It seems like every few days there’s another fifty things added to Netflix and my list gets longer and longer. Have you watched GLOW yet? It was released a few weeks ago and I watched all eight half-hour episodes over the course of four evenings. It’s based on a real-life phenomenon, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a women’s professional wrestling promotion that debuted in America in 1986.
Alison Brie stars as Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress down to her last few dollars and desperate for work. A casting director tells her about the GLOW auditions and despite her initial aversion she tries out. Dozens of women turn up for the first audition and they are whittled down to fourteen, all of whom must create compelling personas for the ring. Well, maybe not so much compelling personas as egregiously offensive stereotypes. An African-American woman becomes ‘The Welfare Queen’, there’s a Indo-American character called ‘Beirut the Mad Bomber’, and a heavy-set girl is given a quick Peruvian makeover and cast as ‘Machu Picchu’.
Ruth’s former best friend Debbie Eagan (played superbly by Betty Gilpin) is cast as the main attraction ‘Liberty Belle’, the all American girl. She needs an antagonist and GLOW’s director decides to capitalise on the fraught relationship between the two girls so Ruth becomes ‘Zoya the Destroyer’. Given the Cold War was still in effect when GLOW began, you can see he didn’t reach far for inspiration.
As a series GLOW has a lot going for it: well-written characters to root for, a great soundtrack, cheesy training montages, moments of pure hilarity and moments of genuine emotion. Although the original GLOW was clearly created for the male gaze, the TV show focusses on female empowerment, demonstrating that women can get just as much of a kick out of wanton (albeit completely staged) violence as men. (And in fact Betty Gilpin wrote a fascinating and funny article for Glamour magazine where she talks about the body confidence she found in playing her character.) GLOW is definitely one to watch if you haven’t already and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that series two is green-lit.