She eats bagels out of dumpsters. She steals things that she doesn’t need to steal. And more often than not, she horribly inconveniences everyone around her during bouts of what will henceforth be referred to as “resting bitch phase” or RBP. She’s Girlboss, a loosely based (real loose, as the show points out at the start of each episode) on Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal, itself currently embroiled in the sort of anti-women controversy that Netflix wants you to believe it would never support.
Girlboss premiered on Netflix on April 21st, and tells the story of Sophia, a 23 year old college dropout who doesn’t feel the need to go back because anything she needs to learn, she can look up on the internet, but can’t stop her car from running out of gas at the most inopportune times. Within the first five minutes of the show, you already know everything about her you’ll need to know: she’s doing the best she can with what she’s got, and she’s fiercely independent, but Lord, she needs help. And dear God, that RBP. She needs to get that looked at. It’s fun to watch her struggle, yes, as throughout the first episode the scrapes she gets herself into pile up for no reason other than her refusal to slow down and consider the consequences of her actions, but it’s comforting in a way to watch someone else struggle the way we’ve all struggled, and continue to struggle, with not behaving like a raging bitch all 100% of the time.
However, the show is receiving a lot of negative feedback from the critics- mainly because Sophia and that RBP.
Now, it’s no surprise that the show, regardless of whether or not the heroine is likable, is receiving pushback. Amoruso’s 23 billion dollar online fashion empire recently declared bankruptcy, and was the focus of lawsuits from previous employees who were fired instead of receiving maternity benefits and other health insurance necessities. It’s odd, though, that this information, though damning, is not why people aren’t watching the show. It’s because Sophia is “unlikable.” In a post-Hillary Clinton, “Nasty Woman” world, why is whether or not we watch Girlboss dependent on whether or not we like Sophia? How about we look at it like this: in a post-Walter White world, a world where Don Draper and Roger Sterling can almost literally get away with murder, why are we balking against a female character who displays many of the traits we’d admire in men? Perhaps it’s the specter of the “smile” problem. We’re still being told to smile, to portray ourselves as pleasant, bubbly, upbeat, nice people. What if we aren’t nice, though? What if we are human beings, flawed and ugly? Sometimes we, and by we, I mean the portion of the human race that identifies itself as female, are unable to escape the desire of others, and even ourselves, that we constantly be on point and ready to go, and happy about it. Not watching Girlboss because the main character is a bitch is akin to not receiving a raise at work because your boss doesn’t think you smile enough in front of clients. Not watching Girlboss because you don’t like Sophia’s attitude is like voting for Trump just because Hillary refuses to let him treat her like crap. All these people want to bust out their Nasty Woman shirts and pussy hats, but when it comes to every day real life, no one wants to support a nasty gal. It’s not right. If you don’t watch the show because you don’t agree with Amoruso’s morals, that’s one thing, and that is completely and utterly the prerogative of the viewing audience. But if you’re not watching the show because Sophia’s a brat, take a step back and ask yourself, “would I watch this if she were a man?”
Though Sophia portrays all of the worst personality traits of someone in their early twenties, there is room in television to have a character you don’t like. Part of feminism is the acceptance of everyone who is different than you- including people with crappy personalities. Let’s face it- most, if not all, of us had crappy personalities in their early twenties. I know I did. I think I still might, to be honest with you. But we learned and grew and changed for the better- it may not be clear that Amoruso did, but I’m going to hold out hope for fictional Sophia. And for all of fictional Sophia’s flaws, there’s so much more to the show- the interracial relationship between her best friend Annie and bartender Dax, the vibrant homosexual culture portrayed in 2006 San Francisco, and the character of Gail, who is a delight and a pleasure only topped by Ru Paul’s many appearances. Watch the show, or at least watch more than one episode, which is more than most of the reviewers seem to have done. Remember yourself at twenty-three, remember the 2016 election, and remember that we are currently living in a world where women as a whole need as much support as we can get. Though Amoruso may not be the woman-friendly company head she ought to be, change is possible, through support and education. Let’s give Sophia- both Sophias- a chance.