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‘Girlboss’ Is A Deliciously Biting Look At Millennials & Greed

Where to Stream

Girlboss

Netflix’s new comedy series Girlboss has a tricky job to do. The series wants to take a fun look at the rise of Nasty Gal founder and #GIRLBOSS author Sophia Amoruso, but she’s not exactly the feminist inspiration she was a few years ago. Amoruso had already stepped down as Nasty Gal’s CEO (amid allegations that she had wrongfully terminated employees) when the show was greenlit in February 2016, but the company filed for bankruptcy last fall. These controversies cast a shadow on the show — but it’s a good one. Instead of being a spunky heroine for the digital age, Girlboss‘s leading lady is a beguiling capitalist anti-hero. She is a maelstrom of millennial angst and good old fashioned Greek hubris.

Girlboss opens with the note that the show is loosely based on a true story — “real loose,” it winks. Here, Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso is young Sophia Marlowe. She’s an out-and-loud anti-heroine who feels like what would have happened if Hannah Horvath (or Lorelai Gilmore) was injected with Gordon Gekko’s “greed is good” DNA. She shoplifts. She curses. She steals. She cheats. Most of all, she covets. She doesn’t want to find a man or to be the voice of her generation; she wants it all.

Photo: Netflix

Television is now overflowing with anti-heroes who are supposed to woo us in spite of their faults. Sophia is a pill, but she’s also undeniably winsome. Creator and showrunner Kay Cannon imbues Sophia with the same cheeky derring-do that she gave all of the Barden Bellas in Pitch Perfect. We watch as Sophia gets repeatedly slapped in the face by life, but instead of whining about it, she just gives life the middle finger right back, literally. Girlboss opens with Sophia struggling to push her stalled car up one of San Francisco’s famously steep hills. When a streetcar butts up behind her, she doesn’t apologize. She doesn’t even try to move faster. She just gives the operator and all the passengers the finger.

A huge part of Sophia’s charm comes from actress Britt Robertson, who has hitherto been a bit of an onscreen enigma. She’s talented, but with her fresh face and apple cheeks, she looks like she’s snuck out of a Clearasil commercial shoot. Robertson is perhaps best known for playing the scrappy teen lead in 2015’s Tomorrowland; in real life, she’ll turn 27 years old next week. Here, Robertson’s irrepressibly youthful vibe works in harmony with the adult character she’s playing. A huge part of the “Nasty Gal” mystique (and the “#Girlboss” philosophy) was its inherent dichotomy. Amoruso is as sharp as a Japanese steel blade, but her company was always unapologetically “girlish.” She did this to strategically undercut expectations. To quote Lady Macbeth: “Look the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” Robertson’s Sophia lives this to the extreme. She stomps, smirks, and hissyfits her way through mid-‘00s San Francisco like a toddler on a rampage. In episode two, Jim Rash tries to give her a verbal beatdown, focusing in on this immaturity. Instead of caving, Robertson fires back with an almost sexual ferocity: “Okay. Go ahead. Underestimate me. It’s just what I want. I feeeeeeeed off that shit.”

She is a maelstrom of millennial angst and good old fashioned Greek hubris.

Throughout the series, Sophia is confronted with obstacles of the heart. That is, she has to choose between the people she is supposed to care about and the fledgling business that she’s obsessed with. For every epiphany about compassion, Sophia has an equally big moment of pure greed. There is nothing she loves more than her own ambition. In a brilliant scene in Episode 4, Sophia has to choose between physically battling through her only phobia or accepting a bad eBay review. She screams her way through the ordeal, draping a vintage wedding gown over her arms like she’s part of Michelangelo’s Pietà. For her, succeeding at business is a religion.

Photo: Netflix

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Girlboss has a lot of the hallmarks of other comedies in “Peak TV.” It applies a slick, cinematic polish to the exploits of a foul-mouthed millennial. However, the series also takes a lot from the world of traditional TV sitcoms. Each episode is short, tight, and packed with to the brim with laugh lines. And even though the show follows Sophia and Nasty Gal’s rise,it’s not structured as a single narrative like other Netflix shows. Each episode that I’ve seen so far (I’m up to Episode 6), focuses on a theme, a relationship, or an obstacle.

When I watched the first episode, I told a colleague that Girlboss appropriately felt like Girls mixed with Silicon Valley, but now that I’m further in, I see similarities to another Netflix show. Like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Girlboss follows a young woman’s struggle to fight through the shitstorm that is modern life. Both protagonists are indefatigable, both shows are ruthless in their bite, and both shows come from 30 Rock alums (Robert Carlock and Cannon). Girlboss, however, is a show about a woman who would choose wealth over freedom. Indeed, she is a slave to her own ruthless ambition.

Season One of Girlboss arrives on Netflix on April 21st. 

Stream Girlboss on Netflix on April 21st.

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