There has been much fanfare surrounding the release of G.L.O.W. Netflix originals are becoming deluge like, and there is the risk that quantity is beginning to overtake quality. With so many originals released, it is becoming increasingly difficult, even for the most avid Netflix viewer, to keep track. Given that all episodes of a series are available instantly, and given the sheer plethora of choice, viewers are becoming increasingly discerning in their tastes. That is why then, it becomes increasingly important to highlight those programmes that are worth watching, and worth sticking with.
G.L.O.W, or the gorgeous ladies of wrestling, is one such show. A show entertains, but also highlights progressive and pertinent issues of race and gender. Based on the concept of the 1980s syndicated women’s wrestling circuit, the series follows the attempts to create a women’s wrestling TV show. Set in the eighties, the show follows Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie) an actress who is either largely unsuccessful, or is consigned to the reductive female roles that are on offer at the time.
The opening scene in the series shows Ruth auditioning for a role, a role into which she has clearly invested herself in, only to be told that she is reading the man’s part. Quickly reading for the female character, we see Ruth’s lines reduced both in length and quality. Desperate, and struggling to fund her increasingly unrealistic aspiration, she auditions for G.L.O.W.
It is here in which the viewer is introduced to the eclectic ensemble cast which, initially at least, feels trope-like and rather regressive. Each character we are introduced to is largely defined by either a stereotype or an obvious characteristic feature. Kate Nash, as Rhonda then, is the British character. Jackie Tohn as Melrose, is the wealthy, spoilt party girl. These stereotypes and simple signifiers are, while seemingly reductive, actually both necessary and considered.
Firstly, as with all first episodes of a series, a stereotype is often necessary to allow initial engagement with a character; a simple signifier to tell us what we need to know about the character, and how the writer intends for the character to perceived. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, these stereotypes are then fed into the stereotypes that the female wrestlers create for themselves. Creating their own character, one over which they can claim ownership.
While the narrative of the series is largely simplistic, focusing on the creation of the show as well as Ruth’s difficulty in dealing with the aftermath of her own actions (sleeping with her best friend’s husband), it is the interaction between the women that help bolster G.L.O.W.’s quality. The female characters are individuals, each complete with their own motivations and desires. Importantly, the cast is made up of actors from a range of ethnic backgrounds, and while their representation is certainly not perfect, this is to be commended given the lack of representation of people of colour in mainstream television.
It is crucial that a show like G.L.O.W. exists. One in which the cast is female-focused, and successfully passes the Bechdel test. One in which the female characters are engaging, allowed to make mistakes, and allowed to take issue with their treatment. Debbie, in dealing with her cheating husband, highlights the standard by which her husband expects her to adhere to. Attempting to curtail her artistic ambitions if he deems them to be superficial or silly.