Last weekend, I binge-watched the new Netflix series, Girlboss, in one day. So I guess you could say I liked it.
The show is a semi-autobiographical depiction of Sophia Amoruso’s, the real life Girlboss, entrepanerial rise of her vintage fashion brand Nasty Gal from its inception in 2006, when it was just a lowly ebay stored where she ‘flipped’ clothes. The then-23 year old Sophia just wanted to not work for anyone else anymore, and so she almost by accident became her own boss.
One of the big stumbling blocks I had with this show was its main character, Sophia, who was. Annoying. As. Shit. Seriously, I don’t know when was the last time I despised a televison character so much for just being (actually no, I do. Lena Dunham’s character, Hannah, from Girls. And Lena Dunham’s being in general. But that’s a whole different issue I’m not getting into right now).
Sophia Marlowe, the protagonist of the series, is a petulant, narcassistic asshole. THERE, I SAID IT. And I know that I wasn’t the only one thinking it – if you haven’t already, watch it and see for yourself. And I know, I know, that not all characters need to be likable to interesting, that it’s actually slightly more interesting to follow the life of and root for someone who is inherently unlikable. But I don’t know, man. I had so many problems with this fictionalised version of Sophia. I haven’t read Amoruso’s autobiography, however now I am tempted to, because I want to find out if she really was (/is) that much of an ass.
That aside, I powered through, because I liked the message behind the show. I first became aware of Nasty Gal during university, around 2012/2013, and was very intriguied to find out that the company was not only started as an eBay store that escalated by massive proportions, its CEO and founder started out as a down-on-her-luck 23 year old. As someone who is currently also 23, and can’t even order for herself at a restuarant at times, I was very interested in the story of someone who started up their own business out of basically nothing. All because she didn’t want to answer to anyone, and to be able to work out of her apartment, in bed, in her underoos (a word that I found endearing at first, but gets used TOO MUCH in this show).
What is great about Girlboss, is that it is nostalgic without being too wanky. It’s set in 2006, which is, as my friend Vicky so brilliant put it, ‘an era I didn’t even realise I had such strong feelings for but whoops, apparently I do’. The characters kept making references to Britney, MySpace, The OC… all things I lived for in 2006 (maybe not MySpace, but definitely the other two). I think what sold me is when one of the characters exclaims to the other “Who the FUCK likes Taylor Townsend?!” after watching the totes emosh Marissa death scene (I would say ‘spoiler’ but come on, dude, it’s been 11 years, keep up). And the sountrack, oh the soundtrack. Everytime they dropped a song that I listened to religiously in my teens, it was almost as if I was transported back into that exact moment, sitting in my teenage bedroom, listening to it LOUDLY while applying eyeliner in aggressive circles.
I think the ensemble is really what makes this show. I lived for Sophia and Annie’s friendship, it was female empowerment to the core. Which is why it hurt SO REAL when they had The Big Fight™. I won’t get into it because it borders on spoiler territory, but if you’ve seen it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. What I absolutely don’t mean, though, is the episode where Annie is annoyed that Sophia hasn’t listed her as one of her Top 8 on Myspace. While I understad the plight of not being included in your friend’s top list when you’re a teenager, this storyline seemed a bit ridiculous for a pair of women in their twenties.
However, this loops me back around to the Sophia Is An Assohole thing: she is so horrible to the people she loves sometimes. It’s one thing being a sassy so-and-so to an old lady off the street, or to your boss because you absolutely can’t respect authority for the life of you, but when Sophia acted shitty to her friends and boyfriend, it was endlessly frustrating for me. People called her out on it though, and that made it all the more satisying. Johnny Simmons’ character, Shane, especially didn’t shy away from telling Sophia what a narcissist she was, who only ever did the things she wanted, because she was whole-heartedly selfish.
I did end up endearing to Sophia, though. It took about halfway through the 13 episode series, but I got there. I don’t know whether I just got used to her petulance, or if the writers toned it down a bit, or if I simply understood why she acted the way she did through getting to know her character. I think her stubbornness and complete selfishness makes her slightly… I don’t know, human? Like, it was actually slightly refreshing keeping tabs on a main character I didn’t necessarily agree with or even like all the time. By the end, I thought – yeah she’s an annoying little shit, but she’s obviously got a good head on her shoulders. Even if sometimes you can’t see it through the temper tantrums she so often has. Sophia is annoying, but she is also ruthless and determined to get her business to the top – and there’s something mad respectable about that.
Let’s also take a moment to talk about some of the guest stars. I’m talking Ru Paul, Iliza Shlesinger, the Dean from Commmunity, HANK from fucking BREAKING BAD. The casting for this show was truly A+ and I cannot fault it one bit. Not to mention that the characters all had a clear purpose, and all had excellent chemistry, and it honestly made the show a true pleasure to watch. Seriously, the background characters is what made me stay, because it helped deal with the Sophia-ness of the whole thing. Gail, who plays Sophia’s eBay arch nemisis, was a great kind of antagonist for the show (although, one could argue that Sophia is the actual antagoinst – but I’ll let you judge for yourselves), and the way the writers and producers depicted online chatrooms and forums was incredibly funny. A round table of deadpan internet nerds? Genius.
I think the show also pointed out a lot of the double standards we find in today’s society. Like how, if you’re a man, it doesn’t matter if you’re unlikeable as long as you’ve got a serious ‘business head’, but how if you’re a woman, you have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. And everybody knows it. And it’s sad – who said you have to be a stuffy, uptight man in a suit to run a business? Why should business be rigid and boring, when it can be fun and loud and outrageous and kick ass. Sophia may not be your conventional businesswoman, but she has a talent, and she loves what she does, and she’s committed to it. And that is why, appart from a couple of hiccups, this show is so great.
Did you watch Girlboss? If not, do you plan to? Tell me what you think!