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.