Now that “Girls” is off the air, television executives everywhere are scrambling to fill the void left by the renowned HBO show. They ask themselves, “Where can we look to find the next series featuring a host of snarky, entitled and rather unlikeable female heroines?” “Girlboss” has certainly placed itself in the running.
And “Girlboss” is, well, it’s fine. Perfectly average one might say, which is not something that people have come to expect from its ever-impressive host, Netflix.
While it certainly wants to be seen as pushing boundaries, breaking down barriers for feminist viewers while providing broad entertainment for the masses, “Girlboss” ultimately does not have much of anything new to contribute to the discussions spurned by “Girls” and predominant throughout media today.
“Girlboss” is a newly released series now streaming on Netflix and “loosely” based on the life and career of entrepreneur Sophia Amoruso. The series takes much of its direction from Amoruso’s previously published autobiography, aptly named “#GIRLBOSS,” which illustrates how at the age of 23, Amoruso founded her own Ebay-based online store selling vintage clothing.
Based on the success of her Ebay site, Amoruso later launched her own startup, “Nasty Gal Vintage,” which soon became a massive success. In 2016, she was named one of the richest selfmade women in the world by Forbes Magazine (Forbes Magazine, “Nasty Gal Sophia Amoruso Richest Women Net Worth,” 06.01.2016). “Nasty Gal” has recently filed for bankruptcy, but Season One does not get quite that far.
As “Girlboss” takes place in the far-away era of 2006 San Francisco, it is considered a period piece. That’s right folks, 2006 is now a “period,” instating itself in the same genre as old Victorian ladies in petticoats and the first “Captain America” movie (I tried to break this to my roommate and she didn’t believe me). “Girlboss” truly revels in its period, and some of the most interesting elements of the show are all of the intentionally knowing references scattered throughout, from a “The Devil Wears Prada” poster in the background of a Blockbuster to an entire scene from an episode revolving around a pivotal season finale of “The O.C.” It’s fun, it’s light and it taps into all of the good nostalgia that is so fashionable lately.
I’ll admit, “Girlboss” gets some things right. The production design and clothes are really fun, even if they aren’t entirely 2000s friendly. I know I spent 2006 decked out in neon and sequins from Limited Too, but no way did Sophia and her friends spend that decade looking that good.
For the most part, the direction is decent, despite an entire scene in a living room lit with only red light. I’m not a film major, but it was perhaps a bit of an unnecessary artistic choice. One standout piece of direction is a truly innovative depiction of mid-2000s chatroom culture in what was probably the most memorable episode of the season.
Additionally, the cast does stand out, and they are in fact quite charming. For once, Britt Robertson was given a role suitable for her age. It’s quite the change to see the now 26-year-old actress play someone other than the standard plucky teenage girl making her way through high school. In “Girlboss,” she instead plays a somewhat grown adult.
Newcomer Ellie Reed fulfills the stereotypical best friend role, and while she is not given much to work with due to the series’ poor writing, her smile is just too damn contagious. Also, I’ll say it: I like Johnny Simmons as the boyfriend. He was great in “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and is adorable as ever in “Girlboss.” Give him work, I say.
However, ultimately “Girlboss” flounders due to poor writing, unclear character motivations and a lack of plain-old originality. The show relies on the fact that it is extraordinarily “of the moment.”
Over the past few months, “nasty” has become a rallying cry for women everywhere, flying off the shelves in the form of T-shirts, posters and now a television show. Yet “Girlboss” ultimately does not have much to add to this conversation. It fails to produce the same sense of empowerment felt after reading Amoruso’s autobiography.
It is no longer sufficient to have an “unlikable” heroine, and especially if the only significant character trait your heroine embodies is this inherent “unlikability” to the overall extent where her motivations are squandered and no longer make sense to the viewer. It is just not enough to keep the plot interesting nor advance conversations that are happening throughout other media platforms.
“Girls” was hugely successful, and for a moment was seen as truly pushing boundaries for women in comedy. Yet from the beginning, and after the show completed its six-season run, it was criticized for its inherently white feminist perspective and lack of diverse feminist perspectives in an entirely white lead cast.
“Girlboss” had a chance to correct the wrongs of its predecessor, creating a new, more inclusive show that broke down barriers for those that “Girls” left behind.
In the end, “Girlboss” is just much of the same, giving us a largely white, snarky-girl-kicks-ass narrative that is not nearly as groundbreaking as they would like us to think. They played it safe, leaving us with a watchable, if not albeit unoriginal, viewing experience. It will not change any social opinions nor make you want to scream at your laptop screen, but rather it will provide something nice to watch while cooking or cleaning your dorm room. Hopefully if it is renewed for another season, they will have an opportunity to bring certain social issues to the forefront of the plot, but obviously under several lines of sarcasm and wit.