On ‘The Bold Type,’ Melora Hardin’s character is the ideal mentor for aspiring female writers
The targeted audience of the Freeform network includes young, female millennials, but when it comes to The Bold Type, which premieres Tuesday night, viewers might be surprised to learn that the show’s strongest asset comes in the form of a Gen-Xer.
Her name is Jacqueline Carlyle, and she’s the editor-in-chief of Scarlet, the fashion magazine that employs The Bold Type’s main characters.
Of course, with any TV or movie premise that involves the magazine industry post-Devil Wears Prada, it’s easy to initially imagine Jacqueline, portrayed by Transparent’s Melora Hardin, as the 2017 version of Prada’s Miranda Priestly: She’s impeccably dressed — as showcased by the red, strappy stilettos perfectly perched on her desk that first introduce her to viewers — she’s got a coveted contact list (Beyoncé! Friends at the State Department!) and she commands respect wherever she goes.
But that’s where the similarities end. Jacqueline is an inspirational new character that will encourage viewers, especially aspiring writers and editors, to not be daunted by the cutthroat atmosphere of the media industry that’s been drilled into them for decades by movies and TV shows.
Instead of running her office under a cloud of intimidation, Jacqueline — who is directly based on former Cosmopolitan EIC (and Bold Type executive producer) Joanna Coles — takes the time to nurture her staffers. Now, that doesn’t mean she’s spending hourlong brainstorming sessions with newly promoted writers like protagonist Jane Sloan, played by Katie Stevens. Ever the multitasker, Jacqueline efficiently manages to draw out engaging story ideas by simply asking Jane a few questions in between layout approvals.
Hardin has gone on the record to praise The Bold Type for writing a powerful female character who is not “mean,” and is someone who’s genuinely interested in helping other women. And as series creator Sarah Watson recently told the New York Times, Jacqueline can be seen as a breath of fresh air after years of watching professionally successful women presented as unlikable characters on film and TV. Miranda Priestly is the obvious one, but let’s not forget Sigourney Weaver’s vindictive Katharine Parker in Working Girl and even Christina Hendricks’ Joan Harris on Mad Men (who, let’s face it, was always a little threatened by Elisabeth Moss’ career-minded copywriter Peggy Olson). Speaking to the Times, Watson said:
We always see on TV the women who are tough and not rooting for other women to succeed, and that’s not the kind of mentors I’ve had in my life. I’ve had incredible female bosses, and I wanted to show someone [who] wants to bring up the next generation of strong women writers.
Watson’s creation, Jacqueline, is the antithesis of Miranda Priestly, the so-called villain of Lauren Weisberger’s successful 2003 tell-all book The Devil Wears Prada, who was so expertly embodied by Meryl Streep in the 2006 film version. With Miranda, employees of Runway magazine know to speak only when spoken to and to never, heaven forbid, ask questions. As a result, these underlings were thrown into the deep end and expected to either sink or swim.
Now, while that is still the way of the corporate world, that doesn’t mean that younger generations can’t benefit from mentorship. And that’s why Jacqueline is such an admirable role model on The Bold Type. She represents the best possible approach to the recurring complaint about the millennial generation (which The Bold Type does acknowledge in the pilot): Because people like Jane and her fellow series protagonists Kat and Sutton were overly praised in their formative years, they’re not always well-equipped to handle the harsh realities of the workplace as perhaps their predecessors were.
Jacqueline, as opposed to someone like Prada’s Miranda, attempts to alleviate Jane’s growing pains while still remaining a straight shooter. She does this by treating Jane as an adult. There is no sugarcoating of expectations, nor is there any hand-holding as Jane approaches her first writing assignment. However, Jacqueline uses her precious time to help Jane move past her fears and find her own editorial voice. “I believe that you are ready for this next step,” Jacqueline tells Jane in the pilot, “but now you have to show me you’re ready.” As Jane follows the always-on-the-move Jacqueline around the office, the EIC volleys her pitches back with explanations as to how they don’t quite work (too general, etc.), until they eventually land on something that piques Jacqueline’s interest: how Jane can “stalk” her “unstalkable” ex (read: he’s not on social media).
Having ideas shot down is never something a writer — or any professional — wants to hear. But it’s also one of the best things that can happen in one’s career, because rejection is the ultimate fuel for improvement. Jacqueline didn’t get to where she is by knowing everything on the first day; it took years of slogging in the trenches to reach that level of expertise. The fact that Jacqueline is willing to repeatedly dispense her knowledge is the greatest gift Jane could ask for, because listening to these golden nuggets of wisdom is how the young writer will become better at her job.
The two-hour series premiere of The Bold Type airs on Freeform Tuesday at 9 p.m.
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