A show that once centered on the relationship between a Black bisexual woman and TV’s first Muslim lesbian is now telling a love story between that same Black woman and a Republican white woman who defends hardline immigration.
How Did We Get Here and How Do We Leave
At the end of Season 3, fans of The Bold Type were led to believe that after 2 years of waiting, Adena El-Amin and her relationship with Kat Edison would be one of the primary focuses of the show again when it returned for its fourth season. However, in spite of the fact that Adena was back in New York and given a job working at Scarlet with Kat, Jane, Sutton, and pretty much every other character, she was absent from the first six episodes of the season. This is already a problem in it and of itself, considering there’s no reason Scarlet’s “in-house photographer” should’ve been on assignment out of state for over a month… but the show likes to ship Adena off, usually with little to no explanation and no mention of her while she’s gone.
We know that it’s not a time sensitive issue considering they’re able to consistently include other Scarlet employees, like Andrew and Sage (previously Patrick, Cleo, and RJ) and they’re not even anyone’s love interest. And now, they’ve also added four new employees, hired by Jane. Of course, the straight white man, Scott, has the most screen time of the four of them. But we’ll talk more about that later.
After Adena finally made her highly anticipated return, LGBT fans were yet again let down when the writers made the decision to use Adena as a plot device to tell a story about biphobia. The writers had Adena use harmful biphobic language like, “I’m okay with bisexuals, I just didn’t expect you to be one.” She also used the word “phase” in reference to Kat’s sexuality. Not only are there a multitude of examples of Adena being supportive of Kat’s sexuality in the past, but on what planet would a proud muslim lesbian — who has experienced so much homophobia, mistreatment, and hatred, and even helped Kat realize she was bisexual in the first place — turn around and shame Kat and make her question and doubt her sexuality?
This whole storyline was a huge disservice to both the characters and the show as a whole. Bi-erasure and biphobia are very real, but using Adena — the only Persian Muslim Lesbian to ever be on TV — was a terrible and harmful call. Every single thing Adena does carries so much weight because she is the only character representing her communities, so she is put under a microscope. It shouldn’t be that way, but that’s the reality of it, and the writers handed people a “reason” to hate Adena on a silver platter. She was already so scrutinized because of the rampant Islamaphobia, racism, and lesbophobia in the world, but now those people can masquerade their hatred behind her being “biphobic.”
This also puts fans of Adena and Kadena in a very tough position because they’re now unable to defend Adena without also appearing as though they’re defending biphobia as well. We’re not saying that Adena has to be perfect, or that she isn’t allowed to make mistakes, but villainizing her for the sake of a one-episode-long story was very unnecessary and a slap in the face to the QWOC watching.
Finally, after that story wrapped up, fans were once again led to believe that these two women would begin to reconnect and eventually fall in love again. They worked together briefly, exchanged “I love you’s”, danced together at Sutton’s wedding, and the camera even panned over them during the vow ceremony, clearly implying they should be together. But Adena once again disappeared from the show without any mention of where she went or when she’ll be back. After playing such an integral part in RJ leaving Scarlet and Kat getting fired, it doesn’t really make sense that she would just leave again, especially considering she works at Scarlet and is also friends with Kat again.
Even if the writers don’t want her with Kat, why isn’t she helping Sutton and Oliver with the many photoshoots they do? Why isn’t she at pitch meetings with literally everyone else? What was the point of making her the in-house photographer if she’s never actually photographing anything or at Scarlet at all? When Richard and Sutton broke up, he was still very much apart of the show. He had stories with Jacqueline, Kat, RJ, and even got an entire new girlfriend and a funeral for his father. In fact, Richard has been in nearly every single episode of the show and is just barely behind Jacqeuline. When Ryan and Jane weren’t together he was still hanging out around Scarlet, got a book deal, and now he has been texting Jane since their breakup.
And as if the mistreatment of Adena and her relationship with Kat wasn’t enough, they’ve now introduced Eva, a Republican white woman who is serving as Kat’s new love interest. I truly don’t know where to begin with this. Someone at Freeform has a very twisted sense of irony. Writing off Adena — a Muslim lesbian who we watched struggle with deportation, her immigration status, getting a Visa to stay in the U.S., and talk about being forced into conversion therapy — to replace her with Ava, a Republican that defends hardline immigration and the NRA. And we’re expected to believe Kat wants to be with her?
Not only is it incredibly disrespectful to Adena, it’s also character assassination for Kat. I refuse to believe that the same woman who was frantically calling immigration attorneys to get Adena home safely after she was detained, and celebrated with her when she got her Visa, is the same woman fantasizing about someone that defends hardline immigration. I refuse to believe that the same woman who ran for city council just a few months ago to help marginalized communities is now going to fall for a Republican woman that wants to harm those same communities. I refuse to believe that the same woman, who just a few episodes ago was comforting Adena when she opened up about her experience with conversion therapy, is going to begin a relationship with the daughter of the man who repeatedly shut down Adena’s artwork and supports conversion therapy himself. While Eva may not agree with it personally, she defends her father who does. It’s insulting to Kat and to all the fans watching.
To make matters even worse, on the latest episode — season 4, episode 14 — the writers perpetuate the “angry black woman” stereotype and make Kat out to be some unhinged, irrational woman who isn’t capable of holding a conversation without throwing a tantrum. Meanwhile, Eva is very composed, calm, and just wants to have “respectful conversations.” Black women are already made out to seem angry, hostile, and overdramatic in society every single day, so the fact that they’re now also being told this from a show that once gave them a voice is despicable. Kat did not deserve to be pushed into an inherently racist, homophobic space like the Republican mixer and be made to feel sub-human in an attempt to prove she’s capable of “meaningful conversations”. Not to mention, the idea that Black women showing emotion somehow invalidates their arguments is exactly the type of message this show should be discouraging. The dialogue throughout this entire episode was sickening and very harmful to the same communities this show used to represent.
This doesn’t even touch on the other issues with Kat, like how they keep perpetuating harmful bisexual stereotypes like that they cheat, are promiscuous, and are unable to stay in long-term meaningful relationships. If Kat’s whole arc from the very beginning of the show was supposed to be her learning how to fall in love and be in a relationship and progress past one night stands, why is she now back to only having flings and one night stands? How much longer do we have to watch Kat “find herself”? This whole “Kat is on a journey” nonsense sounds a lot like an excuse to not have to actively show a relationship between two women of color, and I’m sick of it. Fans have been telling the writers for years that the representation they need is Kat and Adena being together (or Kat at the very least being with Tia). Not only that, but QWOC deserve to see Kat and Adena actively be together throughout the duration of the show like their straight counterparts, not just have to sit and wait for them to reunite last minute. It’s not rocket science; stop acting like fans are being unreasonable and like your checklist of “woke” subjects to cover on the show is more revolutionary and important than a relationship between a Black bisexual woman and a Muslim lesbian.
Also, the idea that Eva would be the most interesting podcast guest when Kat knows someone with such a unique story like Adena is utterly ridiculous. Xenophobia and racism aren’t interesting, but nice try. Those who are part of marginalized communities do not need to make friends with people who want to pass laws that negatively impact our wellbeing and right to live. We do not need to hear “the other side” when the other side doesn’t believe in basic human decency and morality. There is no “meeting half way” with Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK. Stop trying to convince us that straight white men like Scott and and Republican white women like Eva are the voices we are lacking. That isn’t woke. That isn’t a good story. It’s offensive and hurtful.
It is also manipulative and blatantly incorrect to use Eva, a lesbian, as the face of conservative voices when she represents such a small portion of republicans. The majority of Republicans are straight white men and women. As witnessed when Kat attended a Republican mixer (and also in our every day life), Republicans believe being LGBT is abnormal, don’t believe LGBT couples should be able to adopt, deny healthcare to trans individuals and citizens in general, believe Black lives do not matter, don’t support a woman’s right to choose what happens to her own body, elect sexual predators into office, believe all immigrants are criminals, and most recently, refuse to wear masks in the middle of a global pandemic. And for the record, Eva being a lesbian doesn’t absolve the Republican party of its inherently homophobic and sexist values, nor does it excuse Eva for being apart of a party that actively engages in racism, xenophobia, and transphobia. Just because Eva may not personally be homophobic, doesn’t mean she isn’t supporting a party and a system that is. Just take a look around at the laws the Trump Administration has passed in the last few months alone regarding LGBT lives. And you’re giving your fans the message that Eva needs to educate Kat?
Which brings me to the next problem: The Bold Type is trying to push this narrative that Republicans are “facts over feelings” when, in actuality, they are notorious for not believing in science, medicine, statistics, evidence, or facts of any kind. At one point, the writers even have Kat agree with the Republicans saying that liberals are “too emotional.” People wanting human rights and the ability to walk down the street without being targeted is emotional? No. Emotional is screaming and crying because two women kissed, or because a little boy wanted to paint his nails, or because you were asked to wear a thin piece of cloth outside to help protect people from a global pandemic. It is absolutely despicable that this is the narrative The Bold Type is telling. If their goal was to lose your audience of women, LGBT youth, and POC, and gain an audience of Fox News watchers, then congratulations Freeform, you did it!
The Bold Type is villainizing society’s most marginalized and underrepresented people and humanizing the most vile and overrepresented group of people there is. This show used to give a voice to bisexual women, lesbians, Muslims and survivors of sexual assault, but is now amplifying the voices of the people actively stripping away those people’s human rights.
Finally, The Bold Type prides itself on being “diverse,” but how diverse is it really? The main characters are Jane, Sutton, Kat, Jacqueline, and Richard. Of those five characters, four are white and four are straight. Now let’s take a look at their respective love interests. Jane’s main love interest was Ryan; now has a budding romance with Scott. Both are straight white men. Sutton is married to Richard, a straight white man. Jacqueline is married to Ian, a straight white man, and also has a romance with Miles, a straight white man. The writers then proceeded to have Kat, the only main character that is an LGBT woman, be with Cody this season (who is, you guessed it, a straight white man!) and are now pairing her with a white Republican woman.
While they do have Oliver and Andrew, we are four (almost five) seasons deep and neither of them have had a significant other. Not that they need one, it’s just interesting how this show is known for representation when it actually has less LGBT couples than a lot of other shows and frequently mistreats the few non-white characters it has, like Kat, Adena, and Alex. So please, Freeform, tell me where this supposed diversity is.
Not only is diversity severely lacking on the show, it’s also lacking in the writers’ room. This is the main reason for a lot of the show’s issues. That being said, as much as I would like to believe all the harmful decisions made this season and throughout the show in general are just due to ignorance in the mostly straight white writers room, some of the decisions feel very purposeful. But even if these storylines aren’t purposeful, Freeform’s decision to continuously not hire QWOC, or listen to them, is. And this isn’t a problem that is exclusive to The Bold Type. Freeform has made a habit out of luring in LGBT fans and WOC with promises of diversity and groundbreaking relationships, only to turn around and write those characters and relationships out of the show.
I just want to note, that I don’t blame the writers on an individual level. This is a problem with Freeform as a whole. I fully acknowledge that by the time an idea gets up the chain of command it can be completely different than what was originally pitched. I realize that it’s impossible to make everyone happy, and that Freeform has higher-ups that need to be pleased. However, none of that is an excuse for these problems, and something behind the scenes of the show needs to be changed. If you do work for the show in any capacity and have made it this far, then take this as an opportunity to listen, and then follow through and course correct. I hope this serves as a wake up call from the fans who so passionately care about the show and its characters, because right now the show is doing more harm than good.
Freeform, especially recently like many other companies, has been preaching about how they’re dedicated to marginalized communities and want to do better. If that’s true, and if the writers that have been posting about Black Lives Matter and how we need to listen to people of color, the LGBT community, and other minorities truly mean it, then they’ll change what they’re doing with the The Bold Type right now.