Netflix's Girlboss Review


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Hi! So I admit I didn’t have much intention of watching Girlboss. It’s not that I am averse to watching shows aimed squarely at women half my age, far from it, but I hadn’t read the book, unlike seemingly every other blogger, and genuinely had no idea about the Girlboss of the title Sophia Amoruso, as her business NastyGal never entered my orbit in the U.K.

But then I noticed it was getting terrible reviews in many major outlets, so I had a nose, because guilty pleasure time, I love a (good) bad review.

I read one prominent newspaper’s review, and something seemed a bit off. Why was this journo blankly trashing the show with barely any effort or conviction? The essence of her review was “Millenials suck blah blah this show is dumb whatever”.

Without much targeted critique at anything specific other than they presume “Millenial Narcissists” are not of any interest to their readers. And they wonder why newspapers are going out of business! I couldn't help but notice the writer looked to be my age or maybe a bit older...and it kind of gelled with my thoughts in my last blog post, about my generation kind of being sticks in the mud when it comes to enjoying or giving credit to the younger one's accomplishments.

Saying that, I have since (post watch) read some of the other terrible reviews, mostly in the same vein of the bigger papers, reviewers just did not love this show. The main problem being its abrasive, in your face tone and Sophia's overall attitude.

Me...I really liked it, rather a lot! Is the central character Sophia (“loosely based on real life – REAL loose” we are told in the opening credits) a self-absorbed delusional narcissist whose self-belief that she is meant for better than crappy jobs despite having no qualifications, and seemingly thinks the world owes her a favour annoying? Um…kind of? Is she one dimensional? Hell no.

Sophia is pretty messed up, being motherless since the age of twelve with a Dad who tries but mostly fails to emotionally support her (played by Dean Norris/Hank from Breaking Bad, who was also in Under the Dome with Britt Robertson). I thought the show gave us enough nuances in her background to justify some of Sophia's tougher to digest edges.

Sophia's crummy flat and scrimping for money feels authentic to most twentysomethings, and sure, she is a thief, a chancer, a thrillseeker: she is many things we are not used to seeing young women portrayed as.

Britt Robertson, I have to say, is freaking great in this. She has the perfect amount of energy and taps into her rage spot in an authentic and fun way. She also has a softer side in her relationship with a drummer who is like a baby Timothy Olyphant so who can blame her?! She completely rocks it and more than manages the burden of being the central focus of the show. It's a very brave and bold performance.

This show made me realize how rare it is to see women get ANGRY on screen, repeatedly, and with gusto, that doesn’t necessarily end in a weep or reconciliation to soften their characters and not alienate the audience, but merely, because they are mad as hell and need to let it out. Sophia is a short tempered brat, for sure, but she is also driven and smart and essentially loyal to her friends and loved ones.

The fact that something like Wolf of Wall Street, which is a million times more grotesque in its glorification of the capitalist dream, was dramatically better received than this show by critics does smack a tiny bit of sexism to me. Not that Sophia is a patch on Jordan Belfort, but she is similarly unapologetic and endlessly, often ruthlessly ambitious, a trait that it seems we as viewers are only expected to begrudgingly admire in men. Screw that! ;-)

I also think there is a heightened sense of surrealist camp/comic element to a lot of Sophia's rages/melodramatic traits that add another level as it sometimes feels the show is making fun of her ludicrously amped determination a tiny bit.

Sophia’s innate response to anyone trying to cramp her style and ambition is to be rebellious and destructive, and it must be said, hella fun! When her fellow Ebay vintage sellers passively gang up on her radical methods of repurposing and reimagining vintage clothes, often at a huge mark up, she has some truly hilarious methods of dealing with them. 

I really liked a lot of things about this show. I liked the energy of it, the inspiration for the business coming to her from an accidental vintage shopping discovery, the music, even the 2007 setting, 10 years ago (WHAT) is done incredibly well. Who doesn’t remember when Marissa died in the O.C.? (um yeah, I will be watching teen dramas every decade until I am in my rocking chair!).

I liked the San Francisco setting, too, it's pretty groovy and fulfilling my current California aesthetic/travel dreams big time!

Her relationship with Melanie Lynskey’s vintage Ebay seller character, who considers vintage clothes pieces of art not to be sullied or even worn in some cases, is a fun one that has room to grow should there be a second series. Lynskey as ever is excellent and plays the buttoned up Gail to perfection.

There is a live re-enactment of a web forum chat that is one of the funniest things I have ever seen and has to be seen to be appreciated.

I felt like I maybe shouldn’t have liked Sophia as much as I did, given my age, but then again my favourite characters when I was younger were the rebels and troublemakers – from Winona Ryder blowing sh*t up in Heathers to John Hughes’ antihero outcasts, heck, I even managed time bending crushes on James Dean and Marlon Brando in their rebellious motorcycle youth.

Sophia is perhaps the next evolutionary step in a long line of antiheros, and to dismiss her as a stereotypical millennial is both a. boring and b. inaccurate – is someone who is now in their thirties a millennial? If anything Sophia is on the cusp of Gen Y (not that it matters but a lot of the cultural and tech references are I imagine ancient history to many millennials watching this show!). If we are going to dismissively pigeonhole shows according to age group let’s at least be accurate about it.

And besides all that, I do think Sophia is well rounded: her character is spiky and unlikable at times, for sure, but she is also essentially decent and kind underneath her armor. I think the fact that she is young and female and unapologetic of attitude is for whatever reason (*cough* the patriarchy ;-) too much for some people to relate to.

I also enjoyed the best friend character Ellie and their friendship, it felt real. Having RuPaul as her neighbour Lionel was a nice touch, too. Plot wise it was maybe a tiny bit meandering in the name of fleshing out Sophia’s backstory in a couple of episodes, but overall the 13 episode format was perfect for binge watching.

I loved the fashion in the show, the depiction of Sophia’s style felt vivid and believable as someone who could make a career primarily out of their taste in fashion. I also really liked the way it was filmed, it is bold and snappy and also sometimes dreamy with the neon lights, and succeeds in feeling like something that took place ten years ago.

I would quite like to see a second series, it will be interesting to see where they go from here (only since watching the show have I read about Amoruso’s rollercoaster career), it has me interested and I care about the characters enough to want to see more. And also, I need a a vintage 70s East West leather jacket in my life, stat!

7 comments

  1. See, now you've piqued my interest. This had dropped off my to-watch list by virtue of the reviews (less from the press than from my friends to be fair) but once you start talking about a different portrayal of a woman on screen my ears just prick up ;)

    I've got a couple of things to watch first, but I'll definitely be giving it at least a try now!

    Lis / last year's girl x

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    1. Ha ha I hope I haven't steered you wrong! It took me a couple of episodes to decide I could tolerate its brash tone, once I decided to go with it I liked it a lot!x

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  2. I think I am not going to watch it after the bankruptcy of a Nasty Gal. The whole hype about the TV series... I actually prefer to watch National Geographic but I am an old Millennial ;)

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    1. Ha ha I can't fault that Iga I love a good nature program! The business ultimately failing affected my enjoying the story,so many bigger fashion brands struggle or go under too, the fact that she made something from nothing is still impressive to me. :-)

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  3. I had not heard of this, book or show, it's too bad for things to be discarded just because it's portraying a younger generation, and a female character that isn't 100% "likeable".

    I don't see myself watching it, but I never watched teen shows even when I was one (I think dawsons creek and 90210 was on in the 90's???) and to be honest, teen/early adult problems annoy me :D I'd prolly slap my own face, if I had a time machine and hung out with past Heather.

    But thanks for giving this show a positive review with an open mind! Sometimes people just have sour grapes about being "old."

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    1. You might like it, it's about a cool moment in time really, where people could get silly rich if they had the right internet idea. I did feel weirdly inspired by it. I used to work at a dot com founded by two women, it sank because people just weren't ready to buy stuff online yet. So this show reminded me a bit of that I guess, she really was in the right place at the right time. :-)

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