‘The Bold Type’ Could Be Gayer…If It Wanted to Be

A second season of The Bold Type began back in June, and I tuned in, hoping that the delectable sapphic energy radiating from Melora Hardin would manifest itself in a Jane Sloan/Jacqueline Carlyle hook-up at some point. Alas, Season Two has ended and that was not the case.

By far, one of the most interesting and least utilized characters in the Freeform series is Jacqueline, the editor in chief of Scarlet magazine, who was introduced feet-first in Season One as Jane stared lovingly into her office. Jacqueline is sharp, sympathetic, supportive, clearly takes no BS, and is refreshingly sex-positive, which is why, until her husband was introduced, I assumed she was gay.

It’s a well-known fact that we love our middle aged actresses. A recent example is the Cate Blanchett craze following Carol and Ocean’s 8. Before the latter even premiered, a single behind-the-scenes picture inspired think pieces across the digital map within the hour of it leaking. We also love to bask in the female pairings that will never happen, and feast upon the wasted potential of all that screen-melting chemistry.

That’s the norm for film, sure. But why, in what’s often described to be a golden age of television, do we still have to settle for morsels? Where are all the gay CEOs? Why are there only older men hooking up with younger women? Why is there only one lesbian allowed per series?

Queer women tend to cling to even the slightest hint of a queer May-December romance like it’s the last drop in the desert, though hardly ever are they written into shows as canon. The CW’s Supergirl and the favored Cat Grant/Supergirl ship comes to mind. Melissa Benoist and Calista Flockhart clearly have chemistry to work with, yet that relationship was never even on the writers’ radar because apparently, one (poorly executed) queer storyline at a time is all they could handle.

In the case of The Bold Type, ninety percent of Jacqueline’s screen time is in some form or another related to, if not shared with, Jane. The first half of Season Two had them dealing with their falling out, following Jane’s quitting Scarlet for another publication, like two exes who keep getting thrown into situations where they have to spend time together, but it’s awkward because the break-up is still fresh.

While the Kat/Adena relationship was a pleasant surprise that’s lasted an unexpectedly long time, there’s room for one more queer relationship that could successfully address all the romantic conflicts the show loves to explore. Such as, superior-subordinate dynamic, age gap, open relationships, just-realized-I’m-not-straight storyline, etc. Rather than putting a character through the revolving door of men that don’t pan out, the smarter, more creative option would be to simply pair them with someone they’ve already developed a connection with, but that would be asking for too much because in addition to the ‘one gay per show’ rule, actresses over 40 hardly ever get a decent storyline that remembers they too have sex lives.

Let’s also consider that Katie Stevens is a stronger actor in her scenes opposite Melora Hardin. That’s not a knock on her acting chops; she just happens to have a natural chemistry with Hardin, who is severely underrated as a performer and should be getting bigger roles, but that’s for another rant. Their characters getting together wouldn’t be a hard one to pull off, as sharing chemistry is winning half the battle. That concept alone carried The X Files for like six of its eleven seasons after all.

In a recent YouTube video, which has been taken down due to copyright issues, from a channel called Girl Ship TV, Lynn Sternberger, Season One writer of The Bold Type, gets drunk and watches an episode while discussing what goes into writing and pitching story, plus sharing fun behind the scenes tidbits. In a brief moment, Jane and Jacqueline appear, and the first thing she says is, “I want to read their fan fiction. I think I ship them. It would never happen on the show.”

The fact that this an accepted reality is sad as hell, and a damn shame because if Jacqueline Carlyle were a man, this wouldn’t even be a question. Women over 40 are not just mother figures, and women in their 20’s are attracted to older women more often than television would have us think.

You might say, “But you already have one queer ship, why do you need everyone to be gay?” Well, straights, because more than one queer person exists in a group of friends and/or acquaintances. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t vanish into thin air the moment a second gay enters a room.

But I digress.

The point is, that while Jane shares intimate conversations, and at least one longing look per episode with Jacqueline, and while Jacqueline will do things like risk her job by publishing Jane’s article, which trashes the company they work for, Jane will, at the end of the day, wind up with a man because it’s the safer option, because compulsive heteronormativity is a thing, and because networks only care about diversity up to the point where they meet their quota.

Maybe I’ll stop thinking Jacqueline and Jane want to bang it out when they stop writing them dialogue where Jane “accidentally” blurts out that she wants to live up to Jacqueline’s expectations, sexually. In the meantime, watching Melora Hardin’s Transparent episodes and The Bold Type back to back until the lines are so blurred that I can’t tell what show I’m watching is always an option.

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