GIRL­BOSS

Bitch: A Feminist Response to Pop Culture - - SCREEN REVIEWS - Di­rec­tors: Chris­tian Dit­ter, Steven K. Tsuchida, John Riggi, Amanda Brotchie, and Jamie Bab­bit { Net­flix }

Girl­boss prob­a­bly seemed like a slam-dunk idea when Net­flix an­nounced it in 2016: The se­ries is loosely based on the mem­oirslash-busi­ness guide of the same name by Sophia Amoruso, who started what would be­come the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness Nasty Gal as a hum­ble ebay store in 2006. At a time when “fem­i­nist” had be­come a brand­ing buzz­word and a fe­male pres­i­den­tial can­di­date was on the as­cent, Girl­boss of­fered up a bold new pop cul­ture archetype: Move over, Manic Pixie Dream Girl, here comes Saucy Vixen Boss Babe.

But the re­al­ity into which the 13-episode se­ries struts makes it seem spec­tac­u­larly tone-deaf. Fem­i­nism has been main­streamed as an in­di­vid­u­al­ist pur­suit of suc­cess un­der cap­i­tal­ism rather than a

col­lec­tive lib­er­a­tion of women, and Amoruso has be­come a sym­bol of the fragility of its trickle-down prom­ise. Sis­ter­hood is still in­ter­preted as a man­date to sup­port other women, even those who ac­tively work against women’s in­ter­ests; Nasty Gal de­clared bank­ruptcy in 2016, and Amoruso stepped down as the com­pany’s ceo amid le­gal chal­lenges from, among oth­ers, em­ploy­ees who were il­le­gally fired when they got preg­nant.

Given that the in­tro­duc­tion of each episode as­serts that Girl­boss is a “real loose” in­ter­pre­ta­tion of real-life events, it should be easy to sit back, dis­con­nect the cult-of­per­son­al­ity Sophia from the fic­tional one, and en­joy what the show does have to of­fer. There’s self-aware hu­mor, lik­able if pre­dictable costars (there’s Rupaul pulling dou­ble duty as both the Gay Friend and the Sassy Black Neigh­bor), and un­con­ven­tional sto­ry­telling. But the self-mythol­o­giz­ing of the show’s hero­ine and the ac­knowl­edg­ment of her as self­ish, mer­cu­rial, and rude still don’t sit well; de­fend­ing Sophia as a de­lib­er­ately un­lik­able char­ac­ter it­self seems a lit­tle out of date. The ex­pand­ing land­scape of tele­vi­sion means that un­lik­able char­ac­ters can no longer just be jerks for jerks’ sake. Ad­di­tion­ally, an in­creas­ingly in­ter­sec­tional lens on TV char­ac­ters makes it dif­fi­cult to look at the scene where Sophia steals a rug and not rec­og­nize that the same scene with a non­white char­ac­ter would not be con­sid­ered quirky char­ac­ter em­bel­lish­ment.

“Women do­ing stuff that men usu­ally do: fem­i­nism!” was a bolder con­cept back in the time of Work­ing Girl. Th­ese days, we’re well aware that women can be as craven, as mer­ce­nary, as ruth­less, as in­hu­mane, and as in­com­pe­tent as their male coun­ter­parts. And though that is cer­tainly a bench­mark of equal­ity, it has noth­ing to do with fem­i­nism. En­joy Girl­boss on what mer­its it has, but don’t try to con­vince us of more.

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