Girlboss is here and the new Netflix series is getting as much scrutiny as the Girlboss it’s inspired by, controversial Nasty Gal creator Sophia Amoruso. Our fictional Sophia (Britt Robertson) has already been called “cartoonishly brash,” “a classic asshole genius," and a “manic-pixie-jackass.” All of this is true. But, if you stick around through all of season 1’s 13 episodes, you’ll realise there’s a lot more going on underneath all that bluster and vintage clothing.
When we first meet Sophia in Girlboss, she’s simply a caricature of everything we’re told is wrong with millennials, and then some. She’s self-obsessed, always late, and has a crippling case of Peter Pan Syndrome. On top of all of that, she also steals, has a misplaced sense of superiority, and is rude in ways that hint she’s never spoken to another human being.
Then, episode 4, “Ladyshopper99,” happens. This is the moment we see Sophia go from a sketch of countless awful qualities held together by rocker-chic duds, to a deeply sad young woman with a real history. A big part of that is thanks to a dinner conversation between Sophia, her artist friend Nathan (Cole Escola), and his mum (Nicole Sullivan). Nathan and his mum couldn’t have a closer relationship, which finally gets Sophia to open up about her own family, which includes an MIA mother and a (sometimes understandably) critical dad.
“My mum is not around, which is, you know,” she explains, starting to get a far-off look in her eyes. “I have this eBay thing, which I think is pretty cool. But, I know that [my dad] would just find a way to make it seem like I was doing it all wrong. I’m not even gonna mention it to him until I can buy…really everything that Barbie has.”
Then, Nathan’s mum gives Sophia the kind of hug that nearly brings tears to her eyes. It looks like the first time the budding fashion mogul has received any maternal love in years. That’s when we realise Sophia is still haunted by demons from her childhood. She doesn’t act like a monster because she’s a natural “Garbage Person,” as she’s called later in Girlboss; she’s thick-skinned because she still feels abandoned.
This plot point becomes even more obvious when Sophia goes nuclear and tells her best friend Annie (Ellie Reed) she’s essentially done nothing to make Nasty Girl the nascent success it is. Of course that’s a lie — Annie does all the hair and makeup for the eBay photos and essentially manages the business — but our resident narcissistic girlboss can’t see that. Sophia was deserted once by someone she loves, so she’s convinced herself she doesn’t need anyone else, that she's a one woman army. Again, this is totally incorrect.
The only way Girlboss is able to start reversing Sophia’s most self-destructive tendencies is to go right to the source. For the Christmas episode, “Garbage Person,” Sophia eventually tracks down her mum Kathleen (Alice Ripley), who’s a down-on-her-luck ageing actress. Despite the mother-daughter pair’s longtime emotional and physical distance, they have the same scream-first, apologise-never attitude. While Sophia has been celebrating this behaviour for the entirety of the series, her mum acts as a Ghost Of Christmas Future, revealing the sad, lonely life her daughter could have if she doesn’t get her act together. It’s no surprise Kathleen’s troupe is performing A Christmas Carol.
When Sophia returns to San Francisco she's not a totally new person, but she finally has enough humility to ask Annie to forgive her. So, yes, Sophia is sometimes a manic-pixie jackass. But she's also the kind of nasty gal you'll end up rooting for if you're paying attention.