The Bold Truth of “The Bold Type”

Image courtesy of rubensramblings.com

“The Bold Type” cast image courtesy of rubensramblings.com

When Fashion Reverie heard about a new fashion-based series, “The Bold Type” on Freeform (formerly ABC Family) expectations were low. Based on the description, an exciting drama set in a fashion magazine following the adventures of three women in their late 20’s, Fashion Reverie’s first thought was a “Sex and the City”/”Devil Wears Prada” rip-off with a dash of “Pretty Little Liars” thrown in to brew up a flavorless tea. That “The Bold Type” was debuting during the summer season, a time when so many networks burn off their rejects, didn’t help our opinions.

Depictions of the fashion world in popular culture has always been problematic and a thin veil for aimlessness. From Mallory Keaton on “Family Ties” on NBC in the 80’s to the current portrayal of Hailey Pritchett on ABC’s “Modern Family,” an interest in fashion has been shorthand for being shallow and dumb.

Well, Fashion Reverie is pleased, if a little shocked, to report “The Bold Type” bucks the trend of fashion magazine’s airheaded, but fashionable staffers, depicting an honest, if exaggerated, version of the halls of the fictional Scarlet Magazine. (It’s about time!!)

Image courtesy of thehollywoodreporter.com

Image courtesy of thehollywoodreporter.com

ABC’s “Ugly Betty” showed us the inner workings of Mode Magazine, except the staffers never really worked, did they? There were frequent staff meetings, but it seemed like no work was ever done. In its pilot episode “The Bold Type” shows a fashion magazine presenting its August issue to the board of directors—all major fashion magazines answer to a board of directors that represents the investors interests—who question aspects of articles and ask about advertising.

Yes, the editorial staff of Scarlet Magazine writes articles, and does other things that are critical to a magazine’s success. The show even takes the time to depict the articles as something that WOULD appear in Marie Claire or ELLE.

Melora Hardin image courtesy of freeform.com

Melora Hardin image courtesy of freeform.com

The “The Bold Type’s” main character, Jane, portrayed by Katie Stevens, has spent years as an intern and assistant before landing a job as a staff writer. Okay, she is absurdly young to be a staff writer; however, her portrayal feels authentic. Asked to come up with ten ideas for her first day, an overly excited Jane comes up with 20 only to be crushed when succinctly told by Editor-in-Chief Jacqueline (played by Melora Hardin), “These aren’t working for me, what else do you have?”

The “The Devil Wears Prada” may have been a big hit commercially but among some actual fashion industry professionals, it was reviled. Not only did it illustrate a view that working for a fashion magazine despite being exhausting never seemed to involve any writing or editorial work, but “The Devil Wears Prada” writer Lauren Weisburger never attempted to disguised main character’s Andie Sach’s contempt for fashion. Weisburger’s doppelganger Andie Sachs took pains to remind us that working for a fashion magazine was beneath her. While stories about Anna Wintour’s legendary diva status abound, there can be not debate she turned American Vogue around at time when it desperately needed an overhaul (whether or not American Vogue needs an overhaul now … is another matter), Wintour is well-educated, insanely smart, financially savvy, and dead serious about her job. (Any editor-in-chief whose magazine has subscribers numbering the millions, HAS to be or they will be replaced in minutes.)

It would have been very easy (and more than a bit misogynist) to show Jacqueline as a dragon lady, bitterly jealous of her younger counterparts and treating them with cruelty as a result. “The Bold Type” executive producer Joanna Coles, former editor-in-chief of ELLE and current Chief Content Officer for Hearst Magazines, refused to let this cliché stand.   In order to spearhead a global and extraordinarily influential media operation effectively, an editor-in-chief must work with her staff to get the best from them, challenging them to push themselves beyond their comfort zones.

Image courtesy of thebusinessinsider.com

Image courtesy of thebusinessinsider.com

That said; “The Bold Type” is television so there are some uneven elements. Would a busy editor-in-chief really have so much time to mentor people just one step above entry level? How does the show’s unpaid staffer afford the high-end designer clothes they wear? What do characters Jane and Sutton’s afford their palatial Brooklyn apartment with a GIANT living room? (Are they trust-fund kids, with rich parents helping out?)

Still, none of these uneven elements detracts from the main takeaway of “The Bold Type” which is that fashion journalism can be a difficult and exhausting, but also a fun and important job.  At a time when Teen Vogue is featuring excellent political coverage aimed at young people, the level of empowerment cannot be understated.

And as Scarlet Magazine would argue, if you can change the world wearing a killer pair of heels that only makes your victory that much sweeter. “The Bold Type” airs on ABC’s Freeform channel on Tuesday nights at 9pm.

—Cameron Grey Rose

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