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How The Bold Type Created an Accessible Feminist Utopia on Freeform

The showrunner and cast discuss the boundary-pushing dramedy

Sadie Gennis

The Future Is... is TV Guide's celebration of all the women on camera and off who are pushing boundaries and making history.

The Bold Typeis far from a ratings hit, averaging around 300,000 viewers an episode, but halfway into its sophomore run, the Freeform drama continues to be one of the most-talked about and celebrated shows of the summer.

Starring Aisha Dee, Katie Stevens and Meghann Fahy as three best friends who found each other and their careers while working at the women's magazine Scarlet, The Bold Type has amassed a passionate following. Viewers are drawn to the empowering but messy stories the series explores, which includes learning to become comfortable with your sexuality and racial identity, and finding the courage to fight for the career you want, even if it means taking risks and making sacrifices.

Keeping with that last theme, the show's second season kicked off with one of its heroines, Jane (Stevens), taking a risk when she publicly spoke out against her new employer, Incite, for being unfairly harsh on one of her interview subjects. But rather than be rewarded for sticking by her morals, Jane was promptly fired. After struggling to land a job or even consistent freelancing opportunities, a humbled Jane went back to her benevolent old boss Jacqueline (Melora Hardin) about returning to Scarlet only to be denied the opportunity because Jacqueline worried doing so would deny Jane an invaluable learning opportunity.

Katie Stevens, The Bold Type
Philippe Bosse/Freeform

Even though fans want nothing more than to see Tiny Jane reunite with best friends Kat (Dee) and Sutton (Fahy) at Scarlet, delaying Jane's inevitable return to the publication was a masterful move that exemplifies why The Bold Type has become such an inspiration to so many young viewers. By making it a point to not only see the women of The Bold Type fail, but also give them the room to explore this failure and understand that hardships aren't necessarily tragedies, the show becomes much more than an aspirational look at what your life could be; it's a relatable look at what life really is -- albeit, with a much nicer wardrobe.

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"I had one girl one time come up to me and say one of her favorite parts about the show is how accessible it felt in terms of the failure that we do show and the struggle that we do represent," Fahy told TV Guide at the ATX Television Festival in June. "Sometimes the circumstances of other shows can be so spectacular you feel like there's no way you could ever be in that position. But she felt that our show was very relatable in that yeah, people mess up. It's all about how you get back up after."

"I think that's the optimistic thing about the show, is that we're seeing that it's okay to be... imperfect," said Nikohl Boosheri, who plays Kat's artist and advocate girlfriend Adena. "It's okay to not have it figured out. It's okay to make mistakes and get back up on your feet and as long as you have your friends behind you, you're going to get by."

The importance of this support system that Jane, Kat and Sutton have built for each other runs through every vein of the series, even when the women are apart. No matter the challenges they face at any given time, viewers always get the sense the courage they drawn upon to face said struggles head-on is at least partially due to the sense of empowerment and security that they get from knowing their best friends will be by their side no matter what.

No storyline better exemplifies this than Kat's journey of self-discovery throughout the first season, which saw her quietly grapple with her sexuality as she found herself falling in love with a woman for the first time. While Kat took her time in understanding what this meant for her and how she wanted to act on these feelings, she was never held back by any potential fear or judgment from her friends. And when Kat did eventually open up about her feelings for Adena, Jane and Sutton's only reaction was to shower Kat in unbounded support and love. This response was then echoed by fans, who immediately began speaking out in praise of the "Kadena" relationship, with many sharing their excitement at seeing themselves reflected on TV.

Aisha Dee and Nikohl Boosheri, The Bold Type
Philippe Bosse/Freeform

"I don't think anyone really expected it," Dee said of the fan reaction. "But I think that's in a way surprising and in a way it's not, because I think people have been craving the representation for a long time."

"Yeah, and we don't take it lightly," Boosheri added. "It is a responsibility and we do take that seriously."

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In order to ensure that the Kadena relationship -- as well as all aspects of the issue-driven dramedy -- are handled authentically, responsibly and positively, The Bold Type producers made it a point from the beginning to gather an inclusive writers room that could speak to all the topics the show explores. "We have a very diverse writers' room, and we have one white male that we've allowed into the writers' room and he has the soul of a woman," joked showrunner Amanda Lasher, who came on board for Season 2. "But no, it's great. We have queer writers, queer assistants, we have writers of color. I mean we just wanted it to be as many voices as possible, because that's what's on the show. And Freeform has supported us in that and it's been really great."

It's thanks to Lasher and this amazing team that The Bold Type continues to push boundaries in its second season, which featured one of the most frank and open conversations about oral sex on TV in the premiere. When Kat pushed Adena about why she was reluctant to be "shown off" to Kat's friends and co-workers, Kat got an answer she never expected: Adena was hurt because Kat hadn't gone down on her yet. The pair then proceeded to have a beautifully honest discussion about Kat's insecurities about going down on a woman for the first time that proved to be just as intimate as the act itself.

"I think it's really important to watch women ask for what they want and not be ashamed of their sexuality or pleasure or not knowing what they're doing," Boosheri said of the scene. "These are such relatable things, and I think that that's the goal of a show as a whole, is just to reflect people's lives back to them and their struggles back to them and we've all felt like that, in your teens or whatever. 'Am I going to be able to kiss the first time and know what I'm doing or am I going to embarrass myself? Has everyone else figured it out except me?' And that's how we always feel."

The Bold Type Boss Says Kat and Adena's Relationship Will Be Tested in Season 2

Again and again, The Bold Type has consistently provided positive examples of women refusing to be held back by fear. And for every instance we see one of the women be emboldened to take a risk and chase love, we see one of them being willing to sacrifice just as much for their career. After a long on-again, off-again romance with Richard, one of the board members at Scarlet, Sutton finally decided to end the relationship earlier this season out of concerns that the optics of dating someone in a senior position could negatively impact her reputation in the industry and ultimately, her career.

​Meghann Fahy, The Bold Type
Phillippe Bosse/Freeform

Although it obviously hurt Sutton to turn away from a future with the man she loves, she made that choice with the full confidence that love will come later. It wasn't an either-or situation that we so often see in media when questions over "having it all" are raised. Instead, it was a portrait of a woman who knows she's capable of building the life she wants and that she doesn't have to compromise to get it as long as she has faith in herself and a little bit of patience.

"I think you see so much that thing on TV and movies where it's like, 'I'm giving up all of my goals and my dreams for love.' And I think that for us, it was really interesting this idea of I'm actually going to make a sacrifice for my career and that maybe it's not going to wind up being a sacrifice," Lasher explained.

Added Fahy: "I think this is her first big hill and she has to give everything she has to her passion, which is fashion."

That's not to say Sutton doesn't have moments of regret over breaking things off with Richard, but that doesn't mean she thinks she made the wrong decision either. And The Bold Type is at its best when it lives in these in-between areas, untangling the contradictions and complexities that come with the growing pains of your twenties.

But while The Bold Type makes it a point to never shy away from tackling real-life challenges in accessible ways, it isn't to say the series isn't heavy on wish fulfillment too. Jacqueline is the epitome of a dream boss: nurturing and intelligent with a sharp sense of humor and the sense to know when the young people on her staff need a helping hand and when they need a firm push. And the central trio of friends are what so many wish their friendships were like but so few are actually able to achieve, let alone maintain amid the chaos of careers and dating.

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But because the foundation of The Bold Type is built upon genuinely good people who simply happen to find themselves in interesting circumstances -- there are no bad people doing bad things on this show, as Fahy pointed out -- the Freeform series is that rare show that feels intensely relatable but with the soothing assurance that no matter what happens, whatever mistakes one makes, everything is going to be okay. It's a best-case scenario look at what life could be like for any one of us, if we play our cards right.

"We all want to see stories that make us feel empowered and seen and safe," Dee explained. "I think that that's what makes The Bold Type so great is you watch it and it's a comforting sister, mother, father, whatever."

"There's something really optimistic about it," Boosheri added. "It's a feel-good thing and that's what people need right now."

The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeforn.