Last summer CAMP was contacted by Netflix about shooting a scene in Clarion Alley for a new series called Girlboss that would be released in 2017. CAMP had worked with Netflix in 2014 for the Wachowski sister’s project Sense8. CAMP had agreed to allow the Sense8 series to film on the alley because the scene featured two of the lead characters on the show who are lesbian, one being a transgender woman. As a strong supporter of trans rights, CAMP believed a series written and executive produced by Lilly and Lana Wachowski (with J. Michael Straczynski) was a great opportunity to bring this support to the mainstream. When Sense8 was released in June 2015, members of CAMP watched with pride as our project was included in episode 2 of a narrative that is smart, intriguing, and thoughtful with complex characters that audiences can empathize with and support.
Sadly, that was not the experience that I and other members of CAMP had when we viewed the release of Girlboss on April 21st of this year. The series was pitched to CAMP as a show about the empowerment of women, created and produced by women, including executive producer Charlize Theron. Granted, the first indicator that something was amiss in that summary was the very title “Girlboss.” However, based on CAMP’s previous experience with Netflix and CAMP’s very direct communication with the representatives of Netflix as to what types of programming the project supports, and what it doesn’t, CAMP trusted that the result would be similar to the Sense8 experience.
NOT. At all.
Embarrassed and disappointed is how I would describe seeing CAMP associated with this shallow, ‘greed is good,’ and ‘mean whiney girls rule’ production.
The Guardian’s review by Julia Raeside nails it:
What is it? A Girlboss is a spoiled, egocentric vacuum with a tiny bottom and no empathy.
It all starts with a girl in a bedroom in San Francisco, wishing she could opt out of adulthood and just please herself all day. We meet her pushing a clapped-out car up a hill while wearing an outfit barely covering her butt-cheeks. If real Sophia is anything like fictional Sophia (played by the otherwise excellent Britt Robertson, the spunky teen from Tomorrowland) then she deserves none of her success and should immediately hand over every cent to charity for crimes against humanity.
Fictional Sophia is a walking selfie, whining about having to work for a living. She says “love you in case I die!” whenever she bids farewell to her best friend. And she inexplicably steals food out of dumpsters despite having a dad who offers to help her out financially. It’s a show which fully mistakes being an overindulged horror-show for being an assertive millennial role model.
According to show creator and writer Kay Cannon, a Girlboss is “opinionated, confident, feisty” and, you know, strong or something. She and her co-producers (of whom Charlize Theron is one) are trying to make Girlboss the new Girl Power: the same vapid, non-specific, something-to-do-with-feminism-in-hot pants fluff but with added narcissism and less of a sense of humour.
Girlboss is so unrelentingly tone-deaf to the human condition it’s hard to know where to start. It purports to be not only Sophia’s story but a rallying cry to dyspeptic, wasteful goons everywhere who think the world owes them a lovely time with zero input or effort expended.
Yup, what she said.
The Guardian’s review by Rachel Aroesti also nails it:
Really, it was only a matter of time: the #empowerment movement now has its own teen drama. The meaningless offshoot of feminism – best summed up by Kim Kardashian’s naked bathroom selfies, Chanel’s line of protest placards and various other vapid acts in political clothing – comes to our screens courtesy of Netflix’s Girlboss. In true #empowerment style, the show takes the recent splurge of feminist-minded TV, annexes it of all progressive principles and uses the remaining husk to sell dated ideas in a fun and fashionable new way.
The tat pedalled by Girlboss comes in two varieties. The first is the vintage clothes that the titular protagonist, Sophia Marlowe, hawks online to make money and eventually start a business (and hence become a “female boss”, as Tulisa’s debut album opted to articulate this complex role). The second is the heady stew of consumer capitalism and patriarchal indulgence – that recommends women ape the behaviour of men, never complain about inequality and become an active participant in their own objectification by getting regular waxes – which was able to masquerade as feminism in the 90s and 00s, and sometimes still manages to in the forgiving lighting of Kim Kardashian’s bathroom.