Freeform’s television show about three young women tackling life and love in New York City has just finished its second season to little fanfare. Sure, the premise of the show sounds familiar enough (comparisons to Sex in the City are built into the plot and referenced by the characters themselves), but what it lacks in original plot it makes up for in the way it handles the tricky position of being of being a former “family” channel. Where The Bold Type pushes boundaries in many ways--it has a lesbian couple! A woman in a hijab!--it sometimes ventures into the realm of afterschool specials, with special episodes on pregnancy, gun control, and sexual harassment. Still, these themes are handled in new, and somewhat realistic ways; the pregnancy episode centers on one characters decision to freeze her eggs because of her cancer risk, while the gun control episode frames the gun debate in light of recent mass shootings.
While I do have some personal attachment to the show, I objectively think that it--at the very least--attempts to discuss issues that are important to real young people in a respectful way. It has a diverse cast (and acknowledges when it’s lacking diversity), and it features a group of young women who genuinely support each other--no catty backhanded compliments, no gossip.
But there’s one problem. Jane. Tiny Jane, as they call her.
Jane Sloan, a young writer for Scarlet magazine, is supposed to be our favorite character. She’s supposed to be the Carrie Bradshaw of the show, but something goes wrong along the way during season two and she becomes boring and, worse, unforgiving. While I still love the show, here are some reasons the showrunners should consider re-examining Jane (spoilers to follow).
1) Jane can't write outside of her own experience.
Even though she’s a writer, Jane never really writes about anything but herself. Every article she attempts to craft begins as something else, of course--a piece about a successful businesswoman or about the issue of gun control--but it ends as a piece about Jane Sloan. How she feels about guns. How she’s sorry about accidentally exposing the bad deeds of a business owner. In this way, Jane is a lot like Carrie Bradshaw, who spends countless hours in front of her Macbook asking questions about her life that somehow magically transform into articles published by a major newspaper. What is Jane’s writing process and why does she spend so much time waiting for inspiration to strike? It’s really confusing.
2) She also can't think outside of her own experiences.
Jane has a hard time listening to arguments she doesn’t agree with. In episode 2.07, “Betsy,” Jane learns her roommate Sutton has a gun in their home. Sutton explains that this gun--which lives in a locked case, tucked away--was her escape from her alcoholic mother in high school, part of her time on the skeet shooting team. Jane replies that she went to school six minutes away from Columbine and she can never forget what the shooting was like, despite the fact she didn’t live through it. Jane never really attempts to understand Sutton’s point of view, and Sutton ends up agreeing with Jane and repurposing Betsy as a vase. While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, it’s difficult to believe that someone like Jane, who is supposedly kind and caring, would ignore her best friend’s upbringing and (safe) enjoyment of skeet shooting.
3) Jane has bad taste in men.
All three women have love plots, but while Sutton and Kat have interesting, troubled romances (Sutton dates a man much older than her and on the board of Scarlet’s publisher, while Kat dates Adena, a photographer and immigrant who helps Kat understand her sexuality), Jane dates a particularly boring dude in season two. Enter Ben the Doctor. Jane meets ben at a photo shoot for the magazine and promptly interviews him. He’s perfect on paper, of course; he volunteers with the poor and attentively listens to Jane. He’s religious, but not in a way that really bothers Jane or prevents him from having sex with her. But he’s BORING. Ben reads his lines like he’s a mannequin learning to love for the first time. It’s awful, and I cringe every time he’s on screen. Sometimes, Jane hangs out with Pinstripe, a guy that worked for Scarlet’s sister magazine that seems a lot like Maxim. He’s pretty cool, but OOF Ben.
4) Jane limits the other characters.
Sutton can’t develop her relationship with her formerly alcoholic mother as long as Jane is there pressuring her without knowing the full situation. Kat can’t fully explore her relationship while Jane is there moaning about how hard it is to date the perfect mannequin doctor. In the end, the show feels limited by Jane, who the show is ostensibly about. It's just hard to feel bad for Jane or truly sympathize with her problems, and that's an issue for a show that relies on character development and conflict to propel itself forward.
Just because Jane’s plotlines aren’t the most interesting doesn’t mean that you should pass up The Bold Type. Even though it has its downsides, its second season only improves on the format, giving the girls new challenges--professional and personal--to wrestle with. If you want a show that repackages and updates the familiar “girls in the city” archetype while attempting to discuss timely current events, look no further than The Bold Type.
The show just wrapped up its second season, but you can watch the whole thing on Hulu!