“The Bold Type” Episode 202 Recap: Meet the Parents

Before we delve into the storylines of “Rose Colored Glasses,” I just need to get something off my chest: WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS #NOTALLMEN SCARLET SPREAD? In a pitch meeting, Jacqueline suggests that they do a story about male allies, the men who “show up” for women during the #MeToo reckoning. Jacqueline, girl, what are you thinking?! From a journalistic standpoint, what even is the story here?! They’re literally just rounding up random dudes off the street who aren’t evil and dressing them up for a fashion spread? WHAT?

Scarlet’s position in the world of The Bold Type has always been a little wishy-washy. Is it supposed to be a dinosaur like the editor-in-chief at Incite seems to think it is? Or is it supposed to be moving in a new, more progressive direction? I thought, based on last season, that Jacqueline was largely responsible for moving the magazine in a new direction. Admittedly, that direction was a little too nicely-packaged feminism rather than truly radical stuff. But this “story” about male allies seems wildly out of character for Jacqueline, and I kept waiting for it to take some sort of interesting turn and it just… didn’t. This isn’t even close to being my main concern about the episode, but I just needed to rant for a sec.

Sutton’s storyline within the context of that unfortunate spread is decent even though the conclusion is a bit weak. Not only are other assistants still spreading rumors that she sleeps her way to success but even Oliver seems to think one of her skills is “talking to men.” Oliver doesn’t quite realize what he’s saying with these little remarks, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s being unfair and, frankly, sexist toward Sutton. But Jacqueline helps Sutton spin it all into something positive: She’s good with people — not just men. And that gives Sutton the confidence to stand up to the shady assistant Mitzi. But that climax comes off as weak, because didn’t Sutton basically say all this to Mitzi in the first episode? And Mitzi just sort of backs off easily, reiterating the fact that this character is more plot device than actual person.

Last week, I pointed out that Jane is bad at her job, and here she is again, so bad at her job that she ends up getting fired at the end of the episode. I know some people in the comments disagreed with my harshness last week, and I get that. I do think it wasn’t totally fair for Jane’s editor to change so much of her draft without running it by her. BUT, I also think that Jane totally buried an important story here, all for the sake of protecting her source. Journalistic ethics aside, her source did something bad and deserved to be exposed, even if she doesn’t deserve the online hatestorm that follows. And then Jane calls to apologize and undermines her boss and the magazine? And then doubles down on that undermining by going off script on television?

At least there are real consequences of her actions this time. This Jane/Incite storyline — as quick as it has been — will become more interesting moving forward if it turns into a story about failure and doesn’t just render Jane the victim. Jane leaving Scarlet at the end of last season was a genuinely big deal, and I hope the fact that her time at Incite has been so short doesn’t dilute that.

I am usually willing to to forgive The Bold Type for some of its more unrealistic (but minor) details like its depiction of how the internet and social media work and the geography of NYC, but for some reason, the specific details of Jane’s storyline here are just too glaringly unbelievable to not distract. Her apology voicemail would have never, ever gone viral omg no one would care! It wasn’t even that scandalous of a voicemail! And she certainly wouldn’t need to address it ON TELEVISION!

In Kat’s storyline this week, The Bold Type rather obviously — and clumsily — attempts to address one of the biggest critiques of the show’s first season. Last season, The Bold Type almost entirely ignored the issue of race. This became a bigger problem in specific moments, like when Kat put herself in danger by hitting a racist for harassing Adena and getting herself arrested. And in the aftermath of her arrest and release, she literally told Jacqueline that nothing bad could have happened since she was in the right. Kat might benefit from a little privilege for being wealthy and half-white, but her naiveté about the police and trust in the criminal justice system just seemed completely unrealistic. It seemed like The Bold Type was weirdly in denial about Kat being black.

So now The Bold Type suggests that it was all intentional by making it seem like… Kat might be a little bit in denial about being black? Or, at least, it puts forth the idea that she seems to believe that identifying as biracial and identifying as black are mutually exclusive. She thinks that acknowledging her blackness somehow diminishes her identity and family. And her parents seem to agree? Her black father tells her that because he grew up in a segregated environment, they didn’t want Kat to “choose.” Ummm she doesn’t have to choose anything — nor can she, really — and insinuating that she does as parents is not great parenting! Their reaction to Adena talking about why she likes to be vocal about who she is is perplexing, too.

There’s just something so off and messy about the way the entire storyline is executed, starting with the fact that the episode just uses Alex as a mouthpiece to get Kat to reflect on these parts of her identity. The Bold Type has never known what to do with Alex, and that’s worsened here, because the writers so transparently take one of the only other recurring black characters on the show (other than Oliver, but Kat doesn’t really have contact with him) and tokenize him by inserting him into this story. And when he tells Kat she should say that she’s Scarlet’s first black female social media director, she bristles and then somehow reduces this to an argument about “labels”? So much of this feels inauthentic.

In the final conversation between Kat and her parents, Kat’s white mom talks about the emotional experiences of having people question whether Kat was her daughter or not. Parts of that struck a chord in me as a half-Indian person whose white mom looks nothing like her (people have often asked if she’s my stepmom), but The Bold Type still barely scratches the surface of the issue and doesn’t even give Kat space to share her emotions about that, instead centering it on the white perspective. A lot of the storyline feels like a biracial explainer aimed at white audiences.

Simply put, The Bold Type bites off way more than it can chew with this storyline, attempting to address an issue in its first season without really getting into it in an authentic, meaningful way. None of the nuances are there, and the writing is stilted. In these first two episodes of the season, The Bold Type writers seem to be trying to address some of the criticisms of the first season. In addition to the race situation, there’s also the issue of Sutton/Richard. The Bold Type never meaningfully acknowledged or grappled with just how gross the power dynamics of Sutton and Richard’s relationship was in the first season, and the season two premiere attempts to do some course correcting but misses the mark. The attempts to course correct with Kat miss the mark, too.


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Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya is a Brooklyn-based writer, television critic, and comedian who spends most of her time over-analyzing queer subtext on television, singing "Take Me Or Leave Me" in public places, and assembling cheese platters. She has a cat named after Piper Halliwell from Charmed, and her go-to karaoke song is "Everywhere" by Michelle Branch. Her writing can also be found at The A.V. Club and The Hollywood Reporter, and she wrote the webseries Sidetrack. You can catch her screaming in all-caps about Kalinda Sharma, Jennifer Lopez, and oysters on Twitter and Instagram.

Kayla has written 115 articles for us.

18 Comments

  1. My mom and I watch this show together and we were talking about how Jane somehow always manages to maker her articles that are supposed to be about other people about her instead, and then her editor said basically the same thing before she fired her. Having said that though, I don’t disagree with what Jane did; I even think it was the right thing to do. The story that Incite published was too one sided.

    Also something I didn’t understand with Kat: why was the option of her describing herself as the first biracial social media director at Scarlet not something that was even considered?

    • I don’t think I could resonate/agree with your comment more! Those were all my exact thoughts about this show! I’ve always been bored by Jane’s self-centered storylines, but I actually think her articles are meaningful. It’s so much more interesting to tackle the concept of navigating an imperfect world than to take the cowards way out and jump to blame and hate, especially in a world where women only get one chance to get things right.

      And labeling herself as biracial was my thought from the beginning! It just doesn’t make sense… But it also really doesn’t fit Kat’s personality to not be proud of her biracial identity, or at least be used to referring to herself as that. She’s the social media director…and social media is mainly composed of photos. It’s not like she’s going to be shocking the world with the fact that she’s biracial.

  2. As someone who grew up as being perceived a straight cis white male in Germany, I found both sides of the discussion about how Kat should represent herself understandable, which is probably also because I am not biracial myself.
    I also thought this episode showed that Kat’s naivete regarding race and her own blackness came from how her parents raised her more so than anything else.
    And Alex being Kat’s sounding board seemed authentic to me, because they have established kind of a bros-relationship between Alex and Kat, making him her closest POC-friend we have seen. Not to mention he is a writer and could help with something like a Bio, if Kat didn’t wanna ask Jane, because things with Jane and Scarlet and still “complicated”.

  3. This episode was bananas! There was so much to hate and take issue with! Starting with as you said the Not All Men photoshoot, what the holy fresh hell was that about

    Also like — Jane’s vertical is [was…] about “inspirational women”? What? That’s like the most basic pitch of all time, and also basic profiles of women doing cool stuff NEVER GETS TRAFFIC unless it has a scandalous hook. and as you mentioned, nobody would care about this enough to make her apology go viral or to get her ON THE TEEVEE. no blogger has been on tv since emily gould got yelled at on CNN in 2007 for Gawker Stalker. Nobody cares this much about a blogger.

    Also, knowing that this episode was written by white people absolutely informed my lack of faith in its choices w/r/t Kat’s storyline. I think I would’ve tried to suspend disbelief or find a way to make the story make sense otherwise, but I just couldn’t do that here.

  4. Wow. This episode was pretty messed up. Is this what happens when white writers decide to write about what it means to be black? Wtf was this nonsense. I was just irritated by it all that i don’t even want to analyze it.

    Also, like Kayla said, the #notallmen plot didn’t even have any usefulness at the end of the episode. So what was the point?

    So glad Jane got fired. It’s what she deserves. She is definitely not a professional. Also, pls what is the meaning of “she made one mistake” narrative? How could she even utter that crap in this #Metoo era? Aren’t some men using that narrative too? That they only touched the woman that one time and they didn’t mean or intend to sexually harass them and then their defenders would say it doesn’t negate all the good they have done and stand for?

    This was just one terribly written episode.

  5. There was SO MUCH that bothered me about this episode, and Kayla you hit most of it, and the commenters hit some more, but here are the few things that bugged me that no one has mentioned yet:

    – I’m not biracial, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on Kat’s dilemma about listing her race in her bio, but I WILL comment about the fact that she for some reason didn’t also feel it necessary to list her sexuality in her bio? Like, she’s ALSO (presumably) Scarlett’s first black QUEER female department head. Obviously, Kat hasn’t really nailed down how she identifies w/r/t her sexual orientation, and I’m guessing that’ll happen in a later episode, and it would have been too much to deal with here anyway, but it just felt so weird to leave it out after the whole debate about include her race or not.

    – I feel like Sutton and Jane’s stories were both just problems with the girls caring about the opinions of the wrong people. Sutton is so focused on what the assistants think of her – if she’s worried about her reputation and moving up in her career, shouldn’t Oliver and Jacqueline’s opinions of her matter more? And Jane is so worried about what Emma is going to think about her she doesn’t even realize how her her BOSS thinks about her. She cared so much about Jacqueline’s opinion, why doesn’t she care about Victoria’s?

    – I closed my eyes for Jane’s entire interview, the second hand embarrassment was too real.

  6. Reading about you guys criticizing Jane as a journalist, and Scarlett as a magazine/website is like watching doctors try to watch Greys Anatomy or any other doctor show on tv. It is totally hilarious.

  7. Also watching Kat deal with how she has labeled herself in terms of race and sexuality on the show reminds me of how Raven Symone has done previously in the past. An example of this is that interview she did with Oprah where she said she did not identify as black she identified as American.

  8. I thought a lot before leaving this comment. Trying to analyze if maybe I’m not seeing the full picture, maybe my love for The Bold Type is blinding me. But after much though I still couln’t shake this feeling of uneasyness.

    I love Autostradle, I love reading all the reviews you do about different shows, some that I watch, some that I’m planning to watch, and some that I will never watch but I want to read opinions and thoughts about.

    With a show like The Bold Type that I absolutely adore, I was more than excited to read what you had to say, and seeing it being portrayed mostly in a negative light made me really sad.

    I know I’m coming from a place of love for the show, but that doesn’t mean I’m not open to seeing it critiziced. And after reading the review again, I feel like it’s a little too harsh on it. And is discoraging to see it focus so much on the negatives and not at all in the positive.

    Again, I’m not against pointing out issues with it, if you see them. And I value your opinion. I also value how The Bold Type choose to adress the topics it was criticized for last season, how they incorporated a black woman to their writing team, and how they realize the mistakes they made last season and want to do better.

    This is one of the few shows on TV with a queer relationship, and a queer relationship with two woc at it’s center, one of the few shows on TV that gives it’s queer relationship equal amounts of screentime and value and I hope in future reviews we can see a little bit more of your view of the positive conversations that The Bold Type brings to the table.

  9. I usually really value this site’s opinions on pop culture and media, in fact I have learned a lot from reading reviews and recaps and articles here. I however was a little bit baffled by this critique. I really value criticisms, especially when it comes to diversity and representation. I just am unsure of what was expected on an hour of a television where Kat’s storyline is only 1/3 of the entire show. I think the fact that it was readdressed at all, after their failings last season, was impressive. I’m not claiming that we should set the bar so low and just take what we can get. But also I have asked the opinions of a lot of women of color and specifically biracial folks around me and they were very moved by the conversation that was had, because it is one that is very rarely seen or given voice to. I just think it’s a little much to put on the shoulders of one queer character to represent the voice for all black women, all qwoc, all queer biracial folks…It also sounds like you’re assuming that every single person has the same journey with their racial identity, which is not the case. Also the fact that some of the commenters are assuming it’s all white people in the writers room is false, I believe there is more than one woman of color and one specifically has an episode coming up.

    I just find this site a little frustrating that you sing the praises of the representation that gets casually tossed our way with blonde and brunette white women, but we finally get a show that seems to care about the development of it’s WOC and a well rounded queer storyline and you attack it a bit. Honestly, I really do appreciate the criticisms. It’s a show about a dumb magazine, so of course it’s not perfect. But I feel like saying this was clumsy and messy is hurtful to those who racially identified with the character and this particular story, which I know for a fact there are people out there who did connect to it. I never comment on these things, but as someone who works with diverse peoples and who is an avid read and TV watcher…this was disappointing to read.

  10. I also really love the bold type for it’s depiction of a genuine supportive female friendship, and for showing Kat’s coming out experience as complicated and confusing but something which her friends were totally supportive of. Even if that isn’t realistic for many people’s experiences – I feel like when I was coming out, if I had seen my friend changing and said “hey sexy” and slapped her butt, there would have definitely been some weirdness and “what does that mean” processing on her end. Maybe that’s just because it was 2008, but even so, I appreciated seeing what I wished had happened presented as normal on this show – that her friends were just happy and supportive and interested, because I feel that that could role model for people how to respond to a friend coming out or processing, and I was thankful for that.

    However, when it came to this race storyline, and the ways the show interacted with race in the first season, it felt off to me. I am not black, or biracial, or American, so I can’t comment with the depth of understanding that experince. But I agree that Kat seemed uncharacteristically naive on the subject of race in terms of her complete blind spot to Adena’s fear of interacting with the police, given that we are in an era of Black Lives Matter, especially being present on social media which is Kat’s job. And similarly, the fact that the show decided to explain that away by giving more context on her family and showing that they just sort of said “race isn’t an issue worth discussing” even though BOTH her parents are psychaitrists who seem to discuss everything, just felt like a way to explain away something that was really just bad writing the first time around.
    As much as you can say “it’s what’s inside that counts”, as far as I understand it, when the world reads you as black, you live life as black, and are treated as such. I can’t really see how Kat could make it through this much of her life and have this be the first moment she’s really questioning this, and perhaps they were leaning into the idea that writing is strengthened by leaning in to specificity, but a black person who is in denial about her own blackness seems like a very particular specificity to choose. If the writers room included a range of biracial women, I’d give the benefit of the doubt and say perhaps this is an amalgam of their experiences which they felt were important to share in their specificity. But to me it felt like predominantly white people trying to write about race, and that even if it were possible for someone into their 20s to have this barrier toward self-reflexivity about their race, having experienced #blacklivesmatter on twitter (her job!) would have caused her to interrogate this sooner. That said, I was closeted well into my 20s while living in a very progressive environment, so I recognize it takes all kinds, but this felt like a story about race written by/for white people, and I felt uncomfortable and disappointed with it throughout and hope the bold type can figure out how to truly tackle these topics going forward. And ditto that it felt inauthentic for her not to pull questioning her sexual orientation in as well, given its so in flux at the moment. I get that the show was trying to tackle something specific with this race plotline, but I think it does best when it really tackles the true messiness of life, and didn’t even do what it chose to do that well, so….

  11. I liked the broad strokes of this episode, though some details didn’t work. These recaps need more positives.

    The men’s photo shoot was obviously not a plausible article for the magazine to be doing, but it was shoehorned in to give Sutton the chance to address her insecurities.

    Any ‘storyline’ about a character’s race is no good, but it sounds like they’re going to try to bring race into her character a bit more in the future, so there’s not much to go on yet.

    As for Jane’s storyline, the way I remember it she left Scarlet because she was promised the freedom to write what she wanted. Toeing the party line and pandering to the masses is definitely not what she signed up for, it’s specifically what she signed up to not do. I think her approach was naive, but none of what she has done has been wrong.

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