9:00 pm EDT, July 17, 2018

‘The Bold Type’ tried to tackle gun control but missed the mark

On The Bold Type season 2 episode 7, “Betsy,” the writers attempted to tackle the debate around guns by creating an unfortunate situation between two of the girls, and the show really missed the mark.

The Bold Type is no stranger to addressing the topics everyone else is afraid to talk about. The stories they’ve told on sexuality, breast cancer, sexual assault, and, most recently, white privilege, have touched many and make The Bold Type nothing short of revolutionary in today’s media.

There have been a lot of unwarranted attacks on social media against The Bold Type recently, so I’d just like to add a disclaimer. In no way is this a hit piece meant to discredit all the important work the writers have done on this show, or to discourage people from watching it. The Bold Type is still a remarkable TV show with authentic representation, beautiful stories, and thought-provoking material. This article is nothing more than constructive criticism.

First and foremost, the audience was under the impression the episode would be more about gun rights and gun control, but it ended up being more about one isolated story on how a girl (Sutton Brady) joined a shooting club because her mom would rather drink than spend time with her. In fact, gun control was only really mentioned once throughout the entirety of the episode and was quickly pushed aside afterward.

Sutton does agree that assault rifles should be banned and that background checks should be stronger, but if you blinked you could’ve missed it. The words “Second Amendment” weren’t even uttered once; neither to preach about its “importance” or to dismantle its meaning and advocate for change.

One of the biggest issues with the episode is that there was no clear objective. I couldn’t determine what the writers’ intention was in handling this topic the way they did. The show’s demographic is fairly liberal, so maybe the point was to push the viewers outside of their comfort zone and offer them a different perspective in the same way Jacqueline does to Jane? Was it possibly to humanize “the other side” (conservatives) because they know their audience is predominantly left-leaning? Was their intention to draw in a more conservative crowd?

The writers’ opinion was left very vague and open for interpretation, and although there is a benefit to staying neutral, in their attempts to showcase both sides they ended up glossing over the seriousness of mass shootings and the lack of gun control in this country. Both of those key points were only mentioned once as passing comments in a heated conversation when they should’ve been the primary focus of the episode, which was marketed as an episode about gun control before the season aired.

The Bold Type didn’t do themselves any favors by not really taking a stance, and it’s difficult to grasp why they shied away from taking a more liberal/democratic stance when they’ve taken one on every other issue. It’s entirely possible their reasoning was to simply make it a “teachable moment” for their audience, and to possibly convince the two sides to meet somewhere in the middle. However, in the process of doing so they weakened all of Jane’s claims in order to prop up Sutton’s.

We got to hear all of Sutton’s arguments from “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people,” to “The mass shootings have nothing to do with me and my gun,” and outright denying her gun was any threat to anyone at all. But, then we hardly got to hear any of Jane’s points, and when we did they were quickly dismissed.

Jane is the queen of statistics and facts, and somehow none were mentioned. There was no mention of how living in a house with a gun increases your chance of death (whether by homicide, suicide, or accident) or how many less shootings there are in countries with stronger gun control.

The evidence overwhelmingly tells us that guns make people less safe, including the gun owners themselves, and that got lost in the debate. While leveling the playing field and conveying both points of view they over-corrected and focused too heavily on Sutton’s perspective.

In season 1, the writers received backlash for their lack of any attempt to address police brutality when Kat (a woman of color) was unfairly arrested. This was their opportunity to make amends and mention the astounding amount of gun violence against people of color in our country. Unfortunately, they kept Kat fairly indifferent on the issue and did Kat and their fans a disservice in doing so. An ongoing trend between the girls is that one of them usually acts as the mediator to ease tensions and provide comedic relief, so although I appreciate the writers not wanting to have it be two against one, it’s a shame they kept the only black woman on the show neutral.

Although the issue gets “resolved” in the end, and Sutton and Jane get to the bottom of why she was fighting so hard to protect her gun, the ending didn’t really sit well with me. Sutton was incredibly defensive and showed hardly any sympathy or understanding throughout the episode, but then suddenly made the decision at the end to turn her gun into a pair of earrings. It was very abrupt and felt undeserved because up to that point she had made little to no effort to compromise with Jane.

Not to mention that Sutton’s decision to turn her firearm into a piece of jewelry had nothing to do with any of Jane’s points against guns made throughout the episode. The gun was nothing more than a symbol of control for Sutton, but that could’ve been any inanimate object. Her choice to get rid of it had absolutely nothing to do with it being a gun. So although she did destroy it, it wasn’t because she was meeting Jane halfway or acknowledging any of her arguments, it was just because she realized she didn’t need it anymore. It’s possible that Sutton turning her gun into something else symbolizes the writers’ agreement with Jane, but it was very unclear and poorly executed.

I applaud The Bold Type for attempting to tell both sides of the story rather than presenting a one-sided argument. However, in light of everything taking place in America, from mass shootings to police brutality and the NRA pulling the strings in our government, now was not the time to indulge guns rights activists. We need to keep ourselves educated and open-minded, but we also need to highlight the voices of minorities, not the Republican party.

Hopefully, in the future, the show touches back on the issue because if it’s left as is it would be a disservice to all those impacted by gun violence. If they do try to tackle the issue again, we need a more clear and concise stance taken by the show and its characters. They would also need to focus more on the stories of victims/survivors of mass shootings, domestic gun violence, the increased rates of suicide with a gun in the house, and how gun control has positively impacted other countries.

The topic of guns is such a heavy and complex issue, filled with way too many outliers and points to address in one 45-minute episode. They could easily continue the conversation in their upcoming season. It’s just a shame that they found the time for Jane to try and understand Sutton’s POV without also having Sutton try to understand Jane’s. Jane interviewed Sutton, watched her shoot on more than one occasion, even tried it herself, and eventually came to the conclusion that the issue around guns is more complex than she once thought.

Meanwhile, Sutton didn’t do much other than yell and storm out of rooms mid-conversation (which is why the disposal of her gun didn’t feel authentic and earned).

The Bold Type is exactly the show we need given today’s social climate; however, in the wise words of Jacqueline Carlyle and Jane Sloan, “Nothing is more important than the truth,” and the truth is, the show’s conversation on the gun debate fell short. At the very least, it got a bigger discussion started, and the tough — but necessary — conversations people are having is the most important takeaway.

I commend the writers for making an effort to keep the argument nuanced and provide different perspectives on the subject, but the storyline overall was lacking and failed to highlight the dangers of firearms and the importance of gun control.

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