The Bold Type tackled the sensitive topic of race and workplace discrimination in its latest episode, and as always, it showed us the argument through perspectives we might not have considered before.
When Jane (Katie Stevens) got an interview for another potential dream job but lost out on it due to the company's push for diversity hires, she felt more than little cheated. Why is it fair to hire someone less qualified simply because they're not white? She said as much in front of Kat (Aisha Dee), who was actually battling the same issue from another angle. A social media candidate Kat was desperate to hire was deemed "unqualified" without a college degree, an option that was not in the cards for her since her family couldn't afford to send her to the college she was accepted to. Kat felt endlessly frustrated that she had to lose out on the best qualified candidate because said candidate didn't grow up with the privileges that allowed others to get a degree.
The resulting argument got pretty ugly, and frankly, it left us with a bad taste in our mouth for Jane, who usually fights for the underdog. Katie Stevens says her initial reaction to Jane's perspective was similar.
"I'll be honest, I always get nervous touching on some of those things because I know it's so easy for fans to not be able to differentiate a character from me," Stevens told TV Guide. "So when I first learned that Jane was going to talk about white privilege and be kind of white privilege-y, I was nervous. But I love that it was more so the grey area of that, and it's not necessarily Jane saying that she's not for diversity, it was just kind of her being caught up in her own s---- and not realizing what she was saying. I think that that's common. I think a lot of us, we don't understand our privilege."
Kat made the fair point that Jane was all in favor of diversity until it was directly affecting her own ability to get a job, which was a little hypocritical. If you're only going to call the system unjust until it stops working for you, you might not be as in touch with your principles as you thought.
Like Stevens said though, we got to examine the grey area of Jane and Kat's argument as well. Though she may never have experienced racial discrimination, that didn't mean Jane wasn't stuck in a tough situation, which was one she didn't feel Kat could really appreciate. Kat's wealthy upbringing meant that she'd never be without a safety net, so missing out on opportunities to stand by her principles wasn't a make or break choice. For Jane, standing by her principles could mean going broke, losing her health care and potentially having to give up on her dream in order to make ends meet. Those are serious consequences that made it hard for her to remain objective.
Ultimately though, Kat pointed out that Jane found herself in the same situation as many minorities, most of whom don't think pursuing their dreams is even an option. Who ever said the diversity candidate wasn't as qualified as Jane? And does one helping hand in the form of a diversity hire negate all the hands Jane unconsciously received just by being white? After considering the full scope of Kat's argument, Jane was forced to acknowledge that her white privilege had given her advantages that she wasn't consciously aware of — one of the biggest being the ability and the confidence to pursue a job at Scarlet in the first place.
Stevens hopes that the lesson Jane (and viewers) walk away with from this episode is to be more mindful of issues of discrimination and white privilege. "We do need to do better as a country and allow people who otherwise may not have opportunity to have opportunity. There are so many great people who can do great things and they just don't have the opportunities to do it... If you recognize that you have privilege, help someone who might not. I think that that's super important."
While this episode of The Bold Type may not have magically resolved the problem of discrimination and privilege, it did make an important point about how to approach a conversation with your friends who either don't see or don't understand how this issue affects the people around them.
"I think that it's great to talk about it because it is an issue in our country, but more so how do we have these conversations amongst friends?" Stevens said. "How do we open this conversation and see each others' points of view and then have a better understanding about how to open the line of communication... I hope that fans walk away maybe able to have those difficult conversations amongst friends and to see themselves in each of these characters and think, 'How can I do better? How can I make steps like these characters make steps.'"
The Bold Type airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.