The Netflix original series Girlboss looks to "very loosely" chart the rise of Sophia Amoruso, a San Francisco hipster who built Nasty Gal - a multibillion dollar clothing empire - out of little more than an eBay account and a funky leather jacket.
Lifting key moments from her autobiography of the same name, on the surface Girlboss is trying desperately to tell the sassy Cinderella story of the modern age. Unfortunately for the series, almost every detail that it chooses to leaves out or gloss over is much more interesting.
The term "girlboss" has probably become one of the most cringe-worthy of all buzzwords in the online empowerment canon. Embraced as the new Lean In for the Instagram age, Amoruso's book hung its fur vintage coat on commercial feminism's hook and went straight to the top of the bestseller list. But the success of Girlboss was to wane, after a series of dodgy and distinctly un-feminist complaints led to Amoruso stepping down as CEO of Nasty Gal, and filing for bankruptcy in November 2016.
The real-life narrative of Amoruso, and the current climate of feminism, leaves Girlboss the series in an interesting pop culture twilight zone. In a post-Trump world, where we've realised that buzzwords and just being "badass" alone won't necessarily save reproductive rights, the series is no longer able to capitalise on the same mainstream feminist ethos it once thrived in.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
So what's left for Girlboss beyond that? A messy underdog story building towards a success story that the audience knows no longer exists.
Britt Robertson (Tomorrowland) plays the young and hungry Amoruso with an untapped electricity that anyone who has been 20-something and confused will recognise. She stomps around determinedly towards a goal she hasn't figured out yet, oscillating between a moody blunt teen and a manic pixie dream rocker. But like many things on the show, it's hard to tell if the erraticness is intentional.
As the writing style darts between Broad City surreal smut and achingly cliche teen drama, you can't help but feel, like Sophia, Girlboss has no idea how it's coming across to people.
One thing is for certain: this show is definitely the most confident in its mid-2000s setting. Sophia and her friends watch the dramatic finale of The OC through tears, there's an ill-sitting reference to 2006 Matthew McConaughey vehicle Failure to Launch, and a whole episode devoted to the drama of the coveted Myspace "Top 8" friends list. It will be alienating for most who weren't a very specific age in a very specific timeframe, but just goes to show how fast the nostalgia vehicle is moving in the internet era.
For a show so concerned with being "nasty", there is a distinct lack of grit to Girlboss, and a failure to get to the guts of the protagonist and her rapid ascension to multibillion dollar CEO status.
At five episodes in, I'm still not sure what it's trying to say, who it's trying to say it to or where it's going to go. Behind every scene you can feel the show rushing to get made on an ever-diminishing wave of internet buzz, and the uneven outcome suffers for it.
Just a little bit more patience would have resulted in a much better story.