SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Betsy,” episode seven of the second season of “The Bold Type,” which aired Tuesday, July 17.
As Kat (Aisha Dee) advises in the latest episode of “The Bold Type”: “I think when you don’t know much about something, you should explore it.” And that was exactly why showrunner Amanda Lasher wanted to talk about gun ownership and gun control in the seventh episode of the second season of the Freeform drama.
“It’s not easy to tell a story about guns, especially right now,” she admits to Variety.
In the episode entitled “Betsy,” Sutton (Meghann Fahy) reveals that she has been keeping a shotgun in the apartment she shares with Jane (Katie Stevens). It comes as a surprise to Jane — and probably much of the audience — and the newly reinstated Scarlet Magazine writer pitches a story called “I love everything about my best friend — except her gun.”
“It’s really interesting to explore when you find something out about a friend that you didn’t know and you’re surprised, like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You’re my best friend. I thought I knew everything about you.’ But it’s impossible to know everything about a person,” Fahy says.
According to Lasher, who herself is a member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the original idea for upacking the gun conversation came from Matt McGuinness, one of the writers on staff, in an attempt to take the issue out of the political realm and into the personal. The idea was to understand why someone would own a gun and how it would affect a friendship.
“When we first started talking about it, literally every single person in the writers’ room and with the Freeform executives I talked to and NBCUniversal — everyone had a story about, ‘Oh yeah, I found out when I was dating my boyfriend that he had a gun and I won’t let him keep it in the house,'” Lasher says.
For Lasher, her moment came when learning her father had a gun when she was growing up, and it is something that has stuck in her mind ever since.
“We felt really strongly about normalizing those conversations about gun ownership and taking it out of the political so we could make progress on this issue,” she continues. “And as long as we stuck with our guiding light by doing it through the lens of the friendship and the girls’ experience, we thought we would be OK.”
While Sutton ended up being the only one of the trio (which also includes Aisha Dee’s Kat) to own a gun, deciding which of the girls would spearhead the episode was tricky for the writing staff.
“We had initially talked in the very early, early, early stages about it being a Jane story. But then we were like, ‘Oh no, this is Sutton. She comes from a rural part of the country,'” Lasher shares.
Lasher had a conversation ahead of time with Fahy to discuss the major arc for her character. They agreed that what was most important was not to just do the story to be topical but to come from a place of character first so it could be a growing moment, in addition to a potentially teachable moment.
“It was very much the idea of, what is it when you define yourself in a certain way and you have these things that you feel like you need to keep you safe? And then you get older and you’ve outgrown them but you’re not quite ready to let them go,” Lasher explains. “We wanted to make a story about that and finding that you don’t need something else to make you feel strong or brave or powerful or in control.”
The episode revolves on Sutton and Jane reconciling their feelings about Sutton wanting to keep her gun in the home but ends with her realizing the gun represented a kind of control she was trying to get over her young life. No longer needing that kind of control now that she is in a more stable environment, Sutton chose to repurpose her beloved “Betsy” into earrings.
“I think it’s really cool Sutton goes out of her way to make a symbol of her love for Jane and how that’s greater than this one thing that that they disagree on. I think it’s amazing she actually has it repurposed into something that Jane could wear as a fashion statement — that’s so beautiful,” Fahy says. “I love that Sutton does that and I think what that gesture represents is huge. I’m really proud of that moment in the show.”
Lasher hopes that the episode opens up more conversation about gun ownership that doesn’t frame the issue as just black and white.
“I think we need to have better laws. I think that we need to have more background checks. I think we need to reduce the gun culture in America,” Lasher says. “But I think that we will only succeed in that if we are having open, respectful conversations with people who do own guns.”
Lasher hopes to be able to have more conversations that “make people think more deeply” about this issue, much the way the show has contributed to the conversation around the #MeToo movement. “
Not being polarizing, she believes, is “the only way to make progress in changing the culture about guns.”
And Fahy agrees, adding, “I hope that it inspires people to open your ears, really. A lot of times it’s super easy to open your mouth and share your opinion. But it’s harder to listen.”
“The Bold Type” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on Freeform.