It’s been a while since I wrote a good old Motherbooker rant but I suspect this review of one of Netflix’s new show is about to turn into one. I’ve not read the book that the series was based on. It’s mostly because the very word “Girlboss” gets me a bit worked up but also because I don’t think it’s ever right for a book title to contain a hashtag. I mean what kind of stupid millennial bullshit is that? Hashtags are an annoying but, often, important part of social media. You need to use them carefully to succeed but non of those uses involved planting them on the front of a fucking book. It reminds me of all those ridiculous books that were popular when I was younger that overused the @ symbol. It was about the time that the internet was becoming more important to everyone but it still felt new and modern. The one thing all those books have in common? They haven’t stood the test of time. They now feel horribly outdated and really pathetic. Anyway, putting aside my annoyances about the book, I had decided that I’d probably never watch the series until I needed some easy watching to get me through a packing nightmare. And then I was faced with a problem. Every time I logged onto Netflix it was there in my “continue watching” section. So, in order to get rid of it, I watched the whole damn series. Turns out, I have many feelings about it.
Girlboss is loosely based on the memoirs of Sophia Amoruso the ex-CEO of vintage clothes company Nasty Gal. It tells the story of how a 23 year old woman went from selling a random piece of Vintage clothing on eBay to owning a million dollar online enterprise. It’s also a fucking awful portrayal of women in business. The fictional Sophia (I can’t say for sure whether real-life Sophia was the same) is the worst kind of stereotype of an entitled millennial. She refuses to grow up, feels as though life owes her something for nothing, and goes from job to job because she can’t accept responsibility. Instead of being a regular citizen who makes an honest wage, Sophia wants to live life on easy street. We see her argue with and completely disrespect her boss and then act surprised when she gets fired. Sophia is exactly the kind of 23 year old that everyone over 50 thinks millennials really are.
Sophia is not just a difficult person who can’t doesn’t do well with authority figures (though this is all true). She’s just a fucking awful human being. She steals, argues with people for no reason, berates her friends for no reason, and has awful temper tantrums when she doesn’t get her own way. She is selfish, narcissistic and completely blind to everyone else’s problems. She’s disgusting but the writers feel that it’s okay to make her so awful simply because she knows how awful she is. They seem to be pushing the ridiculous notion that it’s okay to be a bitch as long as you openly acknowledge that you are one. Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that. In order for us to accept that Sophia is a bitch she needs to have some redeeming features. The only problem is, they forget to show us what they are. She is surrounded by people who just allow her to be a dick but there’s never any evidence of why. We never see what they see in her that makes it okay. As it goes, Sophia is just the kind of teenager that should have been slapped super hard years ago. Although, Girlboss is actually attempting to imply that Sophia is just an independent, strong young woman. The kind of person that Destiny’s Child were always banging on about.
What Girlboss does more than empower women is just perpetuate the stereotype that, in order to get ahead in business, a women needs to act more like a man. Sophia is shown to succeed ahead of the women she goes up against on eBay. They are portrayed as naive and stupid women who are weak and foolish in their business decisions. They keep their femininity and their emotional vulnerability but they don’t make as much money. Sophia walks around swearing, shouting, and not giving any kinds of fucks about anyone and she’s having sex on top of her wads of cash. Instead of presenting a feminist idea of women in business, Girlboss just strengthens the boss bitch image. It’s disgusting.
To be fair, if Sophia was a super talented and repressed genius then it would be possible to forgive her sins. She’s not though. She’s just a young girl who gets super lucky. She stumbles across one great piece of clothing and luckily makes a huge profit. There was no great strategy here but a girl who took advantage of a one-off situation. There is no skill on show here. It means that there is no space for Girlboss in today’s society. The story of Sophia Amoruso holds no place in the lives of current job seeking young people. Sophia has no skills, no background in business, and no clear plan to success. It falls into her lap. The story she’s trying to sell to young people is that you can make all the money you want by not doing a fucking thing. Take it from someone who has been job hunting for fucking ages: it doesn’t work like that in the real world.
The story at the heart of this series is a fantasy that does more damage than it does good. Which would almost be okay if it was also well-made. The fact is, aside from the supporting cast and a pretty decent performance by its lead actor, Girlboss is just bad. The script is so badly written that most of the dialogue makes me cringe. There are conversations between characters that feel so unrealistic that it’s super jarring. It also features such stock characters as the put-upon best friend who always forgives her awful best friend, the female tech nerd who has no social skills and no self-confidence, the scum-bad drummer boyfriend, and Sophia’s poor father who loves her but gets nothing in return. It’s all so familiar and uninspiring it makes me want to cry. There is a potentially decent story and main character here but everything has been simplified beyond belief to make it universally appealing. It’s all so familiar because they don’t want to alienate anyone. Unfortunately, in order to get everything right the show just gets everything so wrong.