Tuesday, July 25, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Bold Type' - Sutton Struggles with a Decision That Could Affect Her Career in 'If You Can't Do It With Feeling'

Freeform's The Bold Type - Episode 1.04 "If You Can't Do It With Feeling"

Sutton is flustered when someone at Scarlet has the wrong impression of her professional background. Jane is determined to prove she can have a friends with benefit relationship without feelings getting in the way. Kat and Adena continue growing closer.

One of the most empowering things about The Bold Type so far is that its core message is people needing to be passionate about what they do while also not being afraid to get personal in order to stand out. That's the approach the narrative has taken on a number of its stories so far. These characters are each individuals with unique perspectives in this world. It's a fascinating blend that all needs to come together in order to make the magazine a success. Jacqueline is very encouraging of new voices. She wants people to speak their truths and open up despite it being very personal. She believes that's where true greatness comes from. An article will only be distinctive if the author has a point-of-view that they believe in and are able to articulate well. Others can disagree. It's scary to be so vulnerable in a world of growing toxicity. But it can be very rewarding as well. That's the mission statement Jacqueline wants to live by. She has a bold vision for Scarlett. She wants to be a leader in the industry. She wants to prove to the world that magazines are still relevant. The reporting that Scarlett does is still worth investing in. These are ever-changing and unpredictable times. She feels it's her duty to stand out and give the readers what they are craving for. That's an always changing target as well. The magazine needs to adjust to the times and cover the stories that are important for the audience it is trying to appeal to. There's a key parallel between the readers of Scarlett in the show and the audience for The Bold Type. The show is aware of that and plays into it in an insightful way that doesn't diminish the stories by becoming too preachy about any particular subject.

"If You Can't Do It With Feeling" also makes it clear that the show wants to discuss politics right now. It wasn't just a one time thing to give Jane a story in one episode that could hit a nice resolution and be done. That's good because I had some reservations about last week's story. It represented a key pivot for Jane. She no longer wanted to be seen as a relationship writer. She didn't want to just tell stories about stalking exes or not having orgasms. This episode even shows that she is evolving already. She has her first orgasm ever with her new boyfriend, Ryan. She may not want to use that term but their relationship is much more than just casual sex right now. Ryan is making a point to actually be engaged in her life. That's nice. It's comforting to see her experience all of this without any judgment whatsoever. Yes, her friends think she may be overthinking this relationship. But it turns out that she doesn't really need their advice after all. That's empowering too. But more importantly, it shows that Jane is changing. She got a lot of attention with her piece from last week's episode drawing a link between politics and clothes. And now, Jacqueline is hoping to use that as a way to provide more political coverage at the magazine. That's a fascinating stance to take. It's a subject the magazine has covered before but it's not what it's primarily known for. Jacqueline hopes to chance that because young readers want to be politically active.

Of course, Jane gets overwhelmed by the thought of the magazine's political future resting on her shoulders. She brought this attention to the magazine. She's been invited to a panel to speak about reporting on politics to a younger audience. It's a great honor for her. She sees it as her getting the approval and respect of people she admires. She's being taken seriously as a writer whose words can change the word. It's not surprising that her confidence is cut down immediately at the panel. She is the least experienced and acclaimed writer on the stage. But that's not used as an excuse to make Jane fall on her face in order to amp up some ridiculous twist. Instead, it just further reveals her insecurities. She knows what she's talking about. She gets a great line in at the start of the discussion. It's a line that everyone chooses to focus on too because of its simplicity. Yes, the panelists can discuss whether the issue really boils down to that. But it makes for an easy soundbite that can be articulated to the rest of the world. Jane is too self-conscious but she doesn't need a rousing speech from Jacqueline in order to feel better. She just needs to be pointed in the right direction to see the influence she has in the world. That's empowering in its own way because it bucks the traditional storytelling pattern in a way that feels more genuine.

Elsewhere, Sutton's story continues to be so fascinating and strong. It's immensely relatable. Anyone who has ever worked as an assistant but aspired to more can relate. It's the every day struggle of pursuing something that one is creatively passionate about or doing something that is practical which would allow for a stable life. Sutton has been an assistant for three years. She wants this job in the fashion department. She would still be an assistant but she would be helping with something that she's actually passionate about instead of just running to get green juice. The odds are staked against her. Oliver believes her to be someone she's not. He is capable of making that mistake because he's in a position of power. Sutton can't because any false move will immediately destroy her chances of getting this job. So, she has a decision to make. Does she correct her potential boss and reveal that she doesn't have any experience? Or does she prop up the lie in order to get the job? It's a huge dilemma that is still relatable. And of course, it all ultimately goes wrong for her too. She lies and gets exposed. That's why she doesn't get the job. The show wisely doesn't have her blame anyone else either. She was following Kat's suggestion and Richard ultimately revealed the truth to Oliver. But Sutton needs to step up and take all of the blame because she was still the person who made the choice to lie. Her accepting that is very endearing and makes the audience want her to win somehow. And of course, she does ultimately get the job simply by stepping up and showing Oliver her true, authentic self. Yes, it's a little forced but it's a victory worth celebrating as well.

And finally, Kat needs to be honest about her own feelings towards Adena. The cliffhanger last week is resolved with Adena wanting Kat to write a character reference for her so she can extend her work visa. This turns out to be a very politically charged story as well. That's important. It's one thing to give a lot of lip service to the need to be politically accurate and active. It's another thing completely to actually show the realities of that and it's impact on the world. Kat and Adena do get to share a simple and sweet moment with each other while they just enjoy the city that surrounds them. It's beautiful to watch because it's so simple. It goes awry in a simple way too. It forces their differences to the surface as well. Kat is willing to take a stand and fight in the face of ignorance. She has the confidence to do that because she has no fear for what the consequences may be. But Adena has fear because any action could lead to her visa getting revoked. Even being in the proximity of a crime could have great consequences for her. Things were going so well between them but this incident has the potential to destroy everything. It all changes in an instant. Kat spends a night in jail and Adena just disappears. But it's great that they still find a way back to each other despite all of that. It forces Kat to be truthful with her feelings. They actually kiss. That's romantic and very moving. Plus, it feels very human and genuine. It's not a contrivance. It stems naturally out of the story and works because of that relaxed but very real quality.

Some more thoughts:
  • "If You Can't Do It With Feeling" was written by Wendy Straker Hauser and directed by Anna Mastro.
  • It's very realistic that Jacqueline would go to Richard in order to make the appeal to the board to expand political coverage in the magazine. And yet, it's a story that never really gets started. It's nice to see Jacqueline and Richard together. But it never really means anything. Jacqueline still does what she wants despite objections because she believes she's in the right.
  • It's very relatable that Kat doesn't know any phone number except her workplace's. At first, it's strange that Jacqueline is the person she calls to bail her out of jail. But after a beat, it makes sense because Kat's phone was taken away and storing phone numbers has gotten so easy over the years.
  • Jacqueline also teases that she wants Kat to write a story about her experience in order to kickoff the official launch of the new increased politic coverage. That seems like a nice way to bridge the various stories. But does writing come naturally to Kat like it does to Jane? Will she be able to make it personal in the way that Jacqueline loves? Hopefully, some time will be focused on this next week.
  • Jane, Kat and Sutton are always discussing something inappropriate at work. It's fine for them to do so because of the overall Scarlett environment. But it also feels very truthful that people are always walking in on them as they are discussing orgasms. And yet, it's also fun when they scramble to find a place to actually celebrate Sutton's new job.
  • So, Sutton gets her job because she reveals her past of coming up from nothing and having to work hard for everything she has and that being a parallel to Oliver's own story. It's a little too wonky to work. It's the show basically finding a way to get Sutton into this job despite the mistakes she has made.