The Bold Type’s Aisha Dee Is “Heartbroken” Kat’s Story Turned Into A White Conservative Redemption Narrative
She responded at length to the criticism of her queer BIPOC character Kat Edison’s "confusing and out of character" story arc, in which she begins a relationship with rightwing, conservative Ava (Alex Paxton-Beesley). She also stresses the importance of diversity behind the camera.
In a detailed, 10-slide Instagram post, Dee, who is biracial, described her experience growing up "as an outcast" in a predominantly white and conservative area of Australia and how important the stories told on screen were to her. She first praised The Bold Type for letting her play "a character who was centered in her own narrative," Dee wrote. "She wasn't just the white character's 'best friend.' She was empowered and confident, she approached the exploration of her queer identity with an open heart, and was met with nothing but love and acceptance from her friends." She admitted that "while not every story is perfect, life rarely is," how proud she is that the show has "started conversations."
She goes on, however, to detail the lack of diversity behind the scenes, especially given the show's "progressive" messages and the fact that one of its main relationships was between a queer Black woman and a lesbian Muslim woman. She revealed that it wasn't until season two that a BIPOC was hired in the writers' room, and "even then, the responsibility to speak for the entire Black experience cannot and should not fall on one person." Among the 48 episodes and four seasons of The Bold Type, she pointed out that only two were directed by a Black woman (the same one). And this lack of diversity was apparent everywhere, even in hair and makeup: "It took three seasons to get someone in the hair department who knew how to work with textured hair," Dee wrote.
She then addressed Kat's relationship with the "privileged" Ava, whose father supports gay conversion therapy. It's all the more troubling when you consider that just a few episodes earlier, Kat comforts her ex Adena, who suffered conversion therapy herself. The promos for the show tried to frame this as a subversive moment that shows the mysterious nature of love, despite our differences, but it instead read to many fans (including Dee herself, apparently) as misguided and problematic. "The level of care, nuance, and development that has gone into the stories centering white hetero characters is inconsistent with the stories centering queer characters and POC ... It was heartbreaking to watch Kat's story turn into a redemption story for someone else, someone who is complicit in the oppression of so many," Dee wrote. "Someone whose politics are actively harmful to her communities."
Dee underscored the fact that she is speaking out because she cares, and she believes in the show's "potential to be better." She also revealed that she has not just voiced her concerns, but has also taken actionable steps to advocate for change. She wrote that she "had conversations with the writers and producers, as well as the executives at Freeform and Universal TV ... This is an opportunity to walk the walk, to really practice the things The Bold Type teaches, by acknowledging mistakes and making commitments to be better in the future."
She ended her statement by stressing again that she did this "out of love," but also that "by speaking out, I'm taking a risk. It's scary, but it's worth it. This is not judgment. This is a call to action. We deserve to see stories that are for us, by us."
The producers of The Bold Type, Freeform and Universal Television responded to Dee's open letter, and told Refinery29 in a joint statement: “We applaud Aisha for raising her hand and starting conversations around these important issues. We look forward to continuing that dialogue and enacting positive change. Our goal on The Bold Type is and has always been to tell entertaining, authentic stories that are representative of the world that Kat, Jane and Sutton live in — we can only do that if we listen.”
The series finale for season four airs Thursday July 16.