Yup, GLOW is back. If you’ve never quite escaped adolescence, just the title, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, is enough to pique more than your interest. Being so inclined, I had been looking forward to Netflix’s new series, less acronymically known as GLOW, since I first heard Alison Brie (Community, Mad Men) would be starring in the female wrestling series that focuses on the early days of the actual G.L.O.W. “professional” wrestling circuit that sprung up in the mid-‘80s.
“Those strong female characters are the heart and soul of GLOW, particularly Brie. But there’s a lot of really well-written and mostly well-acted characters here, none of whom have been seen on shows I’ve been watching, and I watch a shitload of television. “
You had me at wrestling, and then you added gorgeous ladies. Yet now that it’s available for binging, and I’ve had a chance to catch most of the first season, I’m still not a 100% sure it’s a great show. But like its squared-circle inspiration, GLOW is certainly entertaining enough to keep watching.
And there are great parts, no doubt, particularly Mark Maron as Sam Sylvia, the asshole director/writer tasked with bringing G.L.O.W. to life. Though it feels sexist of me to pick out the only main dude in the cast to extol, the famed podcaster, semi-failed comedian has a complete lockdown on the tone, and every scene he’s in makes for a far more comedic situation. Besides, as the white/Jewish writer type who believes in story above all, Maron’s character is the easiest for me to identify with him. Which I suppose ought to be celebrated, since identification is a big reason why the show is being critically applauded, albeit mostly for all the underrepresented female types it gives voice to.
Those strong female characters are the heart and soul of GLOW, particularly Brie. But there’s a lot of really well-written and mostly well-acted characters here, none of whom have been seen on shows I’ve been watching, and I watch a shitload of television. And the characters aren’t just unique because they’re women, but also bi-racial, bi-sexual, and, in one case, bi-animal. Granted, the two main leads are white — Brie, and Betty Gilpin, who plays former soap star Debbie Eagan, the all-American blonde who would look right at home on my middle-school wall right next to Heather Thomas – but they’re also strong, emotionally raw, and motivated by much more than what Maron wants.
Interestingly, the show makes good use of the stereotypes that most of these female characters would traditionally be typecast as. As such, it’s also a scathing, unapologetic look at Hollywood’s typecasting machine. And a subversive one at that. With that knowing, wide-eyed look at Hollywood’s historically crappy treatment of women and minorities, it’s impossible to watch the show without a very feminine perspective, and a political one at that.
While that’s great, and we should all be open-minded and hear numerous voices, all of whom should be equally represented, and get equal pay, it’s not exactly what I want to watch. But Sylvia and the show’s female creators, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, get that — so there’s plenty of ’80s and wrestling fun, as well. As Sam tells a potential G.L.O.W. investor during the third episode: “It’s deeper than that really, they’re going to be wrestling with their own female stereotypes, metaphorically, and I think that’s something that’s really gonna resonate with female audiences. And guys, guys, let’s be honest, they’ll watch it cause it’s f***ing hot.”