GLOW: An 80’s Spin on the Present-Day Woman’s Struggles

GLOW has just graced us with the trailer for season 2, which will be available on June 29 on Netflix. With the upcoming season almost here, and with a peek into what topics GLOW will be covering in season two, I want to talk about all that is gorgeous of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling’s first season.

On the surface, GLOW can come off as just another show trying to overwhelm the audience with curse words, cocaine-filled mustaches, and ill-natured bosses. Because the show takes place in the 80’s, viewers are also subjected to big hair, spandex, and more neon than the eyes can endure. When viewers actually break down the show to the brilliantly-casted characters and look at the real issues being presented on our television screens, it’s impressive what GLOW has tackled in ten episodes. Most importantly, it’s that a show that takes place in the 80’s focuses on topics that are very real and very relevant to our world today.

Motherhood

Since I became a mother, I watch television differently. It’s hard not to examine how TV presents motherhood with all of its ups and downs to viewers. Many shows take the mild route; gracing the audience with all of the humor that can come with parenting. The cute moments and the parent blunders are fun, but I saw a bit of myself as I watched a foggy Debbie Eagan, played by Betty Gilpin, stare into the television at a lifestyle that she had once known. Shortly after, she’s cursing at her son for biting her nipple while she’s trying to breastfeed him. A sleep-deprived woman with no make up confined to her couch alone with her infant, frozen peas adjusted accordingly to a sore nipple – that’s motherhood. Well done, GLOW.

In episode 9 “The Liberal Chokehold”, Debbie and Ruth find themselves having this very open and honest conversation at a benefit party despite all that their relationship has been through. Debbie divulges that she has actually learned to love wrestling despite once thinking it to be silly and ridiculous. She explains that since she started wrestling, she finally feels like her body belongs to her again. When she wrestles, her body does not belong to her son or her husband – it’s hers. I literally paused the show at this point and reveled in how very honest this scene was. Whether it’s breastfeeding or just kids climbing all over you all day without boundaries or personal space, it is so easy to lose a sense of yourself – your power, your body. Motherhood is such a selfless act, that personal space and a woman’s own feelings are so far removed sometimes. Yet, here, Betty Gilpin displays this beautiful moment as Debbie utters words that are so hard for women to admit sometimes: we are human beings and we have wants, needs, and desires, too. A hard truth that no mother wants to admit.

Debbie also struggles with a still very controversial and relevant problem that women of 2018 face: the working mom vs. the stay-at-home mom. Debbie struggles with her guilt of wanting to stay home to provide and nurture her infant son but also has the desire to fulfill her own goals as an actress. Insert a know-it-all boss and a husband with his own opinions, and welcome to 2018, Debbie Eagan, where women are still forced to make difficult decisions in the career vs. stay-at-home-mom debate. Betty Gilpin shines in this role as a woman who struggles with her difficult motherhood decisions and brings an honest and pure depiction of any era mother to the screen.

Women Lifting Other Women Up

Women’s wrestling presented itself with the most interesting dynamics of this show: the star and the heel. Even the star of the show needs a great heel to make the show work well. A great hero does not shine if there is no great enemy. For Debbie, Ruth became her heel, but they learned as the season progressed, that it was not because they hated each other that their alter egos worked so well. They complimented each other. Ruth had to be Debbie’s equal in order for Debbie to shine.

Every character faced some adversity – identity crises, relationship issues, family problems, career development issues, need for acceptance – but with each other, they overcame and they conquered. I hate overdone and cheesy, but I admit, watching the filming of their pilot episode where women, who were once awkward and insecure, were fierce, brave, and believable wrestling powerhouses made me smile and cheer them on. Women who could barely make their way into a ring were soaring through the air, performing intense and strenuous wrestling moves. As their trust grew, so did their strength.

The Complexities of Female Friendships

When I first watched the show last year, I loved Ruth, even after all that she had done with sleeping with her best friend’s husband and all. I immediately sympathized with a woman that was so lost and so weak — so jealous — that it almost seemed crazy that her character would end up on TV. Then, I started to notice all of the carefully executed character-driven motives of all the girls. Sure, there’s a supporting cast, but even the lowest level characters were written just a little bit more.

After all, TV seems to struggle with the complexities of female friendships, because let’s face it: they’re complicated and viewers could get lost in the layers. Here is Ruth, a plain Jane character that not only is likable, endearing, hilarious, and motivated but comes onto our television screens with having committed such a heinous friendship act, it’s hard to even watch her sometimes without wanting to hate her or pity her.

I cannot love or hate a character more because I think Allison Brie’s interpretation of Ruth Wilder is one of the best characters I have ever seen on TV. It’s rare to see such an openly broken, wounded, yet lovably real character on TV. Allison Brie is a true star in every sense of the word. With female friendships, it’s hard not to explore honest emotions/friendship developments like jealousy, competitiveness in a competitive workforce for women, and normal human feelings of inadequacy. When a friend seems to have it all, isn’t it easy to want what you can’t have? Brie encompasses all of these emotions of Ruth and, with style and grace, delivers one of the most believable characters I’ve seen on screen.

The other characters struggle with these complex issues as the show develops, too. Sydelle Noel’s character Cherry Bang seems to constantly be struggling with developing her own career while trying to stay loyal to her new team. Jackie Tohn’s interpretation of MelRose is vile at first, but she walks closer to redemption as the team grows closer and learns to trust one another. Gayle Rankin’s Sheila, the She-Wolf, is a lone wolf who learns to work in a pack by the end of the season, even despite her wolf-like quirks. It’s hard not to love a bunch of female badass misfits and not learn to love them.

Even after tackling motherhood and the strength of female bonding, GLOW still manages to address abortion, searching for biological fathers (here’s looking at you, Sam Sylvia), family acceptance, and the burden of stereotypes and racism. After the release of the trailer for season two, it appears that GLOW will be following the same path as season one, and introducing us to ongoing women’s issues with the workplace. GLOW seems to understand the importance of shedding light on the subjects that women struggle with everyday with a hilarity, unique-style, and fantastic storytelling. I look forward to reviewing the new season for you when it becomes available.

GLOW season 2 will be available on Netflix on June 29.

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