Tuesday, August 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Bold Type' - Sutton Struggles to Get Paid for What She's Worth in 'No Feminism in the Champagne Room'

Freeform's The Bold Type - Episode 1.05 "No Feminism in the Champagne Room"

Jane is stunned when the subject of her latest article, a woman who left a finance job to become an exotic dancer, threatens to sue Scarlet - and Jane. Sutton is excited when she thinks she's making a step forward in her career. Kat questions whether she is ready for a real relationship with anyone, especially in light of recent events with Adena.

The Bold Type has proven itself to be a very smart and insightful workplace show. It reflects the kind of professional dynamics that are common in today's world. Yes, there are contrivances in order to make things more dramatic for a television show. But it also feels very real and lived in. It's a business that is encouraging while also incredibly stressful. All of the situations that Jane, Kat and Sutton find themselves in feel very true to life. The only real problem at this point in the season is the fact that Jane's stories are much more episodic while Kat and Sutton's have been ongoing. Every week Jane finds herself in a new situation at work. She discovers some new aspect of the job that surprises her and she's uncertain of herself because she doesn't know how to properly handle it. It's a good and understandable storytelling structure. But it's also led to Jane's character arc being a bit more scattered and erratic than Kat and Sutton's. The two of them have stories that flow from episode to episode. They keep building based on what has happened in previous weeks. With Jane, it does feel like she keeps learning from her mistakes and growing as a writer for the magazine. But it also feels like she has the same reaction and story each week. It's gotten a little too repetitive which keeps her stories from standing out in the same kind of emotionally strong way they do for Kat and Sutton.

So this week Jane gets sued for the first time because of an article she wrote. She's completely surprised by it because she believes she did such an exceptional job with this story. She believes she lifted her subject up as a feminist icon. She wrote about a woman who left a job on Wall Street in order to become a stripper. Jane felt empowered by this person's life story. And yet, the show reveals that Jane really didn't put in the work to truly understand the subject of her article. It was all just empty words praising her while also revealing her identity to the world. Jane beloved she was being careful. She didn't think she would be exposing anyone's identity. But she wasn't. She didn't put in the effort to truly get the whole story. And so, she's taken aback upon learning that this woman had a son who was expelled from his private school because of the article. She had no idea that this kid existed. That proves that she can still be really naive when it comes to this job. She saw this woman as a feminist icon and not a person. In the midst of being sued, Jane saw her as a stripper too. She meant it in a condescending and judgmental way. She didn't have the empathy to understand. Her realizing that is the basis for this whole story.

But again, it just feels incredibly forced in order to give Jane a big lesson. That seems to be the standard operating procedure for her stories. She freaks out and grows incredibly neurotic about something. She needs to be reassured by multiple people that things will ultimately work out. But she carries so much guilt around with her. She is constantly feeling the pressure to do her best and impress Jacqueline. She believes any kind of failure will ultimately doom her career. That's a completely unfounded criticism but it's still something that Jane believes. Jacqueline is much more encouraging than that. In fact, all of the writers believe that it's inevitable that Jane will get sued. It's just something that will happen because not everyone will understand or respect the articles that she writes. She simply has to get used to it. She doesn't though. This is a scary thing for her. She doesn't know what to do. The magazine already has the systems in place to resolve this situation for her. She doesn't need to do anything. Anything she does do will only make the situation worse. And of course, the show takes that formulaic route to provide some twists in this story. As such, it's a little too predictable to ultimately work. But again, she learns from it and will have a completely new story next episode. So, it's not all that damaging to the show at large. It's just less exciting than what's happening elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Sutton's story is incredibly empowering. It's absolutely terrific because it details the fears and worries that come from asking to be paid what you're worth. She fought hard to get the job in the fashion department. And now, she learns she'll be paid less there than when she was Lauren's assistant. Lauren has already found her replacement as well. So, this job is the only place she has to go. But does she just accept it knowing it's a step down? Or should she fight and potentially lose it because she was asking for too much? It's so relatable and absolutely nerve-wrecking as well. She believes she has the experience to deserve to be paid more. But she also faces resistance because Oliver doesn't have the budget to pay her any more than what he's offering. It's refreshing to see there is no malice to Oliver's decision. He's offering her the same amount of money he would offer anyone in this position. He's not trying to take advantage of her knowing that Lauren has already replaced her. There's just nothing he can do to give her a better offer. It's ultimately up to Sutton to find the solution and have the confidence to actually stand up for what she deserves. She may be taking a pay cut but she'll be getting more perks with this job. She asks for more benefits and Oliver is very understanding of her demands because she has already figured out how they can be met. She put in the work to show that all of this is doable for the department. That shows how valuable she can be. She has the confidence to walk in there having already figured everything out. If Oliver said no, then it really wouldn't have been a job worth taking because he would never respect her enough. This way she proves her worth and gets rewarded for it which is so phenomenal to watch.

And finally, Kat's relationship with Adena takes a couple of really heartbreaking and nerve-wrecking turns as well. This dynamic has been talked up for so much this season. It's the relationship that defines both of the characters. Kat has found herself surprised by being this interested in a woman. And now, it's revealed that she has such a crippling fear of relationships. She struggles when it comes to dealing with really big, weighty issues. She loves casual, low maintenance relationships. They aren't stressful. But with this, she finds herself really opening up to another person. That's incredibly scary. She has no idea how to act around Adena. She's just so nervous. It's not about this being a gay relationship. It's just a relationship for her. That's such a moving sentiment to hear. The fact that Adena is a woman has never to do with why Kat is stressing out right now. Everyone is accepting and happy for Kat about what has happened. And yet, the more real it gets the more she wants to bail. She can't handle the pressure of being the reason why a three-year relationship is breaking up. Coco hasn't been a significant character. She was only glimpsed once. But it was still a relationship that meant something to Adena. She struggles to end things even though she knows it's the right thing to do. But it's still a very daunting task that Kat doesn't know how to react to. She would rather run-in and end things now before things get any more intense. She breaks it off by text which is absolutely the worst way to deliver that message. She ruins things before they ever get started. When she finally has the courage to face up to her faults and try her best at something real, Adena has already moved on. She's heading to Paris to figure things out with Coco. It's such a devastating ending. The show has built this couple up as a main fixture of the show. And now, they are falling apart just when things are getting serious. It's understandable but really heart-breaking as well.

Some more thoughts:
  • "No Feminism in the Champagne Room" was written by Lynn Sternberger and directed by Jamie Travis.
  • So, when exactly did Jane have time to write and publish this article about the former Wall Street banker-turned-stripper? The story clearly takes place the following day from last week's episode because of Kat spending the night with Adena. But Jane's article is already in the print magazine and being distributed throughout the world.
  • Jane's story also pairs her with Richard. That had the potential to be an interesting pairing. And yet, it's largely a professional dynamic. She pleads with him to be straight with her because of his relationship with Sutton. Her knowing that and talking about it isn't a big deal. Plus, it doesn't seem like Richard changes anything in his handling of Jane after that moment.
  • There's a brief moment where it seems like Kat's story is going to be about a tweet she sent on accident complaining about her love life. It's a pretty melodramatic moment meant to build tension. And yet, it vanishes just as easily as it pops up because Jacqueline is really understanding and can sense that Kat is struggling in her personal life. 
  • At first, it doesn't seem like Jane and Kat are helpful for Sutton as she tries figuring out what to do. If she doesn't have a job at Scarlet, her life will fall apart because she has no safety net. But they prove themselves to be there for her by offering to help financially support her should she lose the job and face an uncertain future.
  • Is this the first Freeform show where the characters say "shit"? It works in this universe because it helps reflect how these characters would actually talk. It also continues to show that Freeform is serious about evolving its brand. It's no longer family friendly but this show is still so inspiring to watch and uses swearing appropriately.