By Shawn M. Smith
According to the fictitious director within the series, GLOW is “porn you can watch with your kids, finally!”
No, Sam. Empowerment. It’s about empowerment.
GLOW, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, is about the struggle of women in Hollywood and the sisterhood that can be lost in the process. Set in 1985 Los Angeles during the height of pop art and flash, GLOW is an ode to the ’80’s show by the same name (which was littered with characters and segments so kitschy, the series maintains a healthy fanbase to this day. Count me among those, as I even own the “best of” DVD set!)
Throughout the course of Netflix’s 10-episode season, you get to see how hard the women are willing to work to be the best performers that they can. These ladies are anything but the Plain Jane actresses and average lady off the street that the show introduces them as. Sheila the She-Wolf (Gayle Rankin) could very be running solo from the pack for a bit.
You never know.
How often do we see so many diverse and wonderful women in one show other than Orange Is the New Black? It makes sense, as GLOW comes to us under the guidance of executive producer Jenji Kohan, who serves as an executive producer, and creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch.
In the show, Alison Brie plays Ruth Wilder, an “everywoman-type” actress struggling for a role juicier than “random secretary” while making the mistakes that single people make (e.g. banging the unavailable dudes in her life). She answers the call for “unconventional” women, leading her to B-movie director Sam (Marc Maron). His job: create a women’s wrestling federation to capitalize on the popularity of the “rock and wrestling connection” of the early ’80’s.
On the surface, it doesn’t look like much will come of the project until Ruth’s friend Debbie (Betty Gilpin) arrives at training on the hunt for the “homewrecker” (Ruth, if you aren’t catching on so far). Sam sees a future in this feud and the women begin training alongside one another to create the heart of the show.
One of the key things that so many lovers of the original GLOW appreciated are here: the blatantly “on-the-nose” and somewhat racist characters. The heavyset Hispanic girl becomes Macchu Picchu (Britney Young, in a breakout performance), the girl of Middle Eastern descent (Sunita Mani) becomes a terrorist character (Beirut the Mad Bomber), the spoiled rich bitch Melrose (Jackie Tohn) takes every chance to anger Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel), the rough-and-tumble former stuntwoman who doubles as the show’s trainer.
What makes GLOW really sing is the relationships between the ladies in the fictitious wrestling family. Over ten episodes, you begin to truly care for these women. The ensemble has been written so wonderfully that you care about each character’s story and want to see them succeed against whatever they are struggling against. Following the development of each character, not just as wrestlers, but as individuals, is not only gratifying, but is also fun. You can truly tell that the ladies in the cast walked away from the series with a newfound respect for professional wrestling and the people who put their bodies on the line to entertain so many.
The first season of GLOW is currently available on Netflix.