Girlboss 1×01 Advanced Review
Director: Christian Ditter
Writer: Kay Cannon
Starring: Britt Robertson, Ellie Reed, Johnny Simmons, Alphonso McAuley
A review by Samantha Pearson
Confession: prior to volunteering to review Netflix’s new original series Girlboss, I had honestly never heard of Sophia Amoruso or Nasty Gal. Chalk that up to a lack of interest in fashion as a whole (it’s hard to care about brands when most don’t make affordable, attractive clothes for fat women) or a desire to stay far away from people associated with Lena Dunham, but although I’ve seen Amuroso’s memoir #GIRLBOSS in bookstores, I can honestly say I’ve never paid attention.
Girlboss, which boasts Amoruso as one of its executive producers, unfortunately hasn’t given me an incentive to start. Given that she stepped down as CEO at Nasty Gal and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last year after all kinds of other controversey, the show’s premiere date honestly comes at a really awkward time.
I managed to watch two episodes of this series before giving up on the third. The show is honestly fairly sharp — the cast has good chemistry, the music is incredible, and the general plot structure is familiar without being dull. The image Girlboss paints of San Francisco is one I’m familiar with from growing up a few hours north of the city in the Sierra Mountains, as well as descriptions friends have provided of their lives after moving there.
It’s also made very clear, from the reference to Peter Jennings’ death in the pilot episode, that Girlboss takes place in 2006. (There’s a title card that places us in San Francisco in 2006, but I had honestly forgotten that bit by the time the Jennings reference hit.) And if I’m being honest, I didn’t love 2006 when I lived through it as a junior in high school. Incredible music aside, I don’t have any desire to relive it eleven years later, especially through the eyes of a whiny 23 year-old white girl who’s too disrespectful to hold down a job.
On the one hand, it’s really cool to see a series loosely based on Amoruso’s own start in the fashion industry. Nasty Gal started with her selling vintage clothes she got for cheap on Ebay. The pilot episode ends with unemployed protagonist Sophia (Britt Robertson) watching the bids climb on a like-new 1970s east/west leather jacket that she bought for $9. Knowing how many websites now boast shops by people who are selling vintage (or even just lightly used) clothes, seeing that represented in a Netflix series is really interesting.
On the other hand, while Robertson clearly has fun playing Sophia, the actual character is hard to root for because she just doesn’t seem to care about anything other than herself. It’s exhausting to watch, even for half an hour at a time (the pilot is about 28 minutes long). She’s snide without being endearing, and her desire to make enough money to live while also lounging around in her underwear is — while vaguely relatable — hard to swallow. She has no problem bartering over prices at a vintage shop before informing the shop owner she’s ripped him off, nor does she hesitate before stealing a rug from a street vendor as she walks by. (In the second episode, she nearly gets arrested for stealing an Ebay for Dummies book, but uses a hernia to freak out the security guard and escape.)
Sophia also has no qualms about making herself the most important person in any situation, from refusing to pay rent until her plumbing is fixed (okay, that I can understand) and then complaining about her eviction notice to eating her boss’ sandwich at work after violating a number of company policies and then crying when she’s fired. It’s clear in the aftermath of these moments that she realizes she’s kind of an asshole, but once she figures out how to make money from her bed, whatever character growth that acknowledgment might offer goes right out the window.
Again, I only watched two episodes, but that’s the kind of thing that’s hard to ignore. It certainly doesn’t make me want to continue watching the series, no matter how few episodes it has.
The supporting cast also doesn’t leave much to be desired. It’s fun seeing Johnny Simmons in something new (he’s lost his puppy-face look from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Jennifer’s Body), but his character is as inconsequential to Sophia as seemingly everyone else in her life, even after they hook up. Her best friend Annie (Ellie Reed) is slightly more sympathetic, but both Annie and Sophia treat Annie’s new boyfriend Dax (Alphonso McAuley) like he’s a plaything, which is gross.
McAuley plays one of two recurring characters of color, which is noticeable in a big way. The only other people of color we see in the pilot episode (aside from Sophia’s neighbor, played by RuPaul) are unnamed extras with few to no lines. All of them, save for one woman who doesn’t speak, are in service roles of some kind. Even Dax is a bartender, which is apparently a running gag. Annie has just started sleeping with him, but he’s a terrible bartender who probably shouldn’t have even passed his test, so he’s apparently worthy of mocking. Like I said: gross.
I think, had this series actually come out in 2006, I would have been into it enough to at least keep watching until the finale. But given how tired I am of the manic pixie dream girl trope and the white feminism that’s been so rampant in shows like Girlboss for years, I just couldn’t forgive this show’s flaws enough to give the good parts more of a fighting chance.
Skip it. April is lush with the return of fan-favorite series (The Get Down, Fargo) and the premiere of promising new series (American Gods, The Handmaid’s Tale). With so much better TV to watch, don’t waste too many hours on Girlboss. I promise there’s a better use of your time.
Girlboss season one will be available to stream April 21, 2017 on Netflix