English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Author: Jadah Peters

Finding Power in Powerlessness

In a feminist show like The Bold Type, women empowerment is obviously a focal point. Women are the critical thinkers that make impactful choices. Women are the people in positions of power. Even though the male executive board may be mentioned as being over Jacqueline in ranking, they are not given a face, a personality, or any sort of defining quality at all.  Women are what matter. However, only showing women in power is not enough to empower women; it’s not realistic. Even in instances in the show where a female character felt powerless like Sutton after thinking she lost the fashion assistant job, or Jane when she had no choice on the subject matter of her articles, or Kat when Adena chose to try reconcile things with her girlfriend, they were not truly powerless. The show validates this point completely nullifying these moments of weakness with near-perfect solutions to all these issues (Sutton gets the assistant job. Kat and Adena become serious. Jane gets a new job with more freedom). It’s not realistic. Episode 10, finally, truly, embraces the essence of powerlessness. Jane’s final piece for Scarlet is about a rape survivor, Mia, who never got justice within the court system, so as peaceful protest and living art, she stands in public in New York City holding a weighted scale in each hand symbolizing lady justice. The attention on Mia’s cause had severely died down, so to generate support again Kat organizes a livestream event. Digitally plenty of people breathe words of encouragement and support, but Mia is alone. Jacqueline points out how the virtual support means nothing which motivates the girls to leave Scarlet’s big bash to support Mia. Many things happened to the girls that week, that day, but the biggest moment was right then when they stepped up, locked hands, and stood together. Jacqueline sees the girls on the livestream and makes the decision to join them. She takes the weights signifying that she too is a rape survivor.

Jacqueline carrying the weights is my favorite scene out of the entire season. This is what being powerful really looks like.

This moment is so crucial to the integrity of the show. Jacqueline, arguably the most powerful woman in the entire show, had experienced being completely, utterly powerless. The woman who was always sharp in tongue and dress, the woman with absolute confidence, the woman who called the shots, was once completely, utterly powerless. It is equally important to see women powerless as it is to see them powerful because without acknowledging this state of utter powerlessness that countless women find themselves in, it would be completely impossible to build a bridge from that place to a place of liberation. Painting a picture of powerful women is important because it exemplifies what we are working towards, but failing to acknowledge what we’re running away from gives the problem the upper hand, driving us deeper into powerlessness.    Jacqueline expressed how she could never go back to normal after that tragedy; she had to adjust and find a new normal. That’s realistic. That’s power.

Writing About “A Small Orange Blur”

I researched Lynn Sternberg  who wrote episode 9 of The Bold Type. By research I mean that I did a light Google search, clicked on her Twitter profile, and skimmed through her posts. For a writer, she doesn’t write many of her own tweets; the majority of her posts are retweets, and many of  her retweets are political in nature which is unsurprising in light of episode 9’s content. Excluding episode 1, The Bold Type always begins with a voiceover that  briefly highlights past events of previous episodes and introduces the main characters, Sutton, Kat and Jane. The voiceover is done by a female whose accent is hard to place. It doesn’t add anything to the story, but I have a feeling it was meant to sound powerful and refined. The voiceover’s only purpose is the introduction in the beginning, so its only value is in setting the tone for the episode, but it’s hardly memorable. What is memorable is the dialogue of The Bold Type; it feels so real and organic. I can see my friends and I having the same conversations, well maybe not the exact same conversations, but the feeling is the same. There is such an authenticity to the dialogue in every episode, and this episode is no different. Where this episode does stand out though is in its external references to the current political climate. With witty comments slipped in such as describing a glimpse of Trump as “a small orange blur” and Jacqueline referring to Trump as “Number 45”, Sternberg sure had her fun expressing her political beliefs.

I thought I might put a picture of Trump here, but I though I’d spare us all that pain, and just add a picture of an orange cat to represent “a small orange blur”.

In addition to subtle and not so subtle jokes, the episode explicitly showcased protests against President Trump. As another angle, this episode also took a softer more personal tone with Adena’s deportation. Of course, I do not know what it feels like to be deported, but the episode did its best in detailing certain aspects of deportation: the uncertainty, the powerlessness, the loss.

This is from when Adena calls Kat to tell her she’s being deported. It’s so sad when people who have nothing to apologize for feel like they need to apologize.

Balancing both the joking element along with seriousness is really a smart way to go about an issue such as this. Even in the midst of Adena’s hardship, a bit of humor surfaced when Kat called the Immigrants’ Rights Hotline and it put her on hold saying “our current volume is extremely high” which is just a humorous way to allude to the massive mistreatment of immigrants in the United States. Another bit of writing with a deeper meaning is when one of the characters says “the president has things totally screwed up out here” in reference to New York City traffic being completely gridlocked due to the president’s visit to the city. I have a deep suspicion that this statement was not only a reaction to some extra traffic in New York City but also to the president’s actions in the United States in general because “the president has things totally screwed up out here” too.

Power Play: Women Can Do It All

The Bold Type tends to turn gender representation into a battle of the sexes. Episode 6 is a perfect example of this.

There always seems to be a power struggle between women and men. This image represents that struggle.

Women make the decisions that matter while the men end up being the ones ignored even when they have valid points. For example, Sutton misplaced a valuable pendant that she borrowed from a fellow assistant of another company. Richard, Sutton’s forbidden lawyer boyfriend, advises her to come clean about the missing necklace strictly based on his legal expertise. Sutton ignores his advice, and Richard is left watching things unfold from the sidelines. Because this is a TV show, everything falls in to place so that Sutton gets back the pendant and is vindicated in her decision to dismiss Richard. If this were real life where things don’t always work out so rosily, not taking Richard’s advice would likely have been a tremendous mistake. The show glosses over these kinds of alternatives because women are right and men are wrong. Although I am all for women empowerment, the show could afford to work a little harder to strike a balance between how each gender is represented. Within the same episode, Kat is on a rampage to “take down the patriarchy” through a free the nipple social media campaign. She justifies her actions as fueling women empowerment and breast cancer awareness, but with Jacqueline’s wise words, she realizes that her fight was less about the cause and more about winning. Kat’s actions were stemmed in her need for control. Everything really comes down to power.

When I searched girl power, and this image came up, I knew that The Powerpuff Girls would be the perfect representation of the girls in The Bold Type. Sutton is Blossom. Jane is Buttercup. Kat is Bubbles. No further discussion is necessary.

Kat, Sutton and Jane make many impactful decision that affect the course of their individual lives and the supporting characters around them, but Jacqueline is a sun so massive that its impossible for them to escape her gravitational pull. Although Jacqueline exudes power, the looming male force of the executive board eclipses her power. In spite of the limitations of her control, no one can question that Jacqueline is the boss. Often times women in such positions of power are seen as cold, calculating and bossy which aligns with what Jane says to Jacqueline in a fit of fury.  Jacqueline invites Jane to see the other side of her which is when the show reveals that Jacqueline has a husband and two sons. Typically such a thing wouldn’t serve as a twist or a surprise in any capacity, but in all the preceding episodes Jacqueline was only shown as the woman in charge. The show establishes Jacqueline as a boss first and a wife and mother second as a weapon against gender roles. In traditional gender roles, women are supposed to be wives and mothers first otherwise they are neglecting their families for their careers. Being a good mother and wife and being a career women are not mutually exclusive. Jacqueline is a boss at work and at home. Likewise, every episode Jacqueline somehow manages to be the girls’ biggest critique and biggest cheerleader which just goes to show women can do it all.

This clip is not from the particular episode I describe in this post, but I think it perfectly sums up Jacqueline’s mindset as a boss.

Everyone Must Wear Black!

The color scheme of this show is easily characterized as black. The three main characters all wear black. Boss lady Jacqueline wears all black. Supporting characters wear black. Even blurry figured extras in the background wear black. Day in and day out, the characters dress as if they are going to attend a funeral. Occasionally, characters do run out of funeral attire and begin to experiment with other colors.

Are they at an office or a funeral? The world may never know. I can only provide guesses to why the characters in the Bold Type are so opposed to wearing colors.

Aside from what the characters wear, the background typically displays a normal color scheme (grass is green, water is blue, taxis are yellow, etc.); indoors typically favors more neutral colors. In The Bold Type, cinematographic decisions are made to keep the focus on the characters because it concentrates on character development. The characters likely wear black the majority of the time so that their outfits don’t outshine them. The typical shots, in episode four especially, are long and follow the characters as they move within their environment, the audience sees what the main character sees. By doing these long, sweeping shots, the show has a smooth flow and the audience can really connect with the characters. Another way that the show keeps the characters highlighted is by shooting in shallow depth of field, meaning that the foreground which typically contains the characters is in focus whereas the rest of the scene is blurry. In terms of the lighting of this episode, the company building is always shown glistening in the sun, and unless it is night time, the characters are always well lit. Episode four stands out due to the way that it manipulates the lighting and shooting style during several critical plot points. One example of such cinematography is when Sutton had just found out that she is likely out of the running for the job she wanted, the lighting changed in such a way that it washed her out with almost a screen of fog, and there was bokeh ( typically appears as circles of unfocused light) all over the screen.

The circles of light in this picture are called bokeh if my description in the parentheses was not enough to understand what bokeh is.

This change in lighting is not only for dramatic effect but also to symbolize how things are unclear for Sutton because she rejected the stable job, but now the dream job has rejected her. Another moment that stood out in this episode is the series of quick shots that flashed between Sutton working on her mood board and Kat in the city at night. It was done partially to create of sort of montage of Sutton completing her project and partially to create a sense of suspense and mystery around where Kat was and what she was doing because the short takes only gave slight glimpses. The last element of unique cinematography is when Kat and Adena kiss, a sort of heavenly light shines down upon them. The episode concludes with this scene, this light, but heavenly light in the middle of the night cannot be trusted…

This moment is super important plot-wise, character development-wise, and of course cinematography-wise.

Female Representation in the News or Lack Thereof

Cochran, B. (2011). WOMEN’S ROLE IN MEDIA: BUILDING TOWARD AN EQUITABLE FUTURE. Medijske Studije = Media Studies, 2(3), 94-99. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1954227223?accountid=11107

Cochran celebrates the progress that women have made in the media but also stresses the need for improvement for women in media on both the national and international stage. She gathers statistics and presents them in order to support these claims of progress and necessity for improvement. The value of this article lies in its concentration on the advancement of women in the media through showcasing examples of fair representation of women in the media Additionally, the presentation of precise paths through which women can advance their role within the news as well as ways the companies should be facilitating this growth is very worthwhile. Although this source does not contain a specific study, it contains firsthand accounts of Cochran’s experience of being part of the International Women’s Media Foundation from the beginning which has likely expanded her viewpoint and enabled her to give insight into the media’s representation of women in other countries which enriches the conversation of media coverage in the United States through facilitating comparisons between the two.

Desmond, R., & Danilewicz, A. (2010). Women are on, but not in, the news: Gender roles in local television news. Sex Roles, 62(11-12), 822-829. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9686-5

This source aims to reveal gender bias in terms of who gets what type of stories, who gets lead stories, and who gets cited as expert sources. Desmond and Danilewicz hypothesized that in all of these aspects women would get the short stick. This source is arguably the best out of these six sources for several reasons. Desmond and Danilewicz convey the importance and implications of their study for young women: if young women only see women presenting certain types of stories, it will affirm gender roles and possibly limit these female viewers’ idea of what they are capable of. The source goes to great depth to draw comparisons between their research and past studies as well as bringing in both statistical and personable details to further ground their research in. In addition to an in depth description of the methodology, the study’s results are explained very clearly, and any hypothesis not completely supported is readily rejected. The study’s results express that female and male anchors and reporters are equally represented in terms of their numbers, but females are pigeon-holed into almost exclusively reporting stories about health and human interest whereas men get the meatier, tougher topics like politics. Additionally, male experts are more likely to be cited than females. This is a highly efficient source for depicting both the successes and failures of gender representation in local television news.

Engstrom, Erika, and Anthony J. Ferri. “From Barriers to Challenges: Career Perceptions of Women TV News Anchors.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, vol. 75, no. 4, 1998, pp. 789-802. ProQuest, http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/216926995?accountid=11107.

Engstrom and Ferri focus on discerning what local female anchors identify as their greatest career barriers based on a well-developed survey that received 128 responses. The article also compares the results of this 1990s survey to a similar survey conducted in the previous decade. Engstrom and Ferri conclude that the main obstacle females anchors face within their careers is the focus on their physical experience as well as the difficultly of balancing work and family life. This peer-reviewed source is valuable because it goes into great depth to establish the history of female news anchors and what they struggled with in order to compare that with what current female anchors face. The article meticulously explais how the survey was constructed and  affirms that the survey was conducted by random sampling. Additionally, the authors are very transparent in pointing out that the results cannot necessarily be generalized to the larger population due to its small sample size. Despite the small sample size, the article is beneficial in the way that it presents both the assenters and dissenters viewpoints equally, and the personal quotes given even if just anecdotal, give life and insight to how real women feel about gender representation and equality (or lack thereof) in their industry.

Grubb, M. V., & Billiot, T. (2010). Women sportscasters: Navigating a masculine domain. Journal of Gender Studies, 19(1), 87-93. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09589230903525460

This article is an assemblage of quotes and stories from a collection of interviews in order to expose the harsh, unwelcoming environment that female sportscasters much traverse in order to be a part of the field. This exposure is supposed to serve as a call to action to change the culture surrounding sports and the treatment of women. The article briefly accounts the tales of the groundbreaking women who first made a space for women in sportscasting. The value of this study cannot be found in statistics or an in-depth experiment; it is found instead in the worth of personal and genuine accounts of female sportscasters vocalizing the struggles, the mistreatment, the injustice they face on a daily basis. Because of its lack of concrete facts, this source cannot stand alone, but it definitely has the potential to be a powerful piece when paired with statistical data that proves the lack of representation of females in this industry along with a wide-spread analysis of how women sportscasters feel about their jobs. In other words, due to its anecdotal nature, all the points made in the source cannot necessarily be generalized to the entire industry, but it can make for a great supplemental piece and possibly provide a face for the facts.

Mudrick, M., Burton, L. J., Sauder, M. H., & Lin, C. A. (2018). Sportscasting success: Varying standards may apply. Journal of Sports Media, 13(1), 49-73. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2056814931?accountid=11107

The argument of this article is that female sportscasters face double-standards and are limited by gender roles that influence the audience’s perception of them. The article supports its claim by citing examples of the social role theory and then expounding on how these persistent gender roles and stereotyping specifically affect female sportscasters. The value of this article is not so much found in the actual study it conducts (analyzing comments made during a sports debate between a female and male broadcaster), but more so in its explanation of gender roles and its analysis of how they shape the way audiences think. However, one very beneficial element of the study is how it illustrates the way that viewers will comment that a man is more knowledgeable without having any examples to support that assumption. Some commentators explicitly say they find men more trustworthy in this realm which all just goes to exemplify the stagnant presence of gender typing in society. This article does well at specifying the lack of women represented in sports media along with their unique struggles. Within the article, the limitations of the study are acknowledged which strengthens its sense of reliability.

Price, C. J., & Wulff, S. S. (2005). Does sex make a difference? job satisfaction of television network news correspondents. Women’s Studies in Communication, 28(2), 207-234. Retrieved from http://prx.library.gatech.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/198297768?accountid=11107

The article makes a subdued argument of the need for “improvement of women’s roles in network television” through its quantification of the differences between job satisfaction of males and females in network television. After measurements based on several different factors (age, salary, amount of experience), the article concludes that overall women are less satisfied than men with their jobs. Despite looking for differences between males and females, the article speaks to the fact that on many aspects of the survey women and men have very similar responses. The value of this article can be found in its extensive detail of the history of the dynamic between men and women in national news networks, its multitude of references to other studies and analyses to bolster its own findings, and the statistical presentation of the data. This article is a great supplement to Engstrom and Ferri’s article because it can better highlight the significant differences between sexes in the workplace due to its comparison of both male and female responses. Although this article provides a bountiful amount of statistical data along with some qualitative material, gender representation seems to only play a minor portion.

Paycheck vs Passion

Following your heart doesn’t give you an excuse to do stupid things.

This picture is a great representation of an important component of the theme of this episode: leaving your comfort zone.

Episode 2 of The Bold Type had the girls feeling its title “O Hell No”. Sutton was offered an advertising job that wasn’t anything close to her dream job. Jane had to write a sex column even though she wasn’t well-versed in such a topic. Kat had to face her romantic feelings for Adena even though she has always considered herself a “hetero”. The theme of this particular episode is easily summed up by a number of cliché sayings like follow your dreams, don’t let your head get in the way of your heart, don’t hold yourself back, etc. On top of serving up a very cliché theme, the episode presented the theme very explicitly; the  characters repeatedly regurgitated some form of the previous clichés. The show’s overall theme tends to take the form of women empowerment. Encouraging women to follow their dreams and take risks falls right in line with the show’s uber feministic standpoint. In terms of cultural conversations, following one’s heart is a cliché, but although it has proliferated in society, the majority of the population still chooses paycheck over passion. Where this episode succeeds is in its representation of why it’s so difficult to escape one’s comfort zone. For Sutton the appeal of settling for less than her dream job was high not only because of the money but also because she had grown up relatively poor and with an unstable mother. Money and stability meant so much more to her than its surface level value. Additionally, she felt stuck in a dead-end position and that she had ran out of time to fulfill her fashion industry dreams. The advertising job was her ticket out; even though it wasn’t a ticket to where she wanted to go, it was at least an escape from where she was. For Jane writing a sex column was not only difficult because she was inexperience and reserved, but also because she had just been promoted to join the writing team, so she felt excess pressure to succeed and to please. For Kat she proclaimed that she was hetero, but her feelings for Adena made her doubt herself. She was tumbling into identity crisis. Worst of all, at Adena’s art exhibit, Kat witnessed Adena kiss another girl, so she had to combat the fear of rejection infused with her struggle to address her feelings. Irony is this episode’s last bit of beauty. Kat is portrayed as the bravest of the three girls. The one with no fear. The one who takes risks. However, she was the one who had the most difficulty following her heart. Sutton rejected the job that promised security and released her safety net. Jane was completely honest in her article and made a last minute decision to use her real name instead of posting anonymously. Kat talked to Adena, but failed to confess or even confront her feelings. It just goes to show that someone doesn’t have to be the bravest person to do the bravest things.

A Bit About Me including Sweeping Metaphors, Elevated Vocabulary, and Ample Alliteration

My name is Jadah Peters, and I am majoring in chemical engineering. With finger crossed, I anticipate to graduate the year of 2022. This class is my first and last English class at Tech. In high school English classes, I did well, but I found them boring. In terms of the WOVEN forms of communication, I’m best at written and visual. The main benefit of writing is that I have significant control what voice I use. Most of the time for formal essays, I write in a completely different voice that is sort of pompous and dramatic. That voice has actually served me very well in several language arts writings. I find it humorous to write papers on thematic elements of literature because it’s my style to use sweeping metaphors, elevated vocabulary, and ample alliteration that would be utterly ridiculous to communicate in that way face to face. Another writing benefit is that I can edit it to make it as perfect as possible. With oral communication, when the words are spoken they can’t be erased. Another thing that is not easily erased, but is sometimes editable is visual communication. I took photography through high school; it became my main mode of expression. Every picture I created was a part of me. With other visual methods like posters and infographics, I have a god eye for color combinations and am very meticulous placement and details. On the other hand, I need to improve my oral and electronic communication. I’m very self-conscious when speaking in front of most people. I’m always afraid of saying something stupid, mispronouncing words, and being misinterpreted. However, I am fairly good at speeches because I have adequate time to prepare for them. Though, with day to day conversations or even interviews where I am unsure of what might be asked, I tend to fail to say what I want to. With writing that almost never happens. The mirror side of writing is reading which is what I tend to do instead of watching TV. Since I must watch TV for this class,  I have chosen to review The Bold Type for pretty superficial reasons: it was one of the only series that I had heard of before, it didn’t have too many episodes, and it seems like the characters will probably be relatable. Because  I wanted my opinions and analyses to be my own, I didn’t want to read too much about the show before watching it. Instead, I watched a portion of the pilot and it seems like the show will be a basic story about three best friends starting off their careers, attempting to adult, and following their dreams or something. From just 10 minutes of the pilot, I can already tell that the show will be very feminist forward and liberal leaning in its coverage of issues. I am looking forward to analyzing this show, and I may even be able to incorporate some sweeping metaphors, elevated vocabulary and ample alliteration.

This is a picture I took of myself for my photography class. I put my DSLR camera on tripod and then set a timer.

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