Jane taking on the story of Mia, a sexual assault survivor, led to an interesting conversation within the show on how she would write this piece. It wasn’t until Jacqueline revealed herself to also be a survivor that everything about the episode clicked.
The Bold Type has handled several intense issues over the course of its first season, but The Bold Type Season 1 Episode 10 tackled the biggest of all: sexual assault. It wasn’t easy hearing Mia’s pain and her story, along with seeing her endurance art, but it brought a new light to a topic that is constantly mishandled in Hollywood. As a victim of sexual assault myself, this episode really hit home for me, and the significance of this storyline goes well beyond a TV show.
“It’s difficult to capture someone else’s trauma.”
I was reluctant to watch the summer finale of The Bold Type when it was announced it would be tackling sexual assault. Just seeing the words sexual and assault in the same sentence is enough to send me spinning; let alone hearing them repeatedly over the course of an hour-long episode. As a rape survivor, the decision wasn’t as simple as deciding to watch or not to watch; I had to decide between letting my fear and anxiety get the better of me, and letting the assault stop me from doing yet another thing, or take the chance of being temporarily setback in my recovery, all for the sake of a TV series.
It’s so much more than a choice; it’s a risk. I risk all the memories I’ve worked so hard to suppress, rushing back to the surface, and flooding me with the terror, pain, and suffering all over again. I risk the chance of something so personal to me, being portrayed on-screen in a way I disagree with, or creating a narrative that would be hurtful to me and so many others. Capturing someone else’s trauma is beyond difficult; it’s near impossible. But when it’s done right, it has the potential to touch so many people.
After reflecting on how The Bold Type has handled heavy and potentially triggering subject matter in the past, I made the choice to sit down with my best friend, a hot cup of tea, and press play. I’m both proud and thankful I did. This show quickly became one of my favorites because of its intersectionality, feminism, diversity, and well-orchestrated storylines; this episode was no exception, and nothing short of captivating. It was moving, heartbreaking, and powerful all at once.
“I didn’t realize how much of the weight I was still carrying.”
I’d like to credit the writers for how they went about expressing how being a victim of sexual assault feels on a more daily basis. Although it might not resonate with everyone, it did with me. They illustrated how other people, even the most supportive people, can come and go, but you’re stuck holding the burden of what happened forever. Being in recovery is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s a life long journey. Unfortunately, the rest of the world moves on, whether you’re ready to or not.
Everyone’s story is different; everyone’s recovery is different. The Bold Type did an excellent job of portraying just that. Jacqueline held her weight internally, whereas Mia found a way to hold it out in front of her for all eyes to see. For Mia, holding the weights represented the injustice in our society, and all the many people the system has failed. The weights represented this tragic experience she had to carry with her, even after she sets them down; this is what resonated with me the most. It was absolutely beautiful to see the concept of endurance art come to life in this episode, and represent such an important subject in the process.
“My pain is your pain.”
Perhaps one of the most compelling and strong performances I’ve ever witnessed was given by Melora Hardin, when her character met eyes with Mia, and slowly took the weights into her own hands. There truly aren’t words to describe how I felt seeing this scene play out before me. On the brink of tears, I continued to watch as the bold, the beautiful, and the strong Jacqueline Carlyle came forward. It’s so important The Bold Type showcased someone who is perceived as untouchable, unbreakable, and as powerful as Jacqueline come forward as a sexual assault survivor. Not only does it express how strong victims of sexual assault are, it exists as an example to other survivors. It shows so many people like myself, that even when you feel weak, broken, and at your most vulnerable, you’re still the strongest person in the room.
The scene was followed by a heart wrenching conversation between Jane and Jacqueline, that sounded familiar to conversations I’ve had myself. Listening to Jacqueline explain how things won’t ever just go back to normal stung a bit, but it was true, and it was real. The Bold Type didn’t try to water it down, or chalk it up to saying it’ll all get better in time, because truthfully, it doesn’t. It’s something I’ll always have to carry with me. That being said, you can still strive for a “new normal”, and I have hope I’ll find mine too.
Tragically, there are too many stories to tell and too much to cover in one episode. If we’re fortunate enough to get a Season 2, I’d hope the topic of sexual assault, and Jacqueline’s story could be explored and discussed further.
“Can I stand with you?”
The viewing experience will be different for people who have been through something similar, as opposed to those who haven’t, but everyone has something important to takeaway. For one, it presented us with an example of why you should never assume what people have been through. Tragedies aren’t written across our faces, and I don’t think anyone could’ve guessed Jacqueline had been through something as traumatic as sexual assault. Most importantly, it showed that unless you’re a survivor yourself, you can’t carry the weight of one, but you can stand with them. Simply showing up, and offering your support and compassion, is enough to move mountains. If you take anything away from this episode, let it be that.
Remember to support the victims of sexual assault, along with supporting the episode itself. This episode was strong, beautiful, and powerful, because survivors are strong, beautiful, and powerful. In a few weeks, or even a few days, when social media and the rest of the world has moved on from this finale, remind yourself to keep showing up. Our society doesn’t take survivors seriously, and that needs to be addressed head-on.
So while you’re discussing the episode, whether that be with friends and family or on paper, make an effort to reach out, and speak out against the injustices so many real people are facing. As much as this episode meant to viewers, who are proud with the direction media is headed in, it meant more to the people who don’t have the luxury of walking away from the issue when they walk away from their TV.
Don’t fail to remember the survivors when the world inevitably fails to remember the episode. Stories like this have the capability to leave lasting impressions, so let this leave one on you.
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