Girlboss at her worst is the show at its best

We eat up deeply flawed characters like nobody’s business. What’s wrong with us?

Girlboss’ protagonist Sophia Marlowe (whose last name I had to look up because you know we’re all thinking ‘Amoruso’) is a loud, obnoxious, and frankly, criminal thorn in everyone’s side. She leeches off friends, family, and strangers, has no problem with trespassing, stealing, or destroying property, and channels her insecurities into a terrifying— if not admirable— drive to succeed in her scrappy business.

So why do we like her so much? Why does it make for a compelling story?

In episode 11, “Garbage Person”, Sophia hits an emotional low and seeks out her estranged mother. After a brief emotional learning journey, she resolves to be less self-destructive, and makes amends with her eBay enemy, Gail. The scene threw me off balance; I realized it made me uncomfortable that she was trying to be a better person, that the morality of cliche’d films was leaking into the show.

Instead, I heavily connected to the scene in the first episode in which she sees a carpet she likes, and simply grabs it, walking away without paying for it. Moments later in the park, sitting on her prize, she stares into nothing, directionless, and overwhelmed by an unspeakable sadness.

I feel ya, Sophia. I mean, I never stole a carpet. But I feel ya.

Take any film or show that you can think of, off the top of your head, and think about the protagonist. While flawed, they tend to always have a pretty solid moral compass that ultimately wins the day. There is a control over their emotional turmoil that the rest of us simply don’t possess. No matter how annoying Simba is while shirking his duty in the jungle, he ultimately comes back as a hero, saving us the embarrassment of having to deal with his imperfection. Even the borderline-psychopathic Sherlock Holmes makes up for his own social issues by just being really entertainingly good at solving mysteries. It’s probably why Game of Thrones is so morbidly popular. The characters are shamelessly terrible people, and not in a forgiving, sitcom way.

It’s why I can somewhat dismiss a lot of the angry opinions about Girlboss showcasing a ‘bad role model’. It’s an admittedly tricky water to navigate when deciding how socially responsible a show ought to be, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to watch this show expecting a role model for little girls to aspire every fiber of their being to emulate. In fact, little boys and girls ought to never do that; nobody’s perfect.

Watching Sophia bumble her way through her egoistic and somewhat psychopathic journey of victories and pitfalls is entertaining, but also unsettling, inspiring, and bemusing: much like — perhaps too much like — ourselves.

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