“I just want to figure out how to grow up without becoming a boring adult.”
This is the mantra of Sophia Marlowe, the frantic yet focused protagonist of Netflix’s new series Girlboss, who takes on the world with sass (and a touch of narcissism) as she builds a vintage clothing company from the ground up in 2006 San Francisco. The series sits comfortably in that bubble of time, capitalizing on the nostalgia of Myspace, AOL Instant messenger, and pop culture touchstones like The O.C., while portraying a loose (“real loose”) interpretation of real life “girlboss” Sophia Amoruso’s tribulations and successes during the creation of her company Nasty Gal. The show mirrors Amoruso’s 2014 best-selling memoir #Girlboss, while allowing a group of well-cast actors (Britt Robertson, Ellie Reed, and Johnny Simmons to name a few) and the creative genius of Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect, 30 Rock) to capture and elevate the relatable tone and interesting stories that made the book such a success with young women.
At its core, Girlboss is a character study of Sophia. Pitting her as the central focus and allowing the 13-episode season to spend more time delving into her relationships, than recounting the ins and outs of an Internet sellers market in the early 2000s. While Sophia’s goals are essential to her development, the triumphs she has in the business world take a backseat to the way in which she matures as a young woman, improving and deepening her relationships with the people around her as the season progresses.
But it all starts with a jacket…
After being fired from her boring day job hawking shoes, Sophia stops in to a used clothing store and browses the racks. There she finds a gorgeous vintage calfskin motorcycle jacket and bargains her way out with it for a fraction of what its worth. Score! Later, in a moment of desperation (how is she going to pay her rent without a job?) she lists the jacket on eBay, and is pleasantly surprised when she realizes that she is going to amass a serious profit. Alas, a heroine is born. And while her origin story may seem like the simplest solution to all of her problems, she quickly learns that her rejection of a capitalist society will have to be chucked out the window (with those terrible gunne sax dresses that just wont sell) if she’s going to be able to run a business (even an online one).
As Sophia’s business grows, so do her relationships. She begins to date drummer/band manager, Shane (Johnny Simmons) and while she initially insists on “keeping it cas(ual),” he wins her over and opens her up to the possibility of having a partner to take on the trials of life with. Not unlike her best friend Annie (a delightful Ellie Reed), who might be even more vulnerable and eccentric than Sophia. Both of these relationships face hardship over the course of the show in a way that forces Sophia to evaluate whether her narcissism is causing her connections with the people around her to be completely one-sided. The show harps on this chasm between the aspects of Sophia’s selfish nature that are beneficial to her in business and the ones that ultimately hurt her relationships. So much so that the introduction of another online vintage seller, Gail (Melanie Lynskey) fuses the contrary facets of this personality trait, pitting Sophia’s human desire for compassion against her impulse to get ahead in business.
In the end, Girlboss is a story about an always-evolving young adult and explores the stages of Sophia truly growing into herself. Like the book it’s based on, it is equal parts inspirational and fascinating to be a part of this world for at least a few hours. Furthermore, the Netflix format is meant for shows like this, allowing the creators of the show more space to develop and hone a particular character. Because, despite fun supporting personalities, this show truly balances fully on the shoulders of Sophia as an evolving character. And lucky for us, Sophia Amoruso has a lifetime of stories for Netflix to mine in future seasons of a phenomenal show — she’s still anything but a “boring adult”
Images courtesy of Netflix