I love TV.
Specifically…I love TV that centers around young women ‘living their best lives.’
Even more specifically…I love TV that centers around young women ‘living their best lives’ in NYC.
Ugly Betty, Sex and the City, The Mindy Project, The B in Apartment 23, Younger, Broad City, Living Single, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Friends, Felicity, Gossip Girl….even reaching waaaaaaay back a few decades to That Girl.
I love them ALL.
I’m a sucker for these types of shows.
Maybe it’s nostalgia for the few years in my early 20’s that I lived in NYC, maybe it’s that most of these shows have beautiful production design, or maybe it’s just that when you get home from work and the baby has gone to bed, you want to watch 23 minutes of fun, easy, aspirational young escapism.
That’s why when I heard about The Bold Type I was beyond excited to watch it.
I binged the first season earlier this year during (unpaid) maternity leave, bleary eyed with a newborn while healing from giving birth and it was one of the things that got me through the hard and lonely middle of the night feedings.
And I LOVED it.
I loved that they’d created strong women who opened up conversations about internet trolling, queer relationships, feminism, salary negotiation (like how often is it even featured on TV that women have to fight for their salaries and perks?!), female mentorship in the workplace, white privilege, classism, fertility, and sexual assault.
In short–I found this show to be so much more thoughtful than many of the NYC female lead shows that had come before.
But something about Season 2 has run through my mind over and over.
Despite the show continuing to explore complicated and nuanced subject matter, this season did something very strange with alcohol.
It normalized every day drinking in many scenes with the three female leads.
And I’m not talking about alcohol being present in scenes at a work event, bar, party or gala.
Those I get.
Even though drinking is not for me anymore, I understand why alcohol is present in those scenes and honestly it doesn’t bother me.
The thing that’s continued to stick out in my mind is the drinking scenes where women are alone, depressed, sad, disappointed, or hurt and turn to alcohol.
Or that in almost every interior shot of Sutton & Jane’s apartment there’s an empty bottle of wine.
I’m not saying that young women don’t drink. I did in my 20’s when I lived in NYC.
But there were also some days that I didn’t have an empty bottle of wine in the apartment.
Looking back, when I was younger there were days I dealt with feeling shitty by drinking. But there were also days where I dealt with these feelings of frustration or failure by going for a walk, going to a show, getting on the train and listening to music, taking a class or hitting the gym.
And I need to point out–there is a story line this season where one of the characters, Sutton, does party hard and then decide to forgo a night of shots because it’s affecting her work. I actually really appreciated this.
But the show then goes on to introduce Sutton’s mother who is a recovering alcoholic. Sutton often alludes her mother’s absence when she was growing up, that she would go on multi-day benders, and that she chose alcohol over family.
Near the end of Season 2, Sutton and the other two female leads (Jane & Kat) have to travel out of town to Sutton’s mother’s house to get her birth certificate so Sutton can fly internationally for work.
When they arrive at her mom’s place of work, it is of course a bar. The girls head straight to the bartender and order shots.
I found this part sort of confusing because it feels like we’re supposed to be upset at Sutton’s mother for her relationship with alcohol, and Sutton resents (rightfully so) that her mom wasn’t there for her because she was drunk…and so…the girls are going to now get drunk? To meet her? At the bar she works at? To then drive home to NYC after drinking at this bar?
Sutton and her mother have a heart to heart and her mother reveals that she has been clean and sober for some time now.
She goes on to explain that the thing that MADE her want to get sober was seeing a picture of Sutton on instagram smiling while drinking margaritas with her friends.
“I wondered if you looked so happy because of your friends or something at work or a boy. And then it hit me that if I didn’t pull my life together I would never know the answer to that question….So left I the house, I went to an AA meeting, and I’ve been going every day since, twice a day.”
Sutton replies, “So you stopped drinking because you saw a photo of me drinking?”
Her mom, (laughing), “Those margaritas looked really good”
Sutton (also laughing), “They were”
That’s all that they say about drinking and sobriety.
They never take to opportunity to talk more deeply about it.
And honestly, for a show that runs its marketing around strong, bold, complicated issues that affect women this saddened me.
I’m not saying these shows shouldn’t EVER have alcohol on them.
I’m not even saying that these shows can’t portray a woman enjoying a glass of wine after a day of work.
But what makes me sad is when alcohol is present so often, and no one really wants to talk about why.
The fact that when Sutton was having benders early in Season 2, none of her friends took her aside and said “You know, this is something you’ve told us runs in your family, and I’m worried about you.”
They say really vague things like “Are you taking care of yourself” or her boss points out that she looks “puffy” at work the next morning.
Or the scene when Jane is let go from her job, and her friends bring her a bottle of tequila at 7am to commiserate.
Or that many times when Sutton, Kat, or Jane are about to have a difficult conversation with someone, they pony up by drinking.
These are the types of scenes that made me feel like my behavior was normal when I drank alone for years. When I drank because I was sad. When I drank because I was weak. Or lonely. Or vulnerable. Or depressed. Or angry. Or bored.
And for most shows I wouldn’t expect them to tackle something like this. But this show is..well it’s different. It seems to pride itself on going into deeper character issues.
So I guess I’m asking The Bold Type–why not tackle an issue that affects over 4 million women?
If this show is open enough to try and introduce a conversation between opposing viewpoints on gun control, why isn’t it brave enough to talk about the fact that with women specifically alcoholism is on the rise over the past decade?
Showrunner Amanda Lasher has said on multiple occasions that she believes in staying true to the characters and that topical issues should arise organically, but I think there’s an argument to be made that they’ve already laid the groundwork for this conversation with Sutton’s character.
Maybe some people would argue that it isn’t sexy, it isn’t trendy.
But this show has had whole scenes about female egg freezing and menstrual hygiene, so I’m not sure that’s why.
I think it’s because we have an idea in our culture that you’re either an alcoholic, or you’re not.
That grey area drinking isn’t really a ‘thing’ as long as you don’t miss work or your kids’ school recitals.
It may be that in Season 3 they’re planning on introducing this topic.
So I’ll stay hopeful.
Hopeful that this show will consider the mixed messaging it’s sending about alcohol and women and hopeful that we all continue to have conversations openly about problems within the shows we love.
Thanks for reading and happy sobering friends.