Saturday, September 2, 2017

GLOW: Ladies, Get Ready to Rumble!

If you read my Wonder Woman post, you know that I tend to get choked up about overt displays of female strength and camaraderie. So I am unsurprisingly thrilled by Netflix's series, GLOW,  a fictionalized exploration of the making of the 80's show, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Featuring a cast of women in leotards kicking each other's asses in a multitude of ways, this is the show to watch  if you want to learn about how women work together when men aren't around.

First off, let's reiterate that GLOW was a real show that aired from 1986-1990. As a product of its age, it trucked heavily in sexist and racist stereotypes, while at the same time, managing to be a celebration of race and women simply due to its existence. It's that difficult conundrum of representation - if you rarely see any brown women on TV, it is super exciting to see one wrestling on your TV screen, even if she's doing it under the moniker of Beirut and threatening to be a terrorist who wants to destroy America. However, Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch, the creators of Netflix's GLOW (and former writers on Orange Is the New Black - how's that for pedigree?), give us the behind-the-scenes look at how this crazy show got made, which proves to be even more entertaining than what made it to TV sets across the nation.

Most importantly, this show is FUN. It is well-written and well-executed, clipping through its 10-episode season at a brisk and never-dull pace. The focus is mostly on the two white women at the helm (Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin, who are actresses I love from their work on Community and Masters of Sex), but I'm hoping the show follows Orange Is the New Black's lead and evolves into making this more of an ensemble piece with equal weight given to the other women. Right now a lot of the other cast members are playing to their racial stereotoypes, simply by virtue of the original GLOW being terrifically un-PC (after all, this was a show that had a black wrestler named "Welfare Queen"), but I'm hoping subsequent seasons give us more context into the backgrounds of these women and where their true motivations lie. The evolution of the characters over the course of the first season is already promising, deftly dealing with a lot of themes that TV usually handles supremely clunkily, so I have high expectations for upcoming seasons.

I would also be remiss if I didn't shout out the main man in the group, Marc Maron, who is playing Sam Sylvia, the leader of this motley crew, who has the unenviable task of wrangling together a bunch of novices and turning them into wrestling phenoms. At times, the show does veer towards giving him more screentime than the women who ought to be the focus, but all is forgiven because this is Maron being the most Maron-esque you'll ever see him. He is irritable, crass, rude, condescending, and then occasionally capable of great kindness and warmth before he returns to being an ass. It's a great character to have amidst all the estrogen, when deployed correctly.

The original GLOW was beloved by young girls, a weird little show that showed them something different from the usual fare on TV, and taught them that ladies didn't always have to be demure, docile creatures. Netflix's GLOW will be beloved by women of all ages for allowing more female and diverse racial representation on TV and giving us all someone to root for. It's not always a perfect show, but it is entertaining, warm, and witty, and I for one, cannot wait for the second season.

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