Tina Kakadelis
YA Author

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Burn Before Reading: A Carly Allen Story

The Bold Type is the Show 2017 Needs

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So, here we are, guys. The finale of The Bold Type and I’m sad. Like really ducking sad.

This week’s episode dealt with sexual assault. So many TV shows use sexual assault and rape as a shock value. Jeremy Slater was (is? I don’t know if this show got canceled) the executive producer of Fox’s revival of The Exorcist. When he was trying to find writers for the show, he had to go through two-hundred some scripts. He threw out any script that used rape as a means of shock value.

Of the two hundred scripts he read through, at least 40 used rape as a plot device.

That’s 20%. Twenty. Percent. WHAT??

All that info comes from a Variety article about this epidemic of poorly written sexual assault in media. As I’ve said every single day of my life, pop culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It never has and it never will. A woman writer in the article who wanted to stay nameless said that rape has “become shorthand for backstory and drama.” And a lot of times, the show then doesn’t even focus on how the woman feels afterward, but somehow the assault becomes about her boyfriend or husband. So many times, a woman’s sexual assault experience is the inciting incident in the man’s storyline.

Tell me. How in the hell is a woman’s sexual assault about her husband??

Here’s a really important quote from the article about a rape scene from Game of Thrones. Instead of shooting the scene from the perspective of Sansa, the woman being raped, the show's more concerned with how some dude is feeling.

“A guy actually came back at me and said ‘Fine, would you rather have seen [it from Sansa’s point of view]’?” And I said yes, actually,” the veteran female writer said. “If you’re going to do it, show it, and show it from the P.O.V. from the woman, and don’t use it as a way to motivate a male character.”

How are you truly going to stand there and exasperatedly ask if the women who is being raped should really be the focus of the scene??

Of course there are ways to write sexual assault in a way that’s truthful. Jessica Jones does an impeccable job, Ava DuVernay on Queen Sugar, Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal, all of Sweet/Vicious. Those are the exceptions, though, not the norm.

The Bold Type has not been shy about talking important topics and they weren’t shy here. Jane, the writer of the group, has been trying to get her boss to let her write about this woman in Central Park since the first episode. As a performance piece, the woman, Mia, holds weights in both of her hands. It's a direct reference to Emma Sulkowicz and her Carry That Weight movement.

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When Jane first interviews Mia, she asks if Mia intends to hold the weights for the foreseeable future. Mia says, “I still think that there’s enough women and men like me who never got justice that we could go on carrying the weights forever.” After she says this, a woman walks up and takes a turn holding the weights. It’s concise, clear, powerful, and proof you don't need a graphic rape scene to understand the way sexual assault impacts a person's life.

I know I can’t carry your weights for you, but…I was thinking maybe I could stand with you for a little while.

I think Jane's line to Mia later in the episode truly resonates with the entirety of the show because not only does it emphasize the importance of wholeheartedly supporting sexual assault survivors, but it hammers home the idea of showing up. When things are bad in your life or you feel lost, you just want somebody to notice what you're going through. To answer your phone call or be there. A lot of times, being there is more than enough.

That’s the heart of the show. Throughout all ten episodes, the girls have been there for each other. Thick and thin. Always. Ride or die platonic soulmates. When times are hard, they’re there for each other. It’s truly a celebration of strong, impassioned, young women who are just trying to figure out their place in the world. It’s refreshing to see these girls stumble or make the wrong choice because it throws the stereotype of the “perfect” woman out the window. Perfection is overrated. Just ask Sutton, Kat, and Tiny Jane.

As for criticisms for the show, I’ve seen a lot of articles commenting on the fact that are way too many poppy ballads played over moments that don’t need them. To that I say it’s Freeform. It’s a teen audience geared show on a teen network. Criticizing their use of music is not fully understanding the genre that it comes from. It’s like criticizing noir films for their lighting choices. (Yeah, I just compared teen dramas to noir films, what're you gonna say about it, pretentious film boys? Genre is genre is genre.)

At the end of the day, this show is important. It’s come about in a messed up time on this planet and it’s exactly what we need. It’s this beautiful mix of fun lightheartedness (Meghann Fahy is a comedic dream) and no holds bar empowerment. That’s what we need. We need love and we need strength. I’m sick of watching these anti-hero white men shows. I’m sick of Breaking Bad and Mad Men and these guys that I’m supposed to care about even though they don't deserve it. Even in the superhero world. The new Batman v. Superman movie was more broody than it needed to be. There are more than enough garbage people in the real world, so I don’t need to see them in fiction.

I want good people. I want somebody to root for. And I’m rooting for these girls and every single other character on the show. (How do I not hate a single recurring character??) They make mistakes and are by no means perfect, but they’re trying. The older I get, the more respect I have for people that are out there trying. I think when you’re young, you’re rooting for the overnight sensations or the people that are too cool to care, but when you get older, you understand that it’s cooler to care and to try. It’s the coolest thing on the planet to care. Give a damn about something that matters to you. About the thing that makes you excited to start every single day. About anything. Be vulnerable. Give a damn.

Here's to having adventures. To making mistakes. To sleeping with the wrong people and the right people. And to unleashing holy hell.

Here's to The Bold Type. Binge the hell outta this show, guys. You will not be disappointed.