The unrealism of shows about the media

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.


Initially, The Bold Type fell into this same trap of depicting what those working at Hearst would probably like people to think such an environment is like rather than what it truly is like. “When she took over the magazine, she shifted the focus,” social media editor Kat explains of Jacqueline to a skeptical potential interview subject in the magazine. It’s a set of lines that sounds like it was directly pulled from any one of the profiles published about Coles for the past few years. “She calls it stealth feminism. It’s no longer how to please your man, or woman, in bed; it’s how to please yourself.” Jacqueline herself states this even more clearly later on: “When I was considering taking this job at Scarlet, it was a very different magazine, much more conservative.”

In the show, Scarlet’s parent company is called Steinem Publishing. One plot line involves Jane and Jacqueline trying to do more political coverage (sound familiar?) but getting pushback from board members who don’t think they should cover such topics. “Young women want to be politically engaged. So let’s engage them,” is Jaqueline’s line. “The congresswoman’s press secretary literally looked me up and down and said ‘Not tonight Scarlet’ as if all we’d write was fluff,” Jane complains. “Even if we’re fluff, we’re fluff with a huge millennial voter readership.”

Had this narrative continued with such a heavy hand, the representation of Cosmo-cum-Scarlet would have been hard to get past—the way it presented a rah-rah, girl-power world as an accurate example of what it’s actually like to work at a women’s publication. (It’s a fixation on lip gloss—and politics, too!) At the end of the pilot, Jacqueline gives a speech at a Scarlet anniversary party. She is framed by a blown-up photo of the magazine; Demi Lovato is on the cover, a carbon copy of a Cosmo cover. “Our little magazine has gone through quite a few changes over the past six decades,” she says. “And for those of you who say we are still a fashion and beauty magazine, I say yes. Yes we are. But for those of you who say we are just a fashion and beauty magazine, I say, here’s the next great mascara giving you bigger eyes to see the world. Here’s a fabulous pair of jeans—now go climb a mountain.”

As the season progressed, though, this tone seemed to relax. À la Dick Wolf, storylines were literally ripped from the headlines, sometimes to the frustration of those who had originally experienced them. For instance, a former Wall Street financier-turned stripper sued Scarlet for allegedly outing her. (The outcome of that was likely accurate, if a gross reality for a risk-adverse major magazine: “If we remove the article from the digital article, she’ll agree to settle.”) Another drama involved a new employee tweeting rudely about Kylie Jenner, which Jacqueline was worried would get in the way of featuring Kylie on Scarlet’s upcoming cover. The consistent pressure from corporate to not do anything to rock the boat too much rang very true.

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