TV & Movies

In (Reluctant) Defence of Girlboss: The Fun Outweighs Its Flaws

Critics are panning the new Netflix series inspired by Nasty Gal's Sophia Amoruso—but maybe we're expecting too much from guilty pleasure TV

Girlboss review: Britt Robertson manages to make annoying Sophia likeable by the end of season one

(Photo: Netflix)

By all accounts, I should have been excited to watch Girlboss: a dumpster-diving rags-to-riches tale about a woman taking charge of her life and making bank on her passion, all while wearing great clothes and saying things scripted by the fabulous Kay Cannon. Right up my alley. But, try as I might, when I heard about the premiere I couldn’t separate the show as a work of bingeable “real loose” fun from the actual story behind it: the titular Girlboss, Sophia Amoruso, stepped down from Nasty Gal amidst allegations that she fired multiple women for being pregnant. The company has since filed for bankruptcy.

Knowing all this, I was ready for a hate-watch. And as expected, the minute I stepped into the punk-by-way-of-Avril-Lavigne world of Girlboss, I was smacked in the face by its flaws: Sophia (Britt Robertson) is very annoying. The dialogue is grating if you’re not a fan of Juno-esque patter. Twelve episodes are a streeeeeetch for a story that already feels pretty thin and, frankly, it is #TooSoon for a 2007 period piece, I don’t care how nostalgic you are for The O.C.!

And I’m not alone. From Vanity Fair to The Ringer, everyone seems to agree that Sophia is at best a pill and at worst “the epitome of white-girl privilege.” How can you get through 12 (again, way too many) episodes of someone’s journey to success when you’re not sure you even want said person to succeed?

But here’s what I realized after plowing through the season: Girlboss might just be the perfect guilty pleasure—I’m talking paint your nails, apply a face mask and see how Sophia manages to secure a new warehouse location against the odds.

Here’s why it’s worth a watch.

For the escapism

Let’s be clear: Girlboss is not the feminist manifesto that executive producer Charlize Theron and co. probably hoped it would be lauded as. It’s a show about a young, fashionable, middle-class white girl starting a hugely successful business with her equally plucky best friend by her side, all while dating a cute drummer. It ain’t The Handmaid’s Tale, you know?

Sure it’s loosely based on reality, but its portrayal is pure fantasy—in the same way so much of Sex and the City or your favourite aspirational influencer’s Instagram feed are fantasies. It’s only showing the good stuff, and even the bad stuff feels like humblebragging (“Oh darn, I’m getting too successful too fast!”). Now, that might sound like faint praise, but I’m all for a bit of escapist fantasy right now. It’s spring, guys! And Girlboss makes for a great rosé pairing while you wait for The Bachelorette to premiere on May 22.

Girlboss review: RuPaul shines as Sophia's neighbour

(Photo: Netflix)

For the standout cast

The supporting actors, ranging from Nicole Sullivan to Norm MacDonald to RuPaul, are outstanding and absolutely nail all the weirdo Kay Cannon lines. (The writing is Pitch Perfect 2 on acid, but as maybe the only person on Earth who actually enjoyed Pitch Perfect 2, I’m fine with it.)

In comedies it’s easy to write a throwaway, goofy, all-the-lolz character for one episode, but having the supporting cast in Girlboss portrayed by a Mad TV legend, my first Weekend Update crush and Ru Freakin’ Paul makes you that much more curious about their inner lives.

Even Robertson finds her footing by the end of the season, and manages to make Sophia more of a real human being than an assortment of weird screeches and overly enthusiastic laughing. I actually started to genuinely like and root for her as the episodes flew by.

For the… don’t kill me… girl power

I know, I know!! The show’s brand of feminism is over-simplified (I’m sure everyone at Nasty Gal wishes that a kicky speech could vanquish the company’s cash-flow woes—though maybe new owner Boohoo can?). But there is something refreshing about its focus on one woman’s ruthless path to success, flaws and all. Plus, just knowing there’s a higher than average amount of women behind the show, including staff writers, producers and directors, is an encouraging sign. Hollywood needs more of that, and I’m here to support it.

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