Apr 24, 2017

Channel Surfing: Girlboss - "Sophia"

Scene from Girlboss
Welcome to a new column called Channel Surfing, in which I sporadically look at current TV shows and talk about them. These are not ones that I care to write weekly recaps for and are instead reflections either on the episode, the series, or particular moments. This will hopefully help to share personal opinions as well as discover entertainment on the outer pantheon that I feel is well worth checking out, or in some cases, shows that are weird enough to talk about, but should never be seen.
It is difficult for a series to perfectly pull off an introductory scene. It takes a certain skill for the writers to encapsulate imagery that defines the show's motives in a visual metaphor. However, Girlboss may be one of the best first scenes of any modern comedy series. As Sophia (Britt Robertson) is driving through San Francisco, CA, she discovers that she's running out of gas. She is downhill from a gas station. While she figures out the situation, she gets a line of cars behind her yelling at her to move. She tells them to go around. Not to be outdone, a trolley car shows up. When it's not able to go around, they ask her if she needs help. She refuses. It's the perfect embodiment of Girlboss: a show all about trying to become a self-starter with an internet business.
There's certain elements that may turn off  audiences tired of white 20-something protagonists. Sophia is a bit selfish and maybe squandering of her gifts. She is unable to appreciate the good things in life because of her disdain for her job as well as a father (Dean Norris), whom she wishes to impress despite being at a low point in her adult life. It's a lot that would suggest entitlement, or needless complaining. However, the show's big in is that it doesn't paint Sophia solely as a brat, but as someone who will evolve over the course of the season and become a character recognizable to the struggles of starting their own career, free of traditional structures, in the digital era.
The series also takes place in the mid-00's. While never directly said, it's indicative in a variety of scenery decisions, such as a picture of George W. Bush. The soundtrack is loaded with 00's rock and pop tunes and the general atmosphere has a naivety of what the internet is capable of. The only way to sell is through eBay, and the world had yet to become consumed with cell phones and general internet etiquette. It's a fascinating period that becomes more overlooked as time goes on. However, it's the world that Sophia exists in. She has to go to places publicly to feel validated. She cannot find information as easily on the internet. Her struggle is more generally about being accepted and self-sufficient.
Even if the first episode doesn't show much of it, the character struggles feel genuinely new and exciting compared to the general sitcom with "Girl" in the title (Girls, New Girl, 2 Broke Girls). Even at its most heightened, it finds some self-reflection to fall back on. There has to be some corners cut while trying to oversell a product. It is a period of a recession, and any big sale is a miracle. The independent market isn't what it would become, and it's interesting to see where things evolve to over the episode. The "glamour" shot that gets Sophia's big sale comes from merely taking a picture in front of a rug of her in a jacket: both of which came from thrift stores for dirt cheap. It's a con move, but one that solves her immediate economic struggles.
It helps that Robertson has a lot of charm. She is able to make the story come to life by playing a woman not driven by sexual conquests, but of trying to figure out a career that doesn't revolve around 9 to 5 office hours. It's a solid episode that gets plenty across and will hopefully manage to infuse humor into the economic struggles of 20-somethings trying to be ingenues. It may unfortunately be overlooked for being "another white show," but it's taking interesting risks with its plots, showing a less exciting side to self-starter careers. It may never be the most inspiring show, but from the get go it is one of the more entertaining shows that Netflix has released so far in 2017.

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