With So Much Potential, Girlboss Misses the Mark
“Don’t do that.. Grow up.” So says the romantic interest to Sophia, played by Britt Robertson, in Netflix’s new series, Girlboss. Throughout the show, Sophia does grow up, while still resisting those that tell her “don’t do that.” Girlboss is a loosely based off of Sophia Amoruso’s autobiography of the same name, telling the story of starting up her online vintage clothes website, nastygal.com. The show, focusing on female entrepreneurialism, has a strong feminist theme, though this theme can be shaky at times. The show has so much potential, with timeless coming-of-age story and empathetic characters, but it falls flat in a lot of crucial aspects.
The viewer first meets Sophia as her life is falling apart. She got an eviction notice, fired from her job, and almost misses lunch with her disapproving father. She’s still trying to figure out her life; she has no passions or dreams to give her drive.
She’s not a likeable character either. Sophia is rude, arrogant, prideful, and selfish. She mouths off her boss before getting fired and steals a rug from a street vendor. Yet, as the show goes on, she grows as a character, and viewers develop empathy for her.
Perhaps marked by a lessening amount of petty crimes, the audience can see her maturing. After she finds a passion in life, she starts to figure out who she is, while still keeping her identity and flaws. She finds her dreams and passions, and does all it takes to achieve them.
A huge component of her coming of age story is her relationship with her dad. It’s strained: he doesn’t understand her and is disappointed in her. She has given up trying to make him proud. The viewer feels empathy for both characters as they try to figure it out. As Robertson’s character develops and “comes of age,” they start to develop respect for each other, though this story line seems to be forgotten for the final episode. Perhaps this will be resolved if there is a second season.
One of the biggest mistakes the producers made was in their execution of the feminist theme. This is disappointing as it appears to be one of the main goals of the show. Sophia’s love interest, Shane, played by Johnny Simmons, gets yelled at on the street by a raging feminist. This scene seems to symbolize the feminism in the show: it gets the point across, but is shakily carried out.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues is the male characters: they are just not believable. The show’s producers love the fabulous gay friend trope, and use it three times over. These three gay characters are the only likeable male characters — the rest are jerks or idiots. This lack of existence of positive male characters brings into question the authenticity of gender issues throughout the show. It makes the show sound like the raging feminist that Sophia and Shane meet on the street: yelling at the world that all men are dumb and jerks, and women should run the world.
Metaphors are misplaced, such as when Sophia, whilst pretending to be a nail tech, gives a drawn out explanation for why women should get bright, aggressive nails. The “girl power” speeches seem forced, especially alongside the overused upbeat success montages. The girls seem to be yelling and getting worked up over nothing. Overall, the show had the right heart in mind: women can be successful entrepreneurs. Yet, this idea falls flat.
The cast gives a great performance. Ellie Reed, who plays Sophia’s best friend, Annie, does an excellent job, as does Johnny Simmons. Robertson gives an excellent performance. Her character’s dialogue can be a overdone at times, but she uses the script she has to her fullest advantage.
The writing is decent: the dialogue can be overdramatic, but the storyline of each episode is well done. The show also has some phenomenal ideas, such as scenes where they illustrate social media conversations with characters talking to each other in white space. Unfortunately, the writing does leave some holes and unresolved issues, including her relationship with her dad.
The show really hits the mark with supporting characters. Almost every episode is focused on one supporting character and their relationship with Sophia, many new to her life. Each affects Sophia, helping her along in coming of age, and by the final episode the mark each has made on her life is obvious.
Girlboss had so much potential: it has an excellent storyline, great actors, and lovable supporting characters. Yet it misses the mark on some crucial aspects. For viewers who enjoy the likes of Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt, or even Jessica Jones — shows with coming-of-age and feminist story lines — it could be worth spending an afternoon or two binge-watching. However, with the show’s many flaws, it is certainly not a must-see.