, but it is not necessary for an enjoyable viewing experience. In the meantime, I will continue to tune in and enjoy every second of those fashion closet meetings.