The other day I was browsing the shelves at one of those discount bookshops when I came across a cover that got my attention. The book was #Girlboss, a autobiographical tale of the founder of online fashion retailer Nasty Gal, Sophia Amaoruso. I ended up buying the book as it ticked a lot of my personal boxes. Women kicking ass, fashion, and motivational non-fiction. It was then I noticed the little sticker at the top proclaiming that the book was now a Netflix series. Let’s just say a week packing up my house and an stable internet connection meant that I smashed out all 13 episodes pretty quickly.
But a moreish tube of Pringles is very binge-worthy yet incredibly bad for your health. So by the same logic though highly binge-able was Girlboss actually any good?
Created by Blockers directed Kay Cannon and released in 2017, 5 out of 13 episodes were directed by women. Whilst not the most equal distribution of directing credits the show is primarily written by women with a story that focuses on a female lead, Sophia, played by Britt Robinson. The story follows Sophia’s journey from rock bottom to becoming the successful CEO of her own online fashion retail company, Nasty Gal, after discovering the lucrative market of selling vintage fashion on eBay. And whilst this story may seem motivational on paper it’s hard to say how inspiring the journey really was to watch.
Sophia as a character flip flopped for me in terms of her likeability. It is clear that she is incredibly independent as a person but what creates the unlikeability is her selfishness and her short temper. Watching her make mistake after mistake to finally get a win become over-confident and get knocked back down again was highly relatable though. By the end I was happy for her success regardless of the garbage human being she had been along the way because when she was doing her thing it was powerful and all humans have flaws. The redeeming quality of her character was that she was able to learn from her mistakes, in most instances, and rebuild the bridges she had so magnificently burnt down, or at least try to.
The bit the frustrated me after watching the series was reading about how many people criticised it because of Sophia’s garish character. There are many TV Shows and films based on male characters that also happen to display unlikeable traits but I’ve never heard anyone complain about them. The stereotype that women can’t be difficult, loud, or fiercely independent is seeping through into the reception of this show and for that reason I am thankful that Sophia is such a hard character to love, that’s what makes the show interesting and more true to life.
The story takes place in the early 2000’s and I appreciated the production design and costumes that made it feel as though we were in that time period without hitting you over the head with it. The comedy took a little while to settle in but once I was synced up to the rhythm it had me laughing out loud at certain moments, particularly an episode involving chat forums, which I won’t give away. It was clear that the comedy and by extension the story was aimed at a very particular audience, namely 20-something year old women such as myself, which is why I think it could be quite a polarising show for some.
The bit that may not be fully feminist about this show are the undertones of male dislike. Sophia’s father is painted as a bit of a villain, her boyfriend is pinpointed as the heart of all the problems, and more often than not the male characters are depicted as the obstacles in the way of progress, unless they happen to be gay. There is a particularly overused story cliche regarding Sophia’s boyfriend towards the end of the series, which I won’t spoil, but it left me with bad taste in my mouth instead of feeling like it actually progressed the story. I’m not sure if that part was true to the life of the real Sophia but in the show it certainly seemed unnecessary and just made the boyfriend seem worse than he maybe should have been.
Overall I had a really good time watching this show and for someone smack bang in the middle of the intended audience I think it achieved what it set out to do. It may not be for everyone and it’s certainly not sitting in my top TV shows of all time, but the story did pull me along the entire way through 13 episodes and I’m still excited to read the original book.
Girl Boss is available to watch on Netflix.