Girlboss - Move over Lena Dunham, there’s a new narcissist in town
Lena Dunham’s Girls may be gone for ever, but the gap in the market for a series about a spectacularly annoying, vacuous, self-centred millennial narcissist dripping with an unearned sense of entitlement has swiftly been filled by Netflix’s alleged comedy Girlboss, all 13 episodes of which landed last Friday.
If you can make it through to the end of the first half-hour instalment without wanting to reach into the screen and throttle the smug protagonist, played by Britt Roberston, you certainly have more patience than I could muster.
The series is a loose retelling – “real loose”, as a disclaimer at the start of each episode puts it – of the story of Sophia Amoruso, founder of American online fashion retailer Nasty Gal, taken from her memoir #Girlboss (a hashtag in a book title should always be regarded as a red flag).
When we first meet the fictionalised, 23-year-old Sophie in 2006, she is pushing her clapped-out old hatchback up a hill in San Diego and ordering the vehicles she’s holding up – including a tram – to “go round me”.
Whether it was the intention or not, the tram scene perfectly encapsulates Sophia’s view of the world: namely, that it and everyone in it should bend to her wishes and give her the life (although mostly it’s the lifestyle) she craves and clearly thinks she deserves, without ever having to do anything as mundane as actually working for a living.
Sophia randomly steals things (a rug from outside a store, some suspiciously clean-looking food from skips) and is facing eviction from her apartment for being behind with the rent, despite having a paying job in a shoe shop – at least until she’s sacked for spending all day on the phone to her friends or surfing the net.
She also has a seemingly well-off and kindly father (Breaking Bad’s Dean Norris, completely wasted), whose offers to help her out financially are treated with adolescent foot-stamping scorn.
“What’s the problem?” he asks, quietly exasperated, while treating Sophia and her stolen rug to dinner in a fancy restaurant.
“I guess I’m just pissed off.”
“I don’t know yet!” she screeches, before storming off.
The idea, I think, is that we’re supposed to find Sophia funny and feisty, sexy and strong-willed, sassy, colourful and kooky – a fabulous feminist firebrand determined to make it through life on her terms and no one else’s.
Except she’s none of those things. She’s obnoxious and insufferable, a whingeing, shallow, permanently infantilised, empathy-free empty vessel and impossible to like.
She casually swindles an unwitting store owner out of a valuable vintage jacket worth hundreds for a few measly dollars and then crows “You just got played, man!” before skipping down the street with a big, smug grin on her face.
She later makes a packet on the jacket on eBay. If you can believe this version of events, it’s the Eureka! moment when Sophia discovers her supposed genius for the retail fashion business, when in fact it’s nothing more than a stroke of dumb luck.
The one satisfying scene in the first episode is when Sophia is bleating to a random elderly woman called Rosie, played by the great Louise Fletcher from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, who is sitting beside her on a park bench.
“Adulthood is where dreams go to die,” she moans, which prompts Rosie to give her a well-deserved slap in the face. “Hard to believe you’re the future,” the older woman tells her. “Thank God I’ll be dead!”
But even here there’s an element of Girlboss trying to have its cake and eat it. It’s established from the outset that Sophie is a pain in the arse. What’s more, she knows she’s a pain in the arse, but at the end of the day, even a self-aware pain in the arse is still just a pain in the arse.
Back in the real world, as opposed to the “real loose” world, the real Sophia Amoruso was proclaimed by a drooling media as some sort of modern feminist trailblazer.
That image took a slap of its own back in 2015, when four former employees of her company sued, claiming they had been laid off because they got pregnant.
Nasty Gal has since filed for bankruptcy.
You can’t help feeling it’s a richly deserved fall after a richly un-deserved rise.