With GLOW, Netflix lucked into the perfect sitcom formula. Following the Women’s Liberation Movement in the ‘70s, GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) was a kitschy women-driven alternative to the steroid and testosterone driven male-dominated leagues. Here’s where it finds success—it creates a profound balance between exploitation and liberation, understanding that the truth is somewhere in-between these concepts.
The shows ran on high drama and comedy, providing so much filler for the sitcom. It’s naturally setup with material; Face and Heel roles that can supplant the comedy with immense dramatizations. The first season understands this potential, especially pivoting on the anti-american foreigner archetypes, at a time where we’re once again at a questionable point with Russian relations. Yes, what is true of its Cold War politics and day-glo glitz hair sprayed into the consciousness of raging Reaganomics is true of Trump’s America.
GLOW is multifaceted: it carries important stories about gender and racial politics cast into the absurdity of its campy melodrama. Where it might’ve feigned interest in these stories as background to what happens inside the ring, instead it brings them front and center, importantly making the struggle of equality the great crux of all its best stories.
It’s worthy of note that GLOW’s a formidable wrestling show. The technique is all based on real techniques used in the ring. They’ve had consultants come in and make sure the wrestling is right. In this sense, it appeals to so many layers and ensures that everything is an accurate production. What happens in the ring here is what genuinely happens in the ring. There is something exciting and energizing about that level of commitment. Star Alison Brie performs one-hundred percent of her own stunts and remarkably shows up as a significant actor, and one who is an ideal center for an ensemble comedy-drama. Marc Maron plays her opposite, a failed director who’s cast her and other would-be-outcasts of Hollywood for this rare spotlight where their “otherness” can shine as a collective. The power dynamics between men and women are inherently interesting and drive so much of the conversation, and it’s all done effectively, presented with both respect and accuracy to the source material while also making something fundamentally new and powerful.
GLOW is a pioneering series for Netflix. It’s a great mixture of drama, comedy, gender study, legitimate wrestling, and binge-worthy pacing. The first season provides an excellent foundation that can be expanded in many ways: we have a great ensemble cast with all kinds of implied storylines. Because of its wrestling form, the characters are not limited to the usual type-casting. For a while, they can be anyone. They can show that the women of this makeshift wrestling league can overcome prejudice and redefine what liberation looks like while looking good and having fun doing it.