Can You Date Outside Your Political Affiliation? Asking for The Bold Type

Kat and Ava on the Bold Type

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

It’s no secret we have covered The Bold Type on AfterEllen many times. Why? Kat Edison, of course, a Black, bisexual leading character. However, in the latest season of the show, fans have become upset with Kat, as she makes a very unorthodox decision, at least according to common stereotypes about the gay and lesbian community.

Kat is an activist; she ran for political office as a Democrat and has since been fighting for social justice causes. Kat is fierce in her beliefs and always refuses to step down from them. This is what draws fans to Kat’s characters, and it one of the reasons that The Bold Type has remained such a successful show. Kat is a biracial bisexual woman, who infamously dated a Muslim woman, bringing so much awareness and pride to the show. The Bold Type addresses women’s issues in a way that the media generally doesn’t, making them quite a special show.

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The most recent season was cut short due to COVID, so the finale episode was not intended to be the last one. With that in mind, it is important to note that Kat is in the middle of a journey, and her story is not finished. However, many fans of the show, and even the cast members, are upset with the writing of Kat’s current story. Let’s jump into it.

Kat made the decision to out Scarlet board member RJ Safford, whose political donations were antithetical to the organization. She lost her job as a result of taking her political stand.  In the process, she met Safford’s daughter, Ava. As we roll into the recent episodes, Kat actually has Ava on a podcast she started to talk about Ava being a conservative young woman in the current political climate. During the podcast recording process, Ava comes out as a lesbian to Kat, which immediately shocks Kat completely. Yes, they make lesbians in Republican models. Later in the episode, Kat is having sex with a woman and says Ava’s name. Whoops. Eventually, Kat and Ava begin a relationship together, leaving fans very shocked and confused.

Dating a conservative woman for whom Kat earlier had nothing but disdain is completely out of character for her. The activist in Kat fights almost every belief that Ava holds (including defending conversion therapy among others), so why would Kat choose to date her? Kat and Ava’s relationship seems to spark debate around dating outside of your political affiliation. Can it be done, or are you sacrificing your own values and your own sense of self?

On the one hand, there are many families out there who operate successfully this way. Not everyone can agree on everything, and many conservative and liberal relationships exist. However, for someone like Kat who’s entire energy is about liberal activism, it is out of character for her to date a conservative woman, who embodies the exact values she is fighting against. 

It almost seems to belittle Kat’s character, whose politics are a core part of her identity, and is the essence of lazy writing. Are the writers being provocative, boosting controversy to boost ratings? Or, perhaps the point was to shed light on attraction and instinct. When attraction is strong, it can overcome differences in personality and habits, even those that would otherwise seem insurmountable. Kat has already dated a woman of another ethnicity, religion, and orientation. At times their intimacy brought them closer together, appreciating their differences, but after their relationship ended, Kat and Adena were driven apart by deep division in bisexual and lesbian experiences. In this new relationship, The Bold Type is asking if sexual and romantic compatibility can overcome political difference and allow us to accept everyone for who they are.

Actress Aisha Dee took to Instagram to address her strong feelings on playing Kat in this storyline. Dee makes it clear that she does not agree with the writer’s decision to have Kat date Ava. In her post, Dee also points out that the writers room for The Bold Type is primarily made up of white writers, and it took a long time before any Black voices were represented. Is the controversial writing around dating across political boundaries out of step with the experiences of Black lesbian and bi women in real life? For Dee, it obviously feels out of step with her lived experience. And after years of playing this character, she’s in a good position to judge where Kat would draw the lines around her romantic relationships. 

While Dee has not quit the show, she is hopeful that Kat’s character will be written better in the future and felt that in honor of Kat she needed to speak out about her feelings towards the situation. 

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In an interview with TV Insider, she said the story arc was about finding common ground, “That’s what relationships are for, whether they’re romantic or not. People come into our lives to teach us things and to help us evolve into hopefully a better version of ourselves.”

There is clearly an inequality in the media industry, that is no secret. On shows like The Bold Type, which tackle these very issues, it is almost shocking at the limited diversity in the writer’s room, cast, and at Freeform itself. Props to Dee for speaking out, and to her cast members for also not being afraid to repost her. This begs the question once again, can we date outside our political affiliation and moreover, can a conservative, white lesbian date a liberal biracial bisexual woman? Are the writers asking us to look at a situation of opposites attract or some kind of hate-sex turned relationship? There is truly so much to unpack here.

Kat and Ava on opposite sides of the aisle

In this writer’s opinion, I think it depends on the situation and the people involved. Coming from a conservative family in the South, I know how difficult it is to maintain relationships with loved ones who think differently; however, my partner and I share in the same political beliefs, and I’m not quite sure I could date someone who didn’t. I’m close to my family because I see who they are at their core, and I believe it’s possible to still love and accept them, but again, I’m not in a relationship with a conservative person, and that is a different situation entirely.

So we’ll ask you, AfterEllen readers, what do you think? Is it possible, or does it negate all the progress of the self-acceptance to date someone whose values don’t align with yours? Or could dating across political lines heal the protracted red/blue divide in this country? Do you and your partner share political beliefs? Do you argue about politics or avoid it?

All in all, The Bold Type will continue to be a show that sheds light on the bigger issues, and after Dee’s statement, it’s clear the writers and Freeform have been publicly called out. Here’s hoping they get to work, and that The Bold Type shows us that this writing choice was not merely a stunt to create conflict, but instead to ask tough questions about love in our current political moment. Kat’s character deserves more than sensationalism.

You can stream The Bold Type on Hulu.