How Did Netflix’s ‘Girlboss’ Get It So Wrong About Women Entrepreneurs?
Netflix’s new series Girlboss was created by women, produced by women, and tells the story of women. How did they all get it so wrong?
Show creator Kay Cannon, actor Britt Robertson and executive producer Sophia Amoruso attend the premiere of Netflix's 'Girlboss' at ArcLight Cinemas on April 17, 2017 in Hollywood, California.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
I really wanted to love Girlboss.
Girlboss is the new original series which finally found a home at Netflix after being turned down by several other networks. It tells the coming of age story of a young woman who pursues her dreams, overcomes the odds and becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur.
As a woman entrepreneur, I'm sure you can understand why I really wanted to love Girlboss.
Amaruso was a solopreneur when she launched Nasty Gal as an online marketplace where she sold vintage clothing with a modern twist. She led the company for almost a decade before stepping down as CEO in 2015. Nasty Gal reported sales of an impressive $300 Million in 2016, the same year the company downsized and filed for bankruptcy. Nasty Gal was acquired by Boohoo in 2017.
Because I had followed Amaruso's wild ride with Nasty Gal, I was excited that a broader audience would have the chance to witness the messy, raw journey of entrepreneurship in a story that could explore the challenges faced by women entrepreneurs.
Like most entrepreneurs, Sophia Amaruso experienced the personal and financial toll of the ups and downs of growing a company. She enjoyed the exhilaration of seeing her vision come to fruition, but she also faced extreme difficulties as the founder of her company.
Because Girlboss was based on Amaruso's story, the plot could have easily avoided the all-too-prevalent pop culture stereotypes while still taking viewers along for the wild, unpredictable rollercoaster ride of entrepreneurship.
Girlboss's long list of executive producers are almost all female and include such powerhouses as Charlize Theron, Kay Cannon, and Sophia Amaruso. One would assume that a series developed by women would result in something that would show the rest of the entertainment world what was possible when women had a bigger voice in how a story was told.
While the series gets a few moments right, such as celebrating a successful milestone as an entrepreneur while simultaneously riding the waves of personal grief, Girlboss is mostly just a glib, breezy tale about a shallow, self-centered, and often unkind girl who behaves erratically, is willing to steal, and is still somehow surrounded by people who forgive her of all her misdeeds in order to help her build her empire.
Girlboss not only fails to deliver something better, it actually helps perpetuate several negative stereotypes.
One of the more disappointing portrayals in Girlboss are those of the business owners in direct competition with the main character. Every single one of these entrepreneurs are portrayed as awkward, inept, and inexperienced.
It is disappointing that the creators of Girlboss chose to perpetuate these stereotypes instead of creating a supporting cast of diverse, interesting and worthy competitors.
But the most egregious stereotype in Girlboss is the depiction of women in tech.
The show's only character who is a woman in tech wears drab clothes, is socially awkward and fails to stand up for herself.
It is hard for me to fathom that this demeaning portrayal of women in tech was okay with the women producing Girlboss. It's bad enough when we have to point out how male-dominated industries are perpetuating hurtful stereotypes about women, but how do we as women continue to perpetuate things like this?
The women I know who are working in technology fields are nothing like this character. They are among the most varied, diverse, complex, interesting, dynamic, brilliant and articulate individuals I've had the privilege of knowing.
Why can't we create women in tech characters who might actually inspire younger generations of girls to see careers in technical fields in a more positive light?
I have no idea how so many women involved in this project got it so wrong, but I am still hoping that someone in Hollywood will get brave enough to tell stories which compel us to see women in a better light than what is offered in Girlboss.