TV

The myths perpetuated by ‘Child Genius’

Now in its fifth series, Channel 4’s Child Genius has developed from its initial conception. Originally the programme was rendered as a documentary style series which explored the lives of gifted children, but more recently has progressed to a reality TV series in which young children with high IQs are encouraged to compete against each other.

The series depicts these young children and their families as they proffer insights into their child’s very specific form of genius. Thus we hear that nine-year-old Fabio is much better at spelling than his older sister Olivia, who normally wins everything. Fabio and Olivia’s mother hopes that Fabio will perform the best in the series in order to improve his confidence. Quite how standing up in front of peers and parents and offering his best phonological assumptions in order to spell a range of preposterous words is supposed to imbue him with esteem is entirely questionable.

Indeed, the entire conceit of Child Genius is completely questionable for a myriad of reasons. At its core, the very idea of pitting young children against one another in a pressurised environment is thoroughly cruel. Regardless of the child, encouraging such competition, as well as the form of judgement that the show includes, is highly destructive. For many of these children their intelligence and high IQ has come to define their very being. Their definition and the manner in which they perceive themselves is through the lens of their intelligence. Bringing this into question, and forcing them to confront their level of intelligence in relation to other children, compels them to question their own identity.

Many of the children are left bereft after failing to recall a particular spelling or the exact order of a pack of cards that they have been instructed to memorise. Scenes depict the children endlessly revising with their parents, spending all of their free time working to expand their knowledge base. These children don’t appear to have fun. There is no real joy of learning here, learning is only done in the pursuit of gaining intelligence and recognition, not for the love of learning itself.

The manner of testing in the series is also questionable, with its very narrow definition of intelligence. The spelling round, for example, would render a dyslexic child a failure simply because of their difficulties with spelling. These children may have excellent memories, and an interest in reading or physics at a young age, but this is never depicted as being applied to developing analytical skills. The series uses lazy signifiers as a means of highlighting intelligence. Thus, we hear of one boy posturing his ideas regarding Brexit as evidence of his interest in current affairs, and therefore, evidence of his intelligence. The fact that his opinion is not only superficial, with little critical thinking, but is also clearly repeated from his parents, is not questioned. Rather, it is held up as further consolidation of his superiority.

Encouraging children to use these forms of signifiers forces them to consider intelligence in a restrictive and reductive manner. Furthermore, these cultural signifiers do not take class privilege into account, and it is no coincidence that the majority of the children featured are from privileged backgrounds in which they have had access to books, additional tutoring, and a stable education.

The aimless pursuit of this superficial title becomes increasingly bizarre when, in the first episode of the latest series, one boy chooses to continue to partake in the competition despite his mother being in intensive care. He states that he is doing so to make his mother proud, and certainly, it would appear that this is what she would want him to do, and yet, the scene in which his father nearly breaks down over the situation feels voyeuristic. Similarly, those familiar with the series will recall the countless occasions that the children, after failing on a task, become children once again, no longer the mini-adults that their intellect portrays them as being. The fact that the series effectively encourages children to negate their childhood in the pursuit of a prize and a title is, rather simply, wrong. The very nature of the series is entirely insidious.

The problematic nature of Don’t Tell the Bride


Don’t Tell the Bride is, as it will readily admit to being, trash TV. It is not supposed to be taken seriously, and it is clear, in its contrived notion of reality, that its simple objective is to entertain. It is purported simplicity and throwaway nature though, that makes it so questionable in its representation of gender. A TV series that is eminently watchable, popular, and easy to engage with at any point in the episode (encouraging casual viewers to begin watching at any point in the episode) should always be brought into question. Its professed casual nature and silliness mean that its viewers are more susceptible to any moments of insidiousness.

Those familiar with the concept of hyperreality will recognise the importance of highlighting the pseudo-reality of Don’t Tell the Bride, particularly given its proliferation and popularity. The continually reasserted trope of women being princesses on their wedding day, or of men selfishly using a large proportion of the wedding budget to provide themselves with a decadent stag do, allows such negative concepts to gain traction, and in turn, gain belief with viewers.

Each episode follows the same format, with the bride professing her desire to have a special day juxtaposed with the groom’s desires to have a showy, themed wedding. There have been occasions where the groom has considered the bride’s sensibilities, but there are rare, given that they don’t generate the manner of entertainment that the show has become associated with.

Too often, the women in Don’t Tell the Bride, despite harbouring very real complaints against their counterpart, are portrayed as harridans, whose absence allow the groom to enact his masculine proclivities of drinking, playing computer games and indulging in sport. Reinforcing these outdated stereotypes, and setting genders as so diametrically opposed is hardly progressive. Rather, to reinforce such demarcated gendered roles is damaging. Grooms who express their love for their bride and neglect to engage in with standard stag do behaviour are held up for mockery, with their fellow stag do attendees laughing at their devotion. While brides who profess a desire for a particular form of a wedding are heralded as demanding.

The show revels in depicting men as indulging in behaviour that has become associated with typical masculine pursuits, intentionally contrasting shots of men drinking, or indulging in juvenile behaviour, with shots of the bride wandering around a country estate as she discusses her dream wedding.

This concept itself is questionable. The idea that the wedding day must be perfect, one in which the bride feels like a princess and has every whim catered for, encourages the infantilising behaviour. The idea that a grown, adult woman, desires to act and be treated like a princess is entirely suspect. Following, and encouraging this model of gendered roles encourages the couple to be perceived only through a heteronormative lens that allows for little else.

While Don’t Tell the Bride is, and certainly can be, enjoyed as an indulgence, its reinforcement and purveyance of such roles should, and must be acknowledged.

In praise of Fresh Meat

It would be easy for the casual viewer to dismiss Fresh Meat as another hyperbolic comedy. Certainly, its comedic moments, while often grounded in reality, do frequently present as entirely inane and improbable. Its characters too, for some, are largely unlikeable, with their selfish nature preventing true audience engagement. Yet, to believe this is to not truly engage with the brilliance of the series.

Highlighting the all too recognisable types that students meet, or aspire to become, at university, the series offers a realistic insight into university life, while employing ridiculous moments of humour, moments that, in stemming from reality, offer as cautionary conceits.

What largely helps to make the series so wonderful, is its dedication to character development, particularly the development of the female characters. Each character embarks on a clear trajectory, and each is left changed by the series end. The series initially presents each character as a clear type, utilising well-known tropes to convey to its audience their characterisation. This simplistic use of stereotyping is effective, particularly when these stereotypes are so clearly subverted as the narrative progresses, encouraging the audience to question their previous misconceptions.

Take Josie, for example, a character whose seemingly sensible nature and devotion to becoming a dentist is rapidly unravelled as she struggled to truly embed herself within university lifestyle. Her Welshness is initially used to convey a familiarity, and the other characters, perhaps through her nationality, perceive her as the group’s matriarch. She cooks food for her housemates when ill, and is the one character who is studying a course that will lead to a clear career.

The breakdown of her relationship with Dave, who she has left behind in Wales to start university, causes Josie to question the nature and state of her life and results in a rapid spiralling out of control. Quickly, Josie begins to act in an increasingly erratic and unpredictable nature, resulting in her being forced to leave her course. Her subsequent relationship with Kingsley does, briefly, bring her stability, but she quickly realises that this form of traditional stability is not one that she wishes to embark upon. Through her breakdown, Josie is compelled to question her actions, and in turn her own nature.

Similarly, Oregon, aware of her class privilege, attempts to hide her origins as the horse owning Melissa, essentially adopting a costume through her assumed moniker. Her admiration of Vod, causes her to lose sight of herself and her roots and causes her to lose any sense of stability that she previously had. Her belief in her academic ability is never personally brought into question, and Oregon, despite her lack of self-belief in terms of her very personality, never doubts her academic ability until it is too late. This then forces to Oregon, like Josie, to question the preconceived idea that she had for her own life. Both Josie and Oregon started university with a clear plan, and by the end of their study, have rejected their previous notions of themselves.

Vod too is confronted with the idea that her nature is not static, but is susceptible to change and development. For Vod, a character whose troubled childhood is only alluded to, the idea that she can be academically and professionally successful proves to be a revelation. Interestingly, Vod, like Oregon, is dependent on her best friend. Both Oregon and Vod view each other through the lens of their friendship, and before the end of the series, allow this relationship to define their identity.

The male characters in the series are engaging, but their development is not as notable as that of the female characters. It is praiseworthy that Fresh Meat allows the female characters in the series the room to progress and grow. Notably, they are largely afforded this opportunity through the more stable nature of the male characters, who, while allowing themselves to become embroiled in various escapades, are largely dependable. Fresh Meat’s approach to its female character, while problematic at times, is relatively innovative and refreshing, allowing for thei

r trajectories to change and develop while also proving to be a source of comedy. Importantly, the female characters in Fresh Meat are allowed and indeed encouraged, to be funny. That this is still notable, demonstrates its vital nature.

Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow: Shifting power dynamics

The meeting that took place between Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow in the latest episode of Game of Thrones has been much mythologised. Fan’s anticipation meant that this meeting was, not only memorable but heralded as a crucial point in the show’s trajectory. Many, already, are feting the episode as the best episode thus far.
Episode quality aside, the most striking element of this meeting was, for me, the clear shift in power dynamics. Daenerys, away from Westeros, has been the subject of much praise and loyalty from her followers. This level of adoration has, in turn, coloured the audience’s perception of her. We believe she is good, and caring, despite some errors, because we are repeatedly told that she is. Characters who we trust, or feel an affinity for, openly declare their belief in her, thus, we too have stated our belief in her intentions.

Jon Snow too is a character who we have been led to trust and believe in, but not simply through character perception. Indeed, Jon has had characters openly state their disdain and difficulty with his actions, yet the audience, through witnessing his acts of selflessness, has long trusted his judgement.

The meeting between the two then is a notable moment largely because of what they both represent. Both ostensibly, believe in the virtue and validity of their actions, and both steadfastly believe in the value of doing what they deem to be right and true. What marked the meeting between the two, and made it so noteworthy, was the manner in which it was edited.
We see Jon’s arrival to Dragonstone before we see Daenerys. We witness his boat landing and his meeting with Tyrion and Missandei. There is a suggestion, through a high shot taken from the castle window, that Daenerys is perhaps watching his arrival, but we don’t know this for sure. This in itself is worth noting, as the usual tendency would have been to show Daenerys intently watching Jon’s arrival, perhaps commenting on his appearance to a trusted advisor. Instead, the first time that we see her in this episode is the first time that Jon sees her. Thus, our perspective and interpretation of her, despite the fact that we have met her many times before, is immediately aligned with Jon’s perception.

Through Jon’s eyes, Daenerys is weak, overly intent on her birth right, with little regard to the dangers that Jon speaks of. Simply put, she is depicted as being entirely fallible, no longer the unconquerable leader that she has been portrayed as in earlier seasons. The audience already knows that her war strategy has been unsuccessful thus far, but to witness her appearance and actions through the eyes of a trusted character, a character who has proven his ability to fight and lead on numerous occasions, clearly highlights Daenerys’ potential inability to be the leader that she has had the audience believe she can be. Her statements of loyalty from the Dothraki and the Unsullied are no longer impressive, rather, when openly and boastfully declared to Jon, they read as childish and naïve.

Peep Show’s problem with women

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During its twelve year run, Peep Show certainly achieved cult status. Its depiction of Mark (David Mitchell) and Jez (Robert Webb), two flatmates whose first person perspective and account of events make up the narrative of the series, remains both inventive and engaging. Creating a first person perspective through interesting and unusual camera use was initially the series’ USP and, in the early series in particular, the camera is continually bobbing and weaving across the screen, forever drawing the audience’s attention to its use.

The employment of the first person narration from both Mark and Jez allowed the audience to not only gain an insight into character motivations, but also their machinations. With both characters sharing thoughts with the audience that would never be said audibly, a form of kinship can be created. The audience is privy to Mark and Jez’ innermost wants and desires, ones that are often, fleetingly, dark for comedic purposes.

Initially, it is this strain of dark humour that is the show’s strength. Largely because, no matter how objectifying, or bizarre Jez and Mark’s thoughts are, the other characters are there to temper their actions. Thus, Mark’s call to Sophie early on in their burgeoning relationship, in which he phones and leaves a voicemail singing to her, is reiterated back to him by Jeff. Jeff, also in a burgeoning relationship with Sophie, recognises the strangeness of Mark’s actions, and uses the knowledge of it to mock him. While we may not like Jeff, and certainly first viewings do not endear his character to the audience, we align our perception with his. We too recognise that Mark’s actions are becoming obsessive, and it is the very nature of these actions that promote much of the comedy. Jez’ behaviour too, is tempered by those around him, including Mark. His sexual proclivities are often brought into question, and Mark regularly expresses distaste for Jez’ actions. Together the pair, while both individually questionable in their actions towards women, are initially able to monitor one another, largely preventing their actions from becoming too damaging.

It is later on in the series run, that their actions frequently become rather more repugnant. Take Mark’s treatment of Sophie. Throughout the series, almost until the moment that the pair finally got together, Mark had promoted Sophie to a position of high regard. He places his affections for her above anything else, and regularly proclaims his belief that she is ‘the one’. This belief, it quickly becomes apparent, is clearly based on Mark’s own projections towards Sophie. He doesn’t truly know her, or understand her character, and when he is finally in a relationship with her, does all he can to avoid spending time with her (joining a gym, nearly reneging on his decision to propose). Mark seems to accept that once in a relationship with someone, happiness doesn’t matter and isn’t the end goal. It is simply being in a relationship that is enough. It could, of course, be argued that the audience is supposed to question Mark’s actions and treatment towards Sophie. After their disastrous wedding, Sophie becomes a former shadow of her once vivacious self, and we see a woman who was once capable (being promoted ahead of Mark at work) become a liability. Yet, Mark’s actions, being used for comedic purposes, are never truly brought into question, particularly when the early episodes have spent so long attempting to commend Mark to the audience.

Mark’s treatment of Sophie is not his only misdemeanour. His treatment of women, in general, is hugely questionable, and, upon repeat viewing, merely highlights itself as outdated and tired. Take his actions towards the vulnerable university student that he meets under false pretences. After he purchases shoes from her while shopping, he tracks her down at her university, pretending that he too is a current student. Allowing her to share her fears and feelings, he quickly sets about attempting to engineer a relationship between the two of them, regardless of age disparity or lack of honesty. Similarly, when regretting the demise of his relationship with Dobby, we discover that he tracks and monitors her location surreptitiously. These actions are not sources of humour, and should not be heralded as such. Rather, they are the actions of a man abusing his position of power.

Jez too, while not as damaging in his treatment of women (he does, at least, appear to respect women and enjoy their company) regularly involves himself with women through manipulation and lies. His relationship with Zara, for example, is entirely based on fabrication, and despite his working for her partner, he frequently attempts to contrive a moment in which the pair can begin a relationship.

Notably, much of Jez’ actions towards women are borne out of apparent love, and he does seem damaged or hurt by the breakdown of his relationship with Big Suze. His issue though, despite the affection and high esteem that he holds women in (he genuinely appears to care for Elena and Nancy) is that he, like Mark, projects his own vision of a relationship onto these women. He never truly attempts to get to know them, but rather, would rather admire them for their physical attributes. His connection with these women are superficial, and after the relationship breaks down, quickly becomes manic. He too, like Mark, is prone to outbursts in which he declares his current love interest as ‘the one’, and it is this concept that is perhaps the most damaging. Mark and Jez’ version of ‘the one’ is whoever is around at that moment. Their personality and characterisation does not matter, but rather what they represent at that moment.

Thus Mark’s interest in the university student is borne out of his regret of his choice of degree. Her studying of History, a degree which Mark always regrets not doing, allows Mark to create an alternative fantasy life for himself. One in which he is recognised for his supposed academic attributes. It is not the university student herself that he is interested, but rather what she represents: an opportunity to mould himself into the image that he desires for himself. Similarly, his interest in Sophie is reignited when he perceives the opportunity that the ownership of ‘nanna’s cottage’ would represent. He immediately begins to envision a life for himself, forgetting or neglecting to recognise, that this life with ‘nanna’s cottage’ would entail a marriage and life with Sophie.

While Peep Show was, and remains, progressive in its form, its depiction of women is entirely questionable. This representation is, interestingly, often made problematic through the very use of the first person perspective that is only ever male. We only ever see Mark and Jez’ perception of events and characters, and thus, the audience is encouraged to align their own viewpoint with the very characters whose discernment is so challenging.

To the Bone – Review

Netflix Originals have found themselves the subject of controversy in recent months. 13 Reasons Why, released to much fanfare in March this year, was criticised by a number of mental health groups, with advocates suggesting that the depiction of suicide was potentially dangerous and questionable in its perceived glamorisation of suicide. Now its latest effort, To the Bone, has been scrutinised for the manner in which anorexia is portrayed.

Lily Collins, a former sufferer of an eating disorder herself, stars as Ellen, a twenty-year-old college dropout and artist, who has already participated in a number of in-patient programmes. Thus far these programmes have proven to be unsuccessful, and the narrative begins with Ellen being asked to return to her father, stepmother and stepsister due to her perceived poor influence on the other patients. Ellen’s mother, now remarried, has moved to Phoenix, neglecting to keep Ellen with her, citing her disorder as being too difficult to deal with at present. It is immediately apparent that the narrative is hoping to implicate Ellen’s dysfunctional family (her father lacks interest, and fails to attend a parent/ patient interview later on) as well as the impact her art has had on others. Her Tumblr page, which featured Ellen’s art, was referenced in the suicide note of a fan, and Ellen has subsequently found herself blamed for creating damaging art. Ellen is asked to join a programme run by Doctor Beckham (Keanu Reeves), in which she will live in a house with other patients. It is this experience that serves as the majority of the narrative.

Collins is certainly dedicated to her role and, as has been widely reported, lost a significant amount of weight to portray an anorexia sufferer. Her Ellen is engaging, and successfully serves as the film’s focal point. But Collins’ performance alone is not enough to help this film become anything more than, what is essentially, a one-note drama that is more likely to be viewed on afternoon television. The plot is predictable, and only hints at issues that may highlight why girls in particular experience such eating disorders, with Ellen noting that her developing body attracted unwanted attention, and her restrictive eating was, in part, a response to that. Ultimately, though, the film lacks any intellectual or thoughtful discussion of such a disorder, and, has been suggested by those qualified to do so, can prove damaging to some viewers.

Before its release, the concept of To the Bone meant that it was always going to court controversy. Collins, and writer and director Marti Noxon, have been at pains to note that, being survivors of an eating disorder, they are both equipped to portray such an experience. Certainly, both are suitable to depict an experience familiar to them, but presenting such an experience as being universal is reductive. No experience of an eating disorder is truly familiar, and to suggest otherwise indicates to the viewer that there is one way of experiencing such a disorder, a concerning conceit. Perhaps, ultimately, the medium chosen should be questioned. Is film a suitable construct to discuss such an issue? Certainly To the Bone, is not.

 

In praise of Dee Reynolds

Women in comedy are still grossly underrepresented. A well-received, progressive female comedic performance is rare. Too often, the form of comedy stems from the character’s idiocy, or the audience’s frustration. Often, these characters are caricatures bearing little resemblance to either reality, or indeed the reality inhabited by the other characters and existing within the diegesis of the narrative. Thus a female character, when used for the purposes of comedy, is usually there to be laughed at, and is often presented in contrast to the other characters as an extreme, hyperbolic version. Frequently, as in the case of Knocked Up, the audience is presented with both the unhinged female character (in the form of Lesley Mann) and the staid, dull and unreasonably demanding female (Katherine Heigl) – both extremes, yet neither particularly funny in their own right. It is still relatively rare that a female character is simply allowed to be funny, and indeed, equal to the comedic male performances.

It is this then, that makes Dee Reynolds in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia both so unusual, and so worthy of praise. Dee is, like the male characters in the series, a terrible person. She is selfish, and mean, and affords little thought to the consequences of her actions. She will manipulate others to her own ends, and use them until she no longer needs them. While this may seem like another extreme, the crucial difference is that Dee is no different from the men around her. Dennis, Mac, Frank and Charlie are just as unhinged, and just as selfish. Thus, Dee is not presented as an isolated case, but rather, as a character whose actions are in keeping with the narrative established by the series.

She is allowed to be funny, and frequently is. Kaitlin Olson is afforded the opportunity to create comedy, both linguistically and physically. Dee is often the subject of scorn from the men around her, and they frequently comment on her perceived lack of attractiveness. Yet, unlike other less progressive comedies, the comments regarding Dee’s appearance do little to impact her. She is confident in her attractiveness, and cares little for their comments. Perhaps most importantly, Dee is witty and intelligent. Certainly, like the men in the show, her actions are often ridiculously executed, but that is never to suggest that she is not depicted as an intelligent person. Her ability to mock and undermine others through well-chosen, hurtful phrases frequently receives recognition from the men around her. They appreciate her droll ability to tear others down while maintaining her own sense of self.

Olson’s Dee is memorable, and genuinely amusing. The humour generated does not depend on gender, nor the interactions of others. She is entertaining in her own right.

 

 

Split – Review

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The concept of a life converging and diverging has long occupied the minds of artists and filmmakers. The idea of a life potentially being different hinging on a seemingly innocuous decision can, and often is, highly engaging, largely because it is one that is so simple and relatable. At times, this concept can become trope-like, but, when presented thoughtfully, as is in the case of Split, it can aid character development and narrative engagement.

Conceived as a web series consisting of ten, ten-minute episodes, Split focuses on the life of Sammy, and the parallel realities that develop after receiving a letter from a drama school detailing the results of her audition. Her reaction to this letter acts as the impetus for the depiction of her parallel lives. One, in which she is a successful actress, confident and often self-centred, and a second, in which she works as an assistant director, lacking in assertiveness. In both realities, Sam/ Samantha is consistently engaging, and the narrative consistently moves between the two realities to highlight the difference in Sam/Samantha’s nature and manner created through her actions. The series is well-suited to the chosen format of short webisodes, allowing for character development without losing pacing (the series takes place over ten days).

Created and written by Yael Shavitt (who also stars as Sam/Samantha in adulthood), Split is a truly feminist work, intentionally created through a female-only team of four women filmmakers, resulting in an all-female on-set crew. In an industry that is still dominated by the patriarchy and the male voice, Shavitt and her team not only highlight the need for more female voices, but also the ability of these filmmakers and writers. Focusing on a female protagonist who deliberates over decisions that impacts upon her life, rather than worrying about the clichés normally associated with crucial life choices, is both progressive and refreshing. While we see Sam/Samantha in relationships in both realities, she is never defined by those relationships. Rather, we see her interact with her significant other in a personal manner which clearly indicates that Sam/Samantha is her own person with her own motivations and desires. She is not led by the wants and needs of those around her.

In addition to this female focus, Split also depicts several characters that identify as LGBTQ. These identities never feel unnaturally embedded, simply included to highlight diversity, rather these identities simply are, and in turn, are progressive, allowing the series to tell a story that is intersectional.

How the trajectory of Split continues remains to be seen, with only the pilot episode currently available on YouTube (the makers are currently crowd funding to raise the funds required for the rest of the project), but regardless, the very existence of a series like Split should be applauded. It is crucial that female, intersectional voices are heard in a male-dominated industry. Given the hyperreality perpetuated by the media, it is important that other voices, and different representations, are made available to viewers.

 

G.L.O.W. Review

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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.