I watched the first three episodes of “Girlboss” on Wednesday night last week. I did it because I had been told by a friend that it was a terrible show. Which, to me, is as good a reason as any to watch something.
This is what my friend said to me (paraphrased) a few nights before I decided to watch it: “I fucking hate ‘Girlboss.’ Have you seen it?” When I said that I hadn’t, she said: “It’s awful. It’s about this self-indulgent woman who refuses help from anyone and thinks that she’s ‘figuring things out’ and is obsessed with not being an adult, but she’s an idiot and a terrible human being and I hate her and I hate ‘Girlboss.’”
I laughed, and said, “What a glowing review,” and then thought nothing of it until I was bored last Wednesday night and scrolling Netflix. I saw “Girlboss” in the list of new shows, and right then and there, I decided to watch the first episode, which turned into the first three. It turned out that my friend’s summation of the show had been spot-on.
I haven’t seen any more of the show than episodes one through three, mind you, so I have no idea if it gets any better. I’ve heard that it doesn’t. Generally, my issue with the show stems from an utter dislike of both the premise and the protagonist. And although part of me feels like I shouldn’t be qualified to write a review of “Girlboss,” since I’ve only seen the first three episodes, here we are. This now exists.
The show stars Britt Robertson as Sophia, a 23-year-old woman living in San Francisco, with one year of college under her belt, a bucket of supposedly crushed dreams, and a best friend she does not deserve (Annie, played by Ellie Reed).
The unfolding story is one of Sophia’s quest to build a fashion empire called Nasty Gal. It’s based on the real-life story of Sophia Amoruso, who founded the real-life Nasty Gal e-commerce site in 2006. Amoruso wrote a book called “Girlboss,” which, unsurprisingly, is what the show is based on. I can’t tell you about real-life Sophia, but in her show, I will say that she looks to be worth her weight in cashmere when it comes to knowledge of the fashion world. In the first episode, after getting fired from her job at a shoe store for eating her boss’s sandwich (among other things, most of which could be placed under the general umbrella of “being an asshole”), she plucks a jacket from the racks of clothing in a vintage store, paying $9 and reselling it online for over $600.
This small win inspires her to spend the rest of the show figuring out how to do this for a living, and it does look like she has the fashion knowledge to do so. She just has no idea how to run a business, or, frankly, how to be an adult. Actually, I’m pretty sure her life’s quest is to figure out how not be one. Not that I can fault her for that: I’m terrified of adulthood, too. We all are. But at least I’m not a jerk about it.
The show opens, fittingly, with Sophia’s car breaking down on the very top of an acutely steep San Francisco road. Sophia, in a fit of anger, gets out of the car and pushes it to the closest gas station. When a trolley that gets caught behind her honks to let her know it’s there, and the trolley-master offers help, Sophia flips him a middle finger. This scene, which sets the stage for the show, also sets the tone of self-obsession that permeates the rest of the first three episodes.
Sophia lives in a very nice flat, especially considering the amount of time she spends in the first three episodes talking about how broke she is. It’s also amazing that she’s broke, considering that her father, who clearly loves her, offers her every opportunity to not be. She refuses all help from him, even showing up late to the dinner they had been planning for weeks. At this dinner, he asks about her life and receives only throwaway responses. When he learns that the rug she toted to the dinner was stolen, he finally says what’s on his mind.
“Sophia, you smell like the street,” he says. “You got fired, and now you’re breaking the law? I think the best thing for you would be to move back home so I can keep an eye on you.”
Her response—an adamant “No!”—is met with concern.
“I’m worried about you!” he says.
Sophia, taking offense to this, storms out.
And she acts no better to the people around her throughout the rest of the show, proving herself a serial abuser of the relationships in her life. For example, in literally every interaction with her best friend, Annie, Sophia maneuvers the conversation to ensure the topic switches to her own life and struggles.
“Sophia, where are you?” Annie opens to a phone call from Sophia in the second episode of the show. “Shane just got this new game and he and Dax are totally shredding.”
“Annie, I’m the one who called you, that usually means I get to set the agenda, remember?” Sophia replies.
“Alright, well talk to me girl, set my ’gend,” Annie replies cheerfully.
Likewise, on a date with a well-meaning drummer and band manager Shane (Johnny Simmons), she fails to ask him one question until the very end. After Shane mentions this to her, her reaction is somewhat blasé. She then proceeds, later in the episode, to inform him that their night together never had been a date. Her reason for spending time with him was to find a name for her new online store.
I don’t like Sophia. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to or not, but I don’t. For one, her experiences of being broke are performative: she actually does have a support system, in the form of a caring father. Thus, the show is primarily about a woman inventing unnecessary struggles for herself, and then feeling sorry for herself when she has trouble overcoming them. And she spends exactly zero minutes giving a single shit about anyone other than herself. She also seems preoccupied with the idea that the entire world is against her success when the amount of effort she puts into making herself successful is equivalent to the amount of time I plan on spending watching the rest of this show. Perhaps there are redeemable moments later in the show, but at least for episodes one through three, I find “Girlboss” to be a narcissistic show epitomizing the modern age of self-obsession. And I won’t be watching anymore.