English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Empowerment

The Bold Type: A Much-Needed Update to TV’s Outlook on Intimacy

Truthfully, The Bold Type is exactly what its title pokes at… B-O-L-D. Throughout the show, characters’ comments and voiced opinions are not necessarily what you would expect to hear while casually watching Hulu. Today we take a look at the show’s second episode; one that, to be frank, is chock-full of insight and social awareness.

Going into “O Hell No”, the viewer can automatically catch the episode’s subject before it even begins. Look out preconceived notions about women and intimacy, you’re in for a rude awakening.

The episode takes a general focus on the struggles of Jane, one of the show’s three main female leads. She has recently been promoted as a writer for Scarlet, a magazine whose nature can be inferred from its name. Jane has been assigned to write a sex column; however, she is not experienced with the subject matter and feels discomfort with the editor’s choice of topic.¹ This sets the basis of the show’s argument for social awareness of women’s sexual and emotional wellbeing. Several instances in the plot push the show’s message: everything and nothing should be accepted when it comes to conversations about intimacy.

As the storyline progresses, Jane receives some minor backlash from her friends and colleagues as she asks for advice on how to personalize her article when she is in actuality not connected to it at all. She even ventures out to see a sex therapist, and she attempts to become comfortable with the idea of intimate experiences. Eventually, she decides that the pressure of whatever “idea” that women should experience during their youth is too much to handle. She hesitantly writes her article — under anonymity, mind you — and she is visibly ashamed to have not been able to relate to the topic of the article.

Later, after some dramatic background music and heavy contemplation on Jane’s part, she confidently adds her name to the article before turning it in to her editor. This moment, arguably the most important five seconds of the entire episode, is a slap in the face to sexualized stereotypes in society. Jane is no longer ashamed to admit that she hasn’t had certain experiences, and in fact, she admits it to the magazine’s millions of readers. Bold move, yes? (I couldn’t help it.)

Image result for jane the bold type gif

Jane from ‘The Bold Type’

This instance more or less establishes the backbone of The Bold Type. Small actions like putting one’s name on an article that deals with a lack of sexual experience form the argument of the show in general. The audience is taught that awareness and acceptance of all people are absolutely crucial. Through empowering its female characters, it demonstrates the acceptance of life’s circumstances, twists, and turns. Life is life is life is life. Why try to hide or be ashamed of one’s truth? The show’s push towards awareness for women’s health is most definitely a conversation starter on- and off-screen.²

Someone try ‘n stop it from changing viewers’ mentalities for the better. Good luck if you do.



Works Cited

¹Framke, Caroline. “The Bold Type, A Smart New Show About the Makings of a Women’s Magazine, Is a Total Delight.” Vox, 16 July 2017, https://www.vox.com/culture/2017/7/16/15973678/the-bold-type-freeform-review. Accessed 9 September 2018.

 ²Kaplan, Ilana. “How The Bold Type Is Changing the Conversation Around Sex and Sexuality on TV.” The Hollywood Reporter, 24 July 2018, https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/live-feed/how-bold-type-is-changing-conversation-around-sex-sexuality-tv-1129016. Accessed 9 September 2018.

An Issue For All Women

Crowded around each other expressing excitement and joy, the men of FYI discuss a night of opportunities that awaits them. When Murphy Brown enters the conversation is quickly hushed, as the subject is something they know will agitate her. The night they are discussing takes place at the last men’s only club in D.C, meaning Murphy is excluded simply because of her gender. The episode chronicles her fight against this, illuminating the sexism that continued to exist in the wealthy workrooms of 1989 America.

While the episode follows Murphy in her individual battle, the overall issue is one that affects more than just her. A notable moment occurs in the beginning of the episode when Miles is explaining that Murphy has no place in the club. At this moment, Corky quickly jumps into the conversation and her interruption is met with a cold shoulder as Miles shrugs her comment off stating “Corky, you’re not even in this conversation”. “Every woman in this room is in this conversation”, Corky quickly responds, illuminating that this single argument is undeniably connected to a greater issue of gender inequality. Backed by a multitude of other women, this statement is powerful, despite it being subsequently dismissed by the writers with an offside joke.

As the storyline progresses, we see Murphy’s multiple attempts at “breaking the sex barrier” and the rude and demeaning responses she receives from the men she encounters. When she first attends the club the manager bars her, claiming that her “behavior is inappropriate”, despite her being a highly respected journalist whose behavior is perfectly in line with the clubs policies. Later, when she manages to become a member due to discrepancies in the rulebook, every fellow member treats her rudely and eventually all of the men leave due to their discomfort with her presence. It is a disheartening and frustrating scene, documenting the ridiculous and childish attitude men had (and some still have) towards the other sex. While Murphy Brown often is able to triumph over her challenges, she fails in this episode, a smart choice by the writes which acknowledges that it will take more than one woman, no matter how incredible she is, to fight the system of inequality that women are subject to.

The episode does create hope in the matter, however, with the change witnessed in the character Jim. When first confronted with his good friend and coworker Murphy Brown’s desires to “infiltrate” the men’s club, he completely shuts her down. This dismissal continues throughout the episode until he experiences first hand the disrespect Murphy has to endure from the men in this club. A final scene depicts him fighting against the men in the club who he previously stood beside, showing that progress is possible when it comes to sexism and gender inequality.  

Murphy Brown: Always relevant.

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