The Bold Type 2x07 "Betsy" Review
Okay, buckle up kids, because this one is a doozy. The Bold Type has finally decided to tackle gun control. And yes, they really made Sutton Brady agree with the sentiment “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Anyway, let me start at the beginning.
Jane is preparing for her first day back at Scarlet, and Sutton is helping her chose a “back to work outfit” appropriate for her triumphant return. Jane finds a heavy case in Sutton’s closet, making jokes about why she felt the need to lock up her “clarinet.” Oh, poor sweet Jane. After a bit of pressure from Jane, Sutton admits it’s actually her gun.
Now, this scene was in one of the sneak peaks for the episode, so it’s not really a surprise. I was intrigued to learn Sutton’s reasoning for having a gun and the conversation it might spark between her, Kat and Jane, but I couldn’t have been more disappointed.
Jane is confused and a little confrontational with Sutton: is she also hiding a MAGA hat in the apartment? I think we’ve all experienced that horror, especially in the wake of the 2016 election, when we make a joke about Hillary’s emails while hanging out with friends and one of them says something like “well, don’t you think that should have disqualified her from the presidency?” At which point I turn my head around like I’m in the exorcist, almost spitting out my gin and tonic at the realization that this person I thought I could trust is…. A Republican. Cue horror movie music as my life flashes before my eyes.
Now, Sutton isn’t exactly a member of the far right, but Jane’s fear is still the same. While it was a little harsh for her to group Sutton in with Mango Mussolini supporters, I understand her panic. Never did she think that Sutton would own a gun, much less keep on in their apartment.
Not to mention, Sutton is so incredibly rude to Jane about her uncomfortableness. As Jane mentions later on, she was in first grade when the Columbine shooting occurred. It happened five miles away from her elementary school, and from that day on she feared that it would happen in her school. It’s not at all unreasonable for someone with this experience, combined with the fact that Jane has never been around guns in her life, to be at least a little uneasy with a gun in her apartment.
Sutton is still on defense, accusing Jane of judging her because she’s a gun owner. Sure, I can reconcile with the fact that Jane jumped to a few conclusions. Not all gun owners are the same. Not all gun owners voted for Cinnamon Hitler. Just because Sutton owns one doesn’t mean she is conservative. She tells Jane that she supports stricter background checks and an assault rifle ban. That’s great! But I do have a few (okay, a lot) of issues with how Sutton handles this situation.
First of all, she rudely tells Jane that she didn’t have to tell her about the gun. I, for one, think that Jane deserves to know, since she’s also paying rent there. It’s also illegal in New York to keep gun ownership from anyone living with you: there needs to be a signed affidavit to show that each roommate is aware of guns of any kind.
She ends up showing Jane and Kat her gun later on, hoping that seeing it up close would take some of Jane’s fear away and help her realize that while it’s in the case and not loaded, it’s harmless. This doesn’t work, to say the least. This is where Jane opens up about her memories of the Columbine shooting, and in a line snatched straight from a modern headline, she says she was so afraid that her school would be next that she threw away her light up sneakers so a shooter would be less likely to see her.
Sutton keeps using the excuse that she “only has a shotgun,” and while I’m happy that they didn’t give her an AR-15, this defense seems pretty weak to me. As Jane says, the Columbine shooters were able to kill 13 and injure 20 with a shotgun each. This is when Sutton agrees with the tired rhetoric of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
I cannot believe, after 154 mass shootings this year (as of June 28), we’re still entertaining this bullshit. These two things aren’t mutually exclusive: you can’t separate the two, and you’re foolish if you think you can. People WITH guns kill people. A gun doesn’t have a mind of its own and it can’t make its own choices. People do that.
As Marie Sirois of Medium says, “It’s a ridiculous argument, implying “people kill people” as if having a mental illness is synonymous with being a mass murderer. Or, as if mass gun shootings would suddenly cease if only we fixed our huge mental health problem. The USA isn’t the only advanced country on Earth with a mental health problem, but we are the only advanced country on Earth who sees these kind of mass shootings every few months.”
Hear that? We’re the only country on Earth that sees these kinds of shootings. The only one.
Now, as far as sides go, it’s not a secret I support Jane in this scenario barring her initial judgment of Sutton. She has a few main justifications for wanting to keep her gun in the apartment, and while she does own it legally and therefore has a right to keep it, her specific set of reasoning seems misplaced to me.
I’ve already mentioned the fact that Sutton keeps saying it’s “only” a shotgun, but we all know damage can also be done with a shotgun. Mass shootings aren’t only committed with AR-15s, kids. A shotgun is still a deadly weapon. Sutton also dismisses Jane’s concern with safety, saying that “lots of things are dangerous. Cars, medicine…”
Medicine? @ the writers room: please explain what the thought process was behind this one. Please don’t tell me Sutton is also an anti-vaxxer.
This is one of the dumbest things Sutton could say, honestly. Cars are made for transportation, guns are made to kill things. In Sutton’s case, her gun’s purpose is to kill birds (even though she only uses it to shoot skeet). A car, for most people, is also necessary for survival. They provide transportation to work, to stores to pick up food, and taking your kids to school. Unless you’re riding your shotgun around like a broomstick to go to Target, this argument is useless.
Sutton also uses her background as a reason. She’s from rural Pennsylvania, a place so comfortable with guns that they had a shooting club at school that she was a part of. She grew up around shooting for sport and for hunting; it’s a part of her hometown. That’s all well and good, but Sutton doesn’t live in Pennsylvania anymore. This argument has no relevance as long as Sutton is in a place that is the polar opposite of her rural hometown.
It’s also not clear as to why exactly Sutton is clinging so hard to this gun. She told Jane herself that she doesn’t keep ammunition in the apartment, so it’s clearly not for protection. She doesn’t go hunting. She could have easily left the gun at home while still being able to go to gun ranges and practice shooting. Most gun ranges give you the option of using one of their guns instead of bringing your own, so I don’t see the problem. Jane isn’t asking her to get rid of her gun completely: she just feels uneasy with it in the apartment.
Another way Sutton dismisses Jane’s concern is that she says she is very cautious and careful around her gun. She doesn’t keep it loaded, and she can easily recite the cardinal rules of gun ownership (never point it at anyone, always act as if it’s loaded) to Kat and Jane. Later, while all three are at the gun range in an attempt to get used to the gun, Jane has a bit of a breakdown after firing it. She tells Sutton that she hated firing it, and that she could feel how deadly it is. Instead of having any sort of empathy, Sutton basically yells at Jane. She says that they’re safe there, and that she’s really good at handling the gun so there shouldn’t be any worries.
First of all, shooting ranges aren’t necessarily safe. Recently an employee of a gun range in Texas accidentally shot and killed an innocent bystander. People who have grown up with guns their whole lives aren’t immune to tragic accidents. Honestly, just Google how many accidental shooting deaths occur every year. While it’s great that Sutton is responsible, that doesn’t prevent an accident from happening.
It’s also worth mentioning that while Sutton is a responsible gun owner, a ton of people aren’t. This is something that people don’t consider when defending things like gun regulations. If you’re familiar with guns and know how to handle one, certain restrictions or required training might be a nuisance. However, they’re vital for other people to be able to handle guns responsibly.
All of this aside, the major issue here is that Jane genuinely feels uncomfortable in her own apartment, and Sutton doesn’t seem to care in the slightest. She’s actually angry at Jane.
While it’s obvious that the aim of the episode was to reconcile the fact that not all gun owners are MAGA hat wearing, Adolf Twitler supporting bigots, I have a problem with the framing of the issue here. They made the episode entirely too much about the comfort of gun owners and gun ownership, ignoring the current gun control crisis we’re dealing with in the United States.
We learn later that Sutton is so reluctant to let go of her gun because it’s something that she can control at a time in her life when it seems like she doesn’t have any. She can go to the gun range, aim at a target, shoot, and hit it. Simple. Jane picks up on Sutton’s time in the shooting club at school as well. Sutton’s mom had a bit of a drinking problem, which left Sutton picking up the pieces. Shooting was a way for her to maintain control then, same as now.
I actually think this issue of control in terms of gun ownership could be fascinating, but that’s not what this episode chose to focus on. Everything was about Sutton, and for a country that’s in the middle of a gun crisis, a storyline emphasising the fact that there are some gun owners in the middle of the political divide doesn’t do anyone any good. We don’t need stories about good gun owners; this only serves as a distraction. The Bold Type could have taken this in many useful directions and chose none of them. For Christ’s sake, in this country it’s illegal to even do research about the public health impact of guns because of a 1990's amendment, which, of course, passed with the strong backing of the NRA. There wasn’t even an attempt at bringing these facts to light.
And what’s missing from the story once again? Race. People of color are especially common victims of gun violence. There’s also the hypocrisy of white people defending gun ownership while accepting the deaths of black folks because a police officer “thought they were holding a gun.” In 2016 Alton Sterling, who was in legal possession of a gun in an open carry state, was murdered by police after they got a call about a black man with a gun. The reaction from the NRA? Radio silence. And not one mention in this episode.
My other biggest issue here is Sutton’s constant complaining about being judged by Jane. Big picture, please. While Sutton is worried about judgment, people are afraid for their lives, yet her concern is prioritized. In no scenario does the desire to maintain a hobby have precedence over the lives and feelings of those who have lost loved ones in a violent, avoidable shooting. That doesn’t mean everyone has to give up their guns — it means gun owners need to be aware of the trauma associated with gun ownership to some people. That’s the world we live in now, like it or not.
They of course end the episode with Jane and Sutton reconciling, with Sutton actually getting rid of her gun. It’s a typical “feel good” ending, but does little service to the issue at hand. The Bold Type can and should take more time on issues such as this, but continues to choose single episode arcs. Unfortunately it hurt more than it helped this time.
I live two hours away from Newtown, Connecticut. When the elementary school shooting happened in 2012, I was twenty. My friend and I made the drive to Newtown the night that President Barack Obama gave a speech at the middle school, to an audience of the victim’s families. To get there, we had to park a good distance away and walk in the freezing cold because of the amount of people attending.
We walked by that famous fence, adorned with twenty-six angel cut outs, one for each victim. We walked by a large memorial in the center of town filled with candles, flowers, stuffed animals and pictures. Twenty little faces stared at all of us from between the candles. All I could think of was my brother when he was that age. We walked closer to the middle school, listening to President Obama deliver his speech over the loudspeakers.
All around us people were sobbing, clutching their children close to them, wondering what in the world would it take for people to loosen their grips on their guns. There were reporters everywhere, interviewing those attending the vigil and asking the questions that they always ask when these things happen: do you think this is the last straw? Will anything change? It turns out that burying twenty children at Christmas time wasn’t enough incentive.
I’ll end with this. To The Bold Type: do better.
The Bold Type airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.