The Bold Type 2x03 "The Scarlet Letter" Review
If The Bold Type is effective at anything, it’s showing the payoff of taking chances. In Season 1, we saw Sutton throw everything she had into a promotion at Scarlet, Kat hop on a plane to Peru to be with Adena, and Jane leave her safe place at Scarlet for the new and edgy world of Incite.
I’ve always been impressed with The Bold Type’s ability to show realistic fall out from the choices that Jane, Sutton, and Kat make over the course of an episode or season. I was genuinely surprised that Jane left Scarlet at the end of Season 1, thinking that her possible job at Incite would only contribute to Jane realizing how much she truly belonged at Scarlet.
However, I turned out to be wrong (and relieved) that the show allowed Jane to move on. For a show about three twenty-something women working in the New York fashion industry, there was definitely the possibility of the show to be silly, unrealistic, or a little too “ideal,” afraid to show true hardship or difficulty in favor of superficial choices that had to be made and would be resolved positively at the end of the episode, the girls somehow always coming out on top in their way-too-nice New York City apartment.
The Bold Type does a great job of combining the lightheartedness of this type of show without being shallow or frivolous, and it isn’t afraid to show us real failure. Taking chances almost always has more than one outcome, and it’s refreshing to watch a show that jumps into this headfirst.
Speaking of failure: poor Jane. Her leap of faith into Incite didn’t pan out, and now she’s unemployed and afraid. Her anxiety manifests in a surge of productivity (anyone jealous of that? I know I am) as she calls any connection she can think of, desperately trying to gain traction in her professional life. She ends up with an interview at another publication by the end of the day, and her problems are seemingly taken care of.
Again: poor Jane. Her interviewer didn’t embrace the fact that she had become a viral meme before being fired from her last job. He even goes so far as to accuse her of “throwing Incite under the bus,” which is pretty harsh, if you ask me. With someone as passionate, hard working, and articulate as Jane, this guy doesn’t know what he’s missing.
As a desperate attempt to secure some kind of assignment, Jane convinces her interviewer to let her put together a sample of a story she could possibly contribute to as a freelance writer. She was given the topic of health care, so she calls up one of the “regular guys with heroic jobs” from last episode: Ben, a doctor that works with underserved communities. While interviewing Ben and getting to see him in action at his job, it dawns on Jane that true enjoyment of your work is incredibly important. She loves writing, she loves journalism, but this current freelance gig is lonely — she tells Sutton and Kat later on during one of their fashion closet hang outs that she misses having a squad.
By the end of the episode, Jane is back at Scarlet for a meeting with Jacqueline. This is easy to predict, right? Jane comes back “home” to Scarlet, realizing how much of a mistake Incite was. Her friends are at Scarlet, along with an editor that supports her rather than exploits her, and she can go back to doing what she loves.
For a third time: poor Jane. Jacqueline explains that Jane’s salary had been allocated to the budget for the website, and even if it was possible for her to get it back, she wouldn’t. Despite this heavy blow for Jane, it’s incredibly important for The Bold Type to let its characters fail. We’ve all been in a situation like Jane’s. We made a mistake, took a chance and it didn’t pan out, and our first reaction is to go running back to the comfort of what we know works. After a failure we want to undo a mistake, pretend it never happened, and erase the pain.
But, as Jacqueline points out, when we retreat, we don’t have the chance to learn from our failure. Living in our failure is important, no matter how awful it feels. How we react and what we learn from failure shapes who we are. It’s easy to thrive while you enjoy success, but the ability to thrive after a failure is when you learn the most about yourself. Jane doesn’t want to go back to Scarlet because it’s where she truly belongs, but because it’s where she’s comfortable. She wants to feel safe again, and she wants Jaqueline to make that happen for her. I can’t blame Jane at all for this: it’s normal.
As an aside: shoutout to Katie Stevens for Jane’s “trying to keep it together but all I want to do is cry, my life is over” face as she leaves Jacqueline’s office and mentally says goodbye to Scarlet.
Jane isn’t the only one taking chances this episode. Sutton is tasked with running a photoshoot for the magazine’s newest issue, one that focuses on body positivity (and a surprise cameo from plus sized model and all around badass Tess Holliday). Sutton is responsible for choosing the photographer for this photoshoot, a straight to the point product spread that focuses on jewelry. Even though Sutton already had a photographer in mind, Kat decided to present her with another option: Adena.
Back to the topic of chances: this puts Sutton in a tough spot, because hiring Adena isn’t exactly a chance she wants to take. Sure, Adena is incredibly talented. But her photography is dramatic and artsy, it makes bold statements and questions the status quo — she would be completely out of place with this shoot. Adena hasn’t done product shoots before, and Sutton wants to make sure that she goes with the absolute best option so she doesn’t disappoint Oliver. Stephen King is a great writer, but you wouldn’t hire him to write a romance novel.
Kat is upset that she’s hesitant to choose Adena, while Sutton is a little put out that Kat would put so much pressure on her. I have to agree with Sutton here; while I understand Kat’s desire to secure Adena employment, and therefore secure her visa, it puts Sutton’s job at risk. This is the most responsibility that Oliver has given her, and she can’t afford to throw it all away while doing a favor for a friend.
Apparently that’s fine with Sutton, because while still nervous, she hires Adena for the shoot. While the shoot started out rocky, with Adena going full “artist” and ignoring the specific direction given by Sutton, she finally gives in to the theme after hearing Sutton and Kat arguing on set. Eventually things calm down and Adena’s photos are in line with the original theme of the shoot. After Sutton and Adena apologize to each other for their previous clash, they examine one of the sample photos and come to the conclusion that the original shoot is, in fact, boring and “kiddish.”
Now, I take issue with this next part. Sutton, in what seems completely out of character, throws her previous anxiety out the window and engineers a completely different shoot along with Adena, Kat, and Jane. While this new photoshoot is STUNNING (I’ll discuss later), I’m still bothered by Sutton’s change of heart. She’s a compassionate person, willing to take chances and push the envelope when necessary, but that transition from anxious to bold didn’t happen organically in this episode. Right from the start Sutton knew exactly what she wanted from the photoshoot, and she knew that deviating from Oliver’s original plan had the potential to be career threatening. Sutton took a huge chance applying for this job back in Season 1, she ended her relationship with Richard for her career; this sudden switch seems uncharacteristic with so much at stake.
With that being said, the outcome of this shaky storyline was fantastic. There were definitely more realistic options to get us here, but I’m glad it’s where we ended up. The girls end up doing a photoshoot, completely naked — no clothes, no makeup, no airbrush — using the shoot to highlight the body positive theme of Scarlet’s current issue. Now, doing a body positive shoot with three young, thin, and conventionally attractive women might ring a little hollow, but the result was arguably one of the most empowering segments of the show.
Using the original jewelry as a tool to highlight features traditionally seen as “flaws” — moles, scars, stretch marks, acne — this new photoshoot made a statement that the original one never could. The photos are lit in such a way that makes them look elegant and artistic. The true star of the shoot isn’t the jewelry but the women, and more importantly, their “flaws.”
Jacqueline takes her own risk during this episode, standing up to new board member (and fast approaching most annoying character on TV) Cleo. It turns out that Cleo, as a fitness blogger, took issue with a “fit and fat” story that was at the center of Scarlet’s latest issue. Turns out she’s all for body positivity, but only when that body looks like hers.
Instead of removing the story all together, Jacqueline decides to bring back the “Letter from the Editor” column and do something that she hadn’t done in years: write.
Motivated by Cleo’s fat shaming, Jacqueline writes a piece about true body positivity. She lets Cleo know that loving our bodies and ourselves is one of the healthiest things you can do.
She’s right, too.
Self acceptance and self love is often the first step in being a healthy person. Fat-shaming, aside from being obviously mean, is also counter productive. Research shows that feeling fat-shamed could actually lead to more weight gain, not to mention the emotional toll that it takes on a person. It’s much too common today to see people judging others based on weight. Someone who isn’t a size two is proud of their body, and suddenly everyone is a cardiologist.
The most common critique is that overweight people are “unhealthy,” when in reality someone’s appearance has almost no bearing on their health. Things like heart disease are more closely linked to family history rather than weight. People who are skinny can be incredibly unhealthy. We all know that one person that eats nothing but junk food, doesn’t work out, and is still tiny as can be. On the other side of things, there are people who workout and eat healthy but are still overweight.
In truth, people hide behind the health defense to justify their judgment. You don’t know anything about the other person. And, more importantly, it’s none of your business.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Tess Holliday:
“It’s all about accepting yourself the way you are. If you want to work towards a better you in whatever regards… do it. But you’re okay just the way you are today."
The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.