Depending on how old you are, you may remember seeing reruns of GLOW alongside Saturday morning cartoons, infomercials, and televangelists. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was quite simply that, a wrestling television program exclusively starring women. Sporting larger-than-life personas and connecting matches via pre-taped skits, GLOW developed a significant audience among adults and children.
This Netflix Original Series of the same name seeks to recreate the tumultuous beginning of the organization in a comedic light, fictionalizing some real life events and creating others. The show stars a very diverse cast, but mainly revolves around the journey of Ruth Wilder, played by Alison Brie, as she attempts to use her acting skills to become a professional wrestler.
There are a lot of great things going for this show. The atmosphere and aesthetics are dead on, showing both the grit and the glamor that the 1980s is known for. The cast is dynamic and believable, and the comedy ranges anywhere from clever to crude—though some of the jokes push the envelope of taste and stay around for a bit too long. The greatest success of the show, though it shouldn’t be a surprise, is the mixture of strong women characters and the way it approaches wrestling.
In the modern day when equal representation is on many people’s minds, GLOW explores how this wrestling program was a real opportunity for women to be creative and be respected for their work. Of course, it is more complex than that, as the show regularly (and knowingly) employs the use of sexist, racist caricatures to draw attention. Though it may be controversial, much like blacksploitation cinema in the 1970s, the show really works the theme of women getting more freedom than society traditionally gave them and being wildly successful.
On top of that, the way the series treats professional wrestling is creative, respectful, and realistic. GLOW embraces the theatrical nature of wrestling, fully acknowledging its fictitious, silly, and problematic nature while also exhibiting the hard work necessary to create a believable show when wrestling was still “real” to the audience. Several professional wrestlers work in front of and behind the camera to give a real sense of authenticity that any wrestling fan will appreciate.
GLOW is a surefire win for any fans of professional wrestling, casual or diehard, but will certainly surprise others with its brutal comedy overlying a heart of gold and endearing message. It has flaws and gets difficult to watch in some places, but I’ve seen enough of this origin story to want a second season.