REVIEW: Girlboss

Review by Maria Dunne

Is this really what a #GIRLBOSS is? This show had the potential to be interesting; it follows the show’s protagonist, the arrogant, selfish Sophia (Britt Robertson), on her quest to become the ultimate #GIRLBOSS by creating a commercial empire in vintage apparel. It had the angst of ‘youths’, third-wave feminism, and an appreciation of all things old (talking about you Old Bench lady from the first episode), but it became increasingly dull to watch.

Now I don’t mind the fact that this program presents Sophia as a deeply flawed character, but it uses this as an excuse for no real character development at all. The narrative of Girl Boss doesn’t understand what it is. It presumes that by presenting a flawed character, her behaviour is  justified.

Screenwriter, Kay Cannon, claimed that portraying Sophia as flawed was central to this show. She stated “It always comes down to this idea of the female lead having to be incredibly likable… I wanted to tell the story of a flawed woman that is not a fairy tale.” However, it seems to take this to ridiculous levels. The show seemingly uses her irrational and dark side as the offspring of her genius. Similarly, in this fantasy world, this BS that she is sprouting to everyone never faces any consequences. I have never been so grateful for a TV boyfriend to call someone out in my life. But like many made for TV stories, her problems have just been thrown at her character without any real thought and are completely swept up until the next big ‘dramatic’ problem arises.

An example of this is the conflict in which Sophia refuses to pay her best friend and informal partner, Annie. They resolve their problem, and by the end of the episode Sophia gives a speech to her co-workers where she declares, “I wouldn’t be here without all of you. At every f*cking step you were there for me.” The show uses moments like these to push the constipated story line along.

I wish that Sophia’s character was taken in a different direction. I love the sharpness in her character but at times, it felt like overkill. That’s the real issue here, the show has identity issues; it mixes her manipulative moments with the most ludicrous of moments.

The show does have good elements to it. The side characters steal the show such as Annie, played by Ellie Reed, and RuPaul’s role as Sophia’s neighbour. However, the show fails to stimulate an interesting conversation about its own premise—female ‘bossness’—and what this really means premise  .

Netflix, which has recently made headlines with shows like Dear White People and 13 Reasons Why, has failed to create the same traction for Girl Boss. It struggles between representing it as a success story or a failure, Sophia as a hero or a villain, and it attempts to refute any ambiguity by easy, cheap plot lines.


Maria Dunne

Maria Dunne is young Melbourne-based writer who has written for Northsider and The Big Issue.

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