Welcome to Role Call, where we call up TV’s leading ladies to talk about their most vital, memorable, and feminist episodes.
Freeform’s The Bold Type is often pegged as a New York City fantasy that’s as glossy as the magazine at the center of this fictional universe, Cosmopolitan stand-in Scarlet. And, oftentimes it is. No matter what hot button issue-related crisis our fashion closet loving BFF trio finds itself in, everything is usually fixed after 42 minutes with either some bold honesty, fearless friendship, or a bottle of tequila. Even Tuesday night’s season 2 episode “Betsy” was seemingly saved with a trip to Red Hook, Brooklyn, and a cool flower vase.
But the origin story of that vase will likely reverberate through the rest of The Bold Type — which is currently in production on its already-announced third season. Because the deeply anti-gun Jane Sloan’s (Katie Steven’s) newest desk accessory used to be a gun. A gun, or, more precisely a shotgun, like the one we find out in “Betsy” that her best friend and roommate Sutton Brady (Meghann Fahy) loves with her whole heart. You see, Sutton found the control and support she so desperately needed as a teen through skeet shooting with her Central Pennsylvania high school’s gun club. Betsy is the name of her shotgun.
For once the ladies of The Bold Type do not, and cannot, agree on a common liberal, feminist, millennial lightning rod of a topic. And that tension leads to one of the most necessary Bold Type episodes yet.
“We wanted to shed light on [the topic of firearms] and say, ‘Hey, look. There are all different kinds of gun owners,’” Sutton’s portrayer Meghann Fahy told Refinery29 over the phone. That is a rare statement for a show catering to young, progressive women. Yet, Sutton’s experiences as a gun owner are in truth pretty representative of real-life statistics when it comes to firearms. The fashion assistant, who is a woman in her mid-20s, owns a single gun, with all the proper permits and training, and believes in stricter gun laws, improved background checks, and banning assault rifles.
As 2017 Pew Research reveals, those attitudes line up with how Gen Y actually views firearms. About 27% of millennials own a gun, which is pretty close to one-third; Sutton, who solely uses Betsy for recreational purposes, is one-third of The Bold Type’s trio. Only about half of Gen Y agrees with the need for stricter laws around firearms, which is on par with older generations (suggesting they're not as liberal on guns as subjects like marijuana legalization and LGBTQ+ rights). But, millennials do break with older Americans when it comes their nearly blanket support for banning assault rifles — something Sutton is also all for.
That’s why Sutton can be so irritated by the insults Jane throws her way upon learning about the episode’s titular Betsy, the disassembled shotgun in a locked case Sutton hid in her closet for years. Jane, understandably upset by her own past as a child growing up five miles from the Columbine mass shooting, asks if Sutton owns a MAGA hat, loves monster truck rallies, or, it’s implied, even feels sad about mass shootings like the recent ones in Parkland, Florida, and Las Vegas. Sutton, who doesn't “even” shoot birds, responds to Jane’s stereotypes by telling her roommate that line of questioning is simply “bad journalism.”
“Sutton’s saying, ‘That’s not it. That’s not always the case,” Fahy, a Massachusetts native who had never even heard of skeet shooting, let alone used a gun before filming, explained. “A lot of the time people think something’s a black-and-white situation and it’s not. There are so many different levels too it.”
Because of those many levels, Fahy hopes “Betsy” will lead to more discussions about guns, and likely, other tricky subjects, among fans. “That’s really what it is: It’s a conversation about a difficult topic between two friends,” the actress said. “We’re trying inspire people to say, ‘Look, everyone is entitled to have their opinion, but it’s really important to hear other people out as well.’ And you can listen. Sometimes I think listening is the best thing to do.”
Upon listening to Sutton’s story, it becomes obvious that Betsy the gun isn’t about a need for violence or even necessarily shooting. Rather, skeet provided the constant a young Sutton needed in life often tossed into chaos by a less-than-involved mother. “This is something she sort of attached herself to because her mom was pretty absent in her life and she found control and she found a group of friends through it,” Fahy said.
Skeet shooting also proved to be the one of the first challenges teen Sutton ever truly excelled at. You can see from her confidence in “Betsy” — the shooting confidence gun newbie Fahy learned through a “patient” on-set specialist — skeet shooting is one of the few things Sutton took pride in during some of the most tender years of her life.
Although Sutton ends “Betsy” by handing over, well, Betsy to a boutique that gives guns new lives as refurbished items, like Jane’s new vase, we’re not done exploring the history that forged Sutton The Skeet Shooter. Upcoming penultimate season 2 episode “Trippin’” will follow Sutton’s trip home back to Pennsylvania, on which Jane and Kat Edison (Aisha Dee) will tag along. That means, as Fahy promised during her R29 phone call, viewers will get meet her character's often talked about, never-before seen mom, Babs.
If we thought “Betsy” was a tense Sutton episode, with Babs on the horizon, it’s fair to assume we ain’t seen nothing yet.
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