When I first saw an ad for the TV show The Bold Type, my immediate reaction was just, “no.” The trailer screams about the emergence of a queer Muslim woman artist that the magazine “Scarlet” is hoping to feature. More like dying to show off, it seemed. If “bold” meant fetishism and sensationalism, the show couldn’t be as progressive as it claimed. After the first couple of seasons aired, it finally piqued my curiosity when I was looking for something to watch out of boredom. It turns out that the character of Adena, proud lesbian and Muslim, was believable and complex. A passionate artist, she develops a relationship with one of the three main characters of the show, Kat, head of social media at Scarlet. The effort to represent diverse relationships is one of the central themes of The Bold Type. I can’t speak for a member of that community, but it seemed that fortunately the representation didn’t fall right into the trap of tokenism. As the seasons progress, we find Kat exploring the nuances of her sexuality and how her relationships are affected by her changing self-awareness. On the other hand, Kat, and Aisha Dee, the actress who plays her, have some unfairly heavy burdens. In a Vulture article, Dee revealed that the production was sorely lacking when it came to BIPOC representation, commenting that “in her time as Kat, it took ‘three seasons to get someone in the hair department who knew how to work with textured hair,’ and two seasons to get a single BIPOC in the writers’ room, ‘and even then, the responsibility to speak for the entire Black experience cannot and should not fall on one person.’ There were no LGBTQ Black or Muslim writers on staff when they wrote that tumultuous love story of a queer Black woman and a lesbian Muslim woman, she adds.” Disappointing, to say the least. Fortunately, the producers of the show reacted positively, releasing a statement showing their support and willingness to hear Dee’s input. A striking facet of The Bold Type is that it doesn’t put the characters on a pedestal in order to accomplish the goal of portraying strong women. They make mistakes in their work and personal lives, at times comically (or seriously) disappointing their bosses or unsuccessfully navigating personal relationships. Kat struggles with communication issues with her partners. Jane, a writer at the magazine, has difficulty with intimacy. Sutton, the aspiring stylist and current assistant, shows the ups and downs of a relationship with a much older man who is also an attorney at the magazine. Her character also deals with a difficult relationship with her mother. The straightforward and rapid trajectories of their careers still keep the mood light as long as the women are at Scarlet, almost as if the magazine serves as a sanctuary from the real world. It’s unsurprising that “A series that was marketed as a walking Net-a-Porter ad for surface-level feminism, The Bold Type quickly and skillfully crafted an escapist media-world fantasy where, one night a week, a career in journalism was as easy as a fully funded magazine.” That is until a major plot point throws a wrench into Kat’s career, but the result is still positive in the end. Instead, complex issues are given to Jane, the writer character, to explore. If someone were wondering why the rampant sexism of corporate America wasn’t being represented, they would find it in Jane’s articles. She takes on investigative pieces about sexual assault and unfair treatment, as well as more personal and moving articles, prodded by Scarlet’s editor-in-chief. Jacqueline, Scarlet’s editor in chief, is portrayed as a mentor to her staff and especially to Jane. The talented Melora Hardin plays a sharp, but kind and mission and driven boss. One critic observed that the feminism of Scarlet’s leadership is “inclusionary and intersectional in a way real life never was” but it’s definitely something to aspire to. A good mentor pushes you out of your comfort zone and is always in your corner, much like Jacqueline. Where similar shows such as Girls and Sex and the City fail, The Bold Type picks up the diversity torch and carries it a little more successfully. Sex and the City has to be acknowledged as a landmark in exploring taboos and portraying empowered women, but it fell short of the mark in representation. It should still be recognized for paving the way for shows such as The Bold Type or even Insecure to focus on other aspects of women’s lives so sexual independence can be treated as a given. The Bold Type writes different characters and plotlines without such a large focus on their romantic relationships. Instead, the plot is just wholly interesting. Each of the three main characters has their own unique storylines in every episode. Whether it’s a rising career move or dramatic identity conflict, each character is fully developed. The female friendships feel authentic and male characters don’t just serve as significant others or romantic partners. In fact, one episode handles a difficult topic centering a (male) Scarlet staff member’s controversial sexual encounter. It’s rare to find accurate representation of ambitious, independent women. Maybe The Bold Type sells a bit of a fantasy, but its shiny, hopeful aesthetics are still endearing, which is the complete opposite of its first impression.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.
We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.
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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.