I Watched Every Episode of Girlboss

…so you don’t have to!

Oy. I have a lot of feelings about this, and though I’m hardly the first person to air grievances on the Internet, I’m going to talk about them anyway. Here there be spoilers.

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Girlboss is Kay Cannon’s Netflix adaptation of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso’s 2014 memoir of the same name (stylized #GIRLBOSS). I read the book as soon as it came out, despite not having previously shopped the Nasty Gal site, because it seemed like a kickass Cinderella story whose beginning mirrored my own life: I was broke, underemployed and still without a degree, and I had a rabid interest in clothing and fashion. The memoir, which is interspersed with prescriptive pieces that seek to serve as feminist #inspo, tells an evocative tale. It’s Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” and now, we truly are, here.

But that was 3 years ago. The timing of the Girlboss series in 2017 seems…inopportune, to say the least. Nasty Gal has filed for bankruptcy, has been sold to retailer Boohoo, and Ms. Amoruso no longer has a stake in the company. Nasty Gal has been slammed for unfair practices and policies affecting pregnant employees. If we are supposed to see the series, like the memoir, as an inspiring rags-to-riches tale, the real-life context muddies the narrative.

Structurally, the show is a bit of a nightmare. The series is supposed to span 2 years, from Nasty Gal’s conception to the launch of the website, but there are few demarcations of time passing until the eleventh episode, set during Christmas 2007. Sophia spends the capsule episode jet-setting around the Mid-West, confronting her online nemesis and reconnecting with her dysfunctional estranged mother. The lack of through-lines in the story makes it difficult to appropriately empathize with the characters. When Shane (SPOILER) cheats on Sophia, the audience sees the shady indiscretion in the context of a monogam-ish hook-up, as opposed to a betrayal of a two-year long committed relationship.

Criminally underused is the brilliant Alphonso McAuley as Dax, who is the only truly interesting, three-dimensional character the show boasts. He is a hardworking, career-focused young black man putting himself through business school, yet is constantly put down by the rest of the cast. When he and his girlfriend, Annie, discuss the seriousness of their relationship, Dax appears plagued by issues of race (Annie is white, his parents don’t approve). This moment is moving, but feels completely out of place with the rest of the narrative—it is later completely abandoned.

For a show ostensibly about a burgeoning business and its ruthless founder, Girlboss is (tenuously) woven together by the relationships between characters it portrays. Sophia’s relationship to authority figures (her parents, her boss Rick, shop owner Mobias), and her relationship with her best friend, Annie, are all deeply fraught, and the series shows little growth in Sophia’s character until the very last episodes, where she pulls an about-face that gives the audience emotional whiplash. When her nemesis, Gail, owner of vintage Ebay store, Remembrances, calls Sophia a “garbage person,” the series feebly attempts to transform Sophia from heinous narcissist to sympathetic wunderkind, stunted by her mother’s abandonment, in the episode’s remaining few minutes. Previous to this, the realest Sophia gets is with Rosie, the park bench-dwelling elderly lady who has the sense to slap Sophia in her self-important face after a cringe-worthy monologue. In structure, in pacing, in writing, the show is just not very good. Too many aha moments, too much exposition in the dialogue, too many heavy-handed “insights” into why Sophia is so damaged—all of which could have been explained away in a 2-minute wine-drinking montage set to Jonny Craig’s “Children of Divorce”.

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According to the show’s lead actress, Britt Robertson, Girlboss‘s Sophia is supposed to be a hateable character, which, in most cases, is perfectly acceptable. I personally champion any medium that can portray a flawed, complicated woman as she is. Women are held to a shameful double-standard when it comes to likability, a topic that has sparked, I’m sure, thousands of thinkpieces as well as a particularly moving passage in Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist. That Sophia is unlikable is not an issue—well-behaved women seldom make history, after all. But Sophia is not just unlikable—she is a narcissist who drags those around her down in order to buoy herself. She takes advantage of others without remorse at every turn. She speaks ill of her customers and disrespects her peers in the vintage resale community. She uses her manic-pixie-dream-girl-bullshit persona to hook the very sweet San Francisco-newbie, Shane, and then proceeds to be emotionally-withholding for two years until he cheats with a bandmate. I know that this a “real loose” retelling of the events surrounding Nasty Gal’s founding, but why choose a tale (and a person) like this to glorify with a television show? Not every story by, for, and about women is a feminist story.

After all of this, I’m somehow still left wondering: how can a show that features RuPaul Charles, Jim Rash, Norm Macdonald, Cole Escola, and Dean Norris not be good? Everybody knows RuPaul, of course, and Dean Norris notably portrayed Hank Schrader in every white man’s favorite show, Breaking Bad, but Cole Escola is a goddamn rising star that should be a household name by now. Apart from slaying on Twitter, he is killing it as the incomparable Matthew on Hulu’s Difficult People. Sure, he’s only in a couple of episodes of Girlboss, but he steals every single scene. This show has the raw materials to be amazing! This could have been a platform to turn a real-life trainwreck into compelling, must-see TV.  It’s just a little off the rails.

The “cliffhangers” that will inevitably necessitate a second season are lukewarm at best: will Sophia and Shane get back together? Will the now sold-out Nasty Gal site be able to keep up with customer demand? Will the Vintage Fashion Forum continue to throw shade at Sophia via internet comments? These are the tenuous threads by which additional seasons will hang. And will I watch it? Of course I’ll fucking watch it. At the end of the day, Sophia & co.’s insufferableness is entertaining, and later seasons would allow for the exploration into the company’s downfall, something which might tickle the (many) Sophia-haters out there. But fair warning, dear reader, if you, unlike me, can’t stomach watching a thin, millennial white lady coast down the privilege highway to destination success, stop the next episode before it auto-plays.

 

 

You’ve Been Gilmored

*spoilers AF

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Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, premiered on Netflix last month after nine long years without new Gilmore content. The night before the mini-series was set to air, I was as, if not more anxious than I was at my own wedding. Don’t get me wrong—I love my husband—but Stars Hollow is in my blood. I may very well have spent more time with the Gilmores than I have with him, although he’s definitely catching up—there are only so many episodes, after all.

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Before I gracefully swan-dive into criticism, I want to start by saying that Gilmore Girls is my favorite television show. It came to me in a dark period of my life (I started watching weekly during season 4), and it spoke to me, as a fast-talking, book-reading, pop-culture-referencing, brunette New Englander. In my mind, I was Rory. In reality, I was way more of a Lorelai/Lane hybrid, except way less cool.

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In 2007, Gilmore Girls was cancelled after the departure of its creator, Amy Sherman-Palladino and a somewhat disastrous seventh season. A lot has changed in the nine years since Gilmore Girls stopped airing. The proverbial “conversation” has changed. Sixteen years ago (when it began airing), it was par for the course for a show to be tone-deaf about social issues. Most shows lacked diversity in casting. Actors of color were criminally underused, LGBT characters were novelties, and trans characters simply didn’t exist. Gilmore Girls broke no barriers. The most revolutionary aspect of the show was its portrayal of a single teen mother succeeding despite her circumstances, and even that portrayal was inherently flawed—Gilmore existed in a bubble in which money was no issue, and only ever brought up as a plot point. The Girls were fed, sheltered, and wanted for nothing.

As for race—I can vouch for small New England towns lacking diversity. I’m from one. But television is escapism—the creators had the freedom to diversify the idyllic Stars Hollow, seeing as every other aspect of the fictional town is deeply unrealistic. Interestingly enough, Michel, the concierge of the Independence, and later the Dragonfly, Inns, who was the show’s only meaningful black character, was also portrayed as (early-00s) stereotypically gay, with his love of Céline Dion, fashion, and Emily Gilmore-esque propriety. It’s almost as if the Palladinos cashed in a two-for-one coupon, but not in the self-aware, irreverent way in which Tina Fey & co. wrote the character “Toofer.”

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Throughout the series (having rewatched it from the start in preparation for the revival), there are numerous cringe-worthy gay and cross-dressing jokes that fall as flat as the inevitably outdated pop culture references, but overall it can certainly be deemed a feminist series, albeit a white feminist one. #intersectionality 

Thus, ardent fans new and old anxiously awaited our return to the Stars Hollow universe. And the first few scenes truly did feel as warm and comforting as slipping on a pair of decade-old Ugg boots. I mean, this:

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And this:

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The feels! Also, Emily’s entire storyline. We all can agree that Kelly Bishop is an actual queen, right? Perfect actress, perfect role.

P.S. Lorelai’s remodeled kitchen is #GOALS.

So now, in order to keep myself from emotionally babbling, let’s go through some bullet points:

  • Relationships: Our (real) beloved Edward Herrman passed away in 2014, leaving our (fictional) Emily Gilmore widowed at the start of the series. Lorelai & Luke are cohabiting but unmarried (for reasons which are never explained). Rory is a hot mess: she has a long-term boyfriend, Paul, whom she can’t seem to remember exists, she’s sleeping with engaged-to-another-woman Logan on her jaunts to London, and she has a one-night stand with a guy in a Wookie costume. Oh yeah, and she ends up single and preggo. (#whydoesamyshermanpalladinohateyou)
  • Careers: Emily transitions from DAR to ACK—namely, she quits being a socialite and moves to Nantucket to generally be a badass queen. Lorelai seeks to expand the Dragonfly, which is doing well enough to hire Ina Garten & Rachael Ray, so…I’d say she’s successful. Rory is again, a hot mess with basically no career—highlights include a piece published in the New Yorker and “a lot of [vague af] irons in the fire.” By the end of the mini-series, she essentially realizes that she sucks at journalism and proceeds to start a book, aptly called Gilmore Girls.
  • Diversity: womp womp. Still almost no people of color, despite multiple scenes in NYC (?!?!?), and gay representation is horrendous. Michel is finally out (and married! and about to become an adoptive parent!), but apart from that, we have a new gay SH resident, Donald, no lesbians, no bi characters, and no trans characters. And we have to sit through a soul-crushing scene re: a Stars Hollow Pride Parade. It’s 50 Shades of bad. Also—Berta. Emily’s maid throughout the mini-series, is a mysterious ethnicity speaking a “nonsense” language. Borderline xenophobic and weird—forgivable because the character is portrayed brilliantly by none other than Gypsy (Rose Abdoo).
  • Boyfriends: Digger makes an appearance. Christopher drops by for a brief but HELLA IMPORTANT scene. Mother-flipping LELAND PALMER (Ray Wise) briefly courts Emily. Jess Mariano remains the one voice of reason and clarity in Rory’s life (and is still clearly in love with her). Dean Forrester lives in Scranton and is married with 3-almost-4 children. Logan is engaged to a French heiress, but, oh yeah, has this mistress named Rory Gilmore with whom he is still clearly in love.
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If you can look at this photo and not feel 1,000 feels, you are heartless.

Cameos! Cameos! Cameos!

I would like to start by saying that I’m not going to mention the Bunheads people. I never saw Bunheads (planning to fix that), so I’d be pointing out something that I myself didn’t even understand.

Chris Eigeman (Digger Stiles) – Lorelai’s season 4 former flame makes a brief appearance in the flashback to Richard’s funeral. Fuck the haters, I loved this. I truly liked that character and thought he and Lorelai were good together. I’m #TeamLuke, but it’s hard to be so loyal when Max & Digger are so freaking awesome.

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Danny Strong (Doyle McMaster) – My beloved Doyle only gets a couple of brief scenes, amidst the turmoil of his separation from Paris.

David Sutcliffe (Christopher Hayden) – Baby daddy gets one scene. Of course, in retrospect, it turns out to be SUCH a fucking important scene, but they definitely could have used Christopher, who was so important to the plot of the original series, much better.

Gregg Henry (Mitchum Huntzberger) – Mitchum gets one scene? Come on. Mitchum is the only person that was ever honest with Rory about her journalistic prospects. He changed the course of her life, in a way. He was important! I think Mitchum was honestly more influential than Logan! Gregg Henry is an amazing actor and he was ILL-SERVED in this revival. #moremitchum

Ray Wise (Jack Smith, Emily’s new boo) – Leland freaking Palmer is in the reboot. It was kind of distracting because I LOVE me some Twin Peaks, but apparently so does ASP. Half the cast of TP has been on GG at some point or another.

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Mae Whitman (line girl) – Mae’s cameo is brief, but a total Lauren/Parenthood shout-out. We LOVE Ann Veal!

Alex Kingston (Naomi Shropshire) – River. Mother. Flipping. Song. Is. In. The. Revival. Enough said. This was a dead-end story-line but worth it for RIVER SONG.

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Jason Mantzoukas (Naomi Shropshire’s lawyer) – The fact that Mantzoukas is a huge GG fan brings joy and radiance to my life, and his inclusion in the revival is a ray of sunshine in a dismal world.

Kevin T. Porter & Demi Adejuyigbe (B-list actors at the Dragonfly) – The Gilmore Guys are in the revival! This makes me so happy. Kevin & Demi are doing god’s work with their amazing podcast, which I’ve blogged about previously.

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Rachael Ray & Roy Choi – In Sookie’s absence, the Dragonfly hosts celebrity chef pop-ups. Realistic? No. Hilarious? Yes! Rachael Ray’s over-acting breathes life into me.

Paul Anka – The Paul Anka dreams had to come back.

Dan Bucatinsky (GQ editor) – What a dream this man is. Check him out on Jen Kirkman’s “They Seem Fun” for more info.

Alex Borstein (Miss Celine) – Miss Celine was one of the most wonderful parts of the original series. I’m so glad that the Palladinos graced the fans with one last look.

Jason Ritter & Peter Krause (park rangers) – Parenthood shout-outs 2 & 3! Jason played Lauren Graham’s love interest on Parenthood, and Peter is her real-life boo! I was psyched to see them in the reboot.

And last but not least, Jess Mariano, a.k.a. Jess Mariano. Unfortunately, his part amounts to little more than a cameo, but JFC, look at this man:

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Those arms, tho.

Are you KIDDING me?

Milo was busy shooting his amazing new show This Is Us, so he couldn’t be a huge part of the revival, but the few moments he appeared on screen were among the best.

In Omnia Paratus!

Okay, so, everyone seems to hate the Life & Death Brigade sequence , but I am coming out strongly in favor of all of it. It had Twin Peaks. It had the Beatles (via Across the Universe). It has kooky outfits & Rosemary Clooney! Disclaimer: I’ve been Team Logan since DAY ONE, so of course I was going to love this callback. Especially considering the final four words, these scenes have additional gravitas. The frustrating thing, though, is that there is no obstacle to Rory & Logan being together, except both of them sucking as people. I guess we’ll find out what happens with them in the next series of episodes, because of course they’re going to make more, because $$$$.

#JUSTICEFORLANEKIM

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Much has been said about this already, but Lane gets about 45 total seconds of screen-time in the entire revival. Considering her life was…derailed in Season 7, to put it politely, superfans were desperate to see how Amy resolved Lane’s story. This more than anything seemed to highlight the undeniable notion that the meta-narrative of this show is that we all become our mothers. Lane’s working at Kim’s antiques, wearing a Mrs. Kim smock and bob. Paris’s kids like the nanny more than her. Rory ends up unwed and pregnant, albeit at 32 instead of 16. P.S. ONE scene with Mrs. Kim? Are you kidding me?

So, overall, I loved the revival because it was a revival of my favorite show. I loved the Arrested Development revival too. And I’m sure I’ll love the Curb Your Enthusiasm reboot as well. But that definitely doesn’t excuse Amy Sherman-Problematic from, well, being herself. As much as I cherish the existence of these new episodes, there are so many things I want from any potential further episodes. I want more Paris, more Lane, more Miss Patty—more of the characters that are the true heartbeat of the show. There’s so much more to talk about, but I think a lot of us are still rewatching and processing.

There will be much more discussion of the revival here. For those of you thirsty to dive into deep discussions about it, hit up my boys The Gilmore Guys who just dropped their “Fall” episode today.

What was your favorite episode of the revival?

—DellaBites

*all images pulled from google/the internet—I take zero credit for anything