By Morgan Roberts
“GLOW” (2017), a television show based on the ‘80s amateur wrestling show of the same name, is a feat in femininity. The show within the show GLOW or the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling is wild. It is filled with offensive, stereotyped caricatures of people. One wrestler of Asian decent is called “Fortune Cookie” while an African American wrestling character is named “Welfare Queen.” But despite all of the spandex and questionable wrestling personas, “GLOW” is more than the wrestling show it is based off of. And this is why you need to be watching it.
The show starts with Ruth – the always stellar Alison Brie – a struggling actress learning of a gig. Ruth is the type of person who reads the man’s part at an audition, puts herself out there, and continually fails, only to somehow get back up again. This gig Ruth goes to evolves into the show within the show GLOW. Ruth is not an easy character to like at first. In the pilot episode, we find her in bed with her best friend’s husband. The episode ends with rage-filled Debbie – the underappreciated and utterly brilliant Betty Gilpin – beating the shit out of her in the ring after learning about the affair. Debbie, a former soap opera actress, is talked into joining GLOW by director Sam Sylvia – the great Marc Maron – and thus begins the will-they-won’t-they of Ruth and Debbie as they work together.
It is a show run by women, about women, and about women using their bodies not for the benefit of men but for the benefit of themselves. As someone who has been inundated with images of how a woman should look and can’t look, it is powerful see a group of women who show that there is no wrong way to look or be or exist.
Ruth and Debbie are dynamic characters and Brie and Gilpin go there every time. There is a freeness and ease that happens onscreen. Brie commands as the anti-hero (at times) of the show. She effortlessly holds Ruth’s complexities without judgment. Brie notoriously had to fight for this role, and she fights for this character every chance she gets. Likewise, Gilpin brings to life a sometimes vain and all-times insecure woman to life. She gives strength to Debbie’s messiness and allows her to rage. Each season, you think, “Wow. Betty Gilpin was good. How can she top that?” And each season, she does. It is awe-inspiring to see an actress give there all over and over again.
“GLOW” currently has three seasons on Netflix, with its fourth and final slated for production. There is no expected date for the final season, but that does not mean you should wait until then to start watching the show.
“GLOW” consists of a number of characters. It is incredible to see a group of women of all heights, shapes, sizes, races, and physical ability learn to and then actually wrestle. Each character is a fully formed person. The cast of wrestlers – Britt Baron, Shakira Barrera, Kimmy Gatewood, Rebekkah Johnson, Sunita Mai, Kate Nash, Sydelle Noel, Marianna Palka, Gayle Rankin, Kia Stevens, Jackie Tohn, Ellen Wong, and Britney Young – are incredible and deserve praise and analysis but alas, I have a word limit.
But what you should know about this cast is that you can see the amount of work they are putting into this show. Not only is there work to build characters, understand the constraints of the time era, and be consistent with character relationships, but they are doing that for two characters: their character and their wrestling persona. On top of that, there are impressive wrestling moves that all of these women execute with seeming ease, though I am sure it hurts A LOT to be slammed onto a wrestling mat.
“GLOW” currently has three seasons on Netflix, with its fourth and final slated for production. There is no expected date for the final season, but that does not mean you should wait until then to start watching the show. If the characters are not enough to sell you – and let me tell you, there are so many dynamic characters that you will certainly find your personal anchor character early on – then the monumental nature of the show should.
It is a show run by women, about women, and about women using their bodies not for the benefit of men but for the benefit of themselves. As someone who has been inundated with images of how a woman should look and can’t look, it is powerful see a group of women who show that there is no wrong way to look or be or exist. That every woman has strength in her.
I have been with “GLOW” since day one. It premiered right before my second arm surgery – a surgery needed due to complications I was having with medical hardware. It was a time where I was disheartened and not feeling myself. Sitting down and watching women use their bodies the way these women are doing for wrestling was astounding. To this day, my arm/hand don’t work like they used to, but I do know that “GLOW” is there as a great reminder that there are many forms of strength.
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