by C. Shardae Jobson
HOW REALISTIC IS THE BOLD TYPE?
In my past tenure as a Staff Writer for a moderately popular women’s website, the Editorial Director that hired me loved what I did on my WordPress blog, Lavish Rebellion. During my first week, she proudly announced to the Lifestyle and Entertainment Editors that she wanted me to bring to the site what I did on Rebellion. I beamed with pride that my little blog had been the gateway to my first full-time writing job after three years of often unpaid interning and freelancing.
To my chagrin, the unexpected caveat of the Director’s wish showed itself within weeks. Sometimes, because she was so scatterbrained from working on tasks for a higher position she was being promoted to, she wasn’t always present to co-sign my pitches or read what was semi-approved or derided by those second-ranking Editors.
I still remember the report I wrote on my discovery of “Negro Mountain.” Nope. It wasn’t some Black superhero dystopian graphic novel. It is a real peak of Alleghany Mountains named after a Black man named “Nemesis” who “sacrificed his life to save soldiers during the French and Indian War in 1756″ via The Huffington Post. In 2015, there was a small Pennsylvanian campaign to rename it because awkward and I found the story outrageous enough to be worthy of our readers knowing (plus it was trending). It did not go up on the site until the Director read it herself, was intrigued, and simply said, with the other Editors’ just seats away, “Shardae. Go ahead.”
That incident (a frequent occurrence I endured, to be honest) is one of the main reasons why I’ve found The Bold Type, Freeform’s newest show, a tad unrealistic in how it’s portrayed working in a publication environment. The two-hour pilot provoked memories of when I fought for my ideas in our share of the office floor space, through my voice sometimes shaky from a mix of abashment and annoyance. I specifically have qualms about Jane, the Staff Writer on the show’s Cosmopolitan-esque magazine Scarlet.
Initially, its Editor-in-Chief, Jacqueline Carlyle, rebuked all of Jane’s pitches on her first day (very realistic. What you thought was an outta the park, even Economist loyalists will dig it, idea about the birthplace of modern day eyeliner and its ties to third wave feminism, somehow received a big fat “Eh, try again”), after her eventual inaugural essay induced praise from Carlyle, she goes on to nurse and somewhat coddle Jane. I trust that Jane is a standard great writer and her “smoke-screen” take on a politician’s wardrobe was without Carlyle’s help. But what’s bugged me is that it is much more convenient and partial to your talent when the one person who hired you or has observed your style is accessible to oversee almost every project of yours. Carlyle checks up on Jane, encourages her bubbling notions and entrusts faith that she can write scandalous material, albeit with a little tough love and rigid timelines, the latter the most realistic aspects of Carlyle.
Jacqueline and The Bold Type, as a premise, are based on real-life former Cosmopolitan EIC Joanna Coles. I remember when Coles held the title and definitely read issues of the famed women’s magazine under her influence.
Not to dismantle her truth on The Bold Type, while the relationship between Jane and Carlyle is absolutely admirable–she’s also consistently in Kat’s, Scarlet’s social media director and Jane’s friend, corner–should not be expected of anyone new to journalism and entering the field. A partnership like this in the workplace develops over time, and from my experience, without a sweet, headstrong Carlyle in your journey, plenty of your ideas will go unpublished or unwritten and you’ll just have to deal with it. (There were random occasions in which the other Editors approbated my thoughts). In general, working for that website was soul-sucking. I wish I had what Jane has which is to be heard. (Fun fact! I was regularly accused of trying to write material more suitable for The Guardian. Whatever).
In having only aired three episodes of its premiere season, The Bold Type has been the recipient of almost universal applause from critics. It is not surprising because the show is not badly written or unlikable. I’m enjoying it and will have tuned into episode four by the time you read this. But if you didn’t know any better–simply because you’ve never worked in editorial and/or in a metropolitan city–The Bold Type is a dream. Again! Your editor won’t always be there to hold your hand as you illustrate a tough assignment or answer that desperate 7 PM call. Next, Scarlet’s office space that is commodious, bright, and colorful. I might as well humorously nitpick that I have seen editors work in the shoddiest of rooms and an entire masthead share a long table with everyone typing on laptops as if at a university library. The writing life doesn’t always equate to the glamorous life, whether at VOGUE or VIBE. (Okay. I haven’t written for VOGUE yet).
Appreciate The Bold Type for what it does represent beautifully which is female friendship and taking chances. Just be mindful of keeping that blog of yours up and running after you get the job and maybe consider some contributing opportunities. You never know when one editor’s “No” will be another’s, “So when can I get a draft?”