How Netflix’s “GLOW” Humanizes The Woman’s Right To Fight
Both inside and outside the ring
The third season of GLOW, the delightfully rambunctious dramedy from Netflix that centers around the real-life eighties women’s professional wrestling squad known as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW) was another vibrant confirmation of why the show is worth the investment.
The fact that there really was a women’s wrestling program that was televised provides the inspiration for the colorful characters who’ve all experienced some measure of growth since the introductory first season two years ago. But the challenges of balancing womanhood with ambitious dreams is the formidable tormentor that never dissipates.
The early part of the new season finds the team happily adjusting to the new surroundings that positions them in the glittering paradise of Las Vegas. The show must go on as they say, and this team of kick-ass women who work hard for their money, aren’t ready to drop the ball.
But we have to give credit to the season opener, and how it tackles the devastation of the Challenger mission of 1986, which tragically occurs right before curtain call. The tainted mood forces the ladies to discuss priorities and figure out if the show must go on. It’s the splendid setup for the main themes of survivability that requires hopping in the ring and enduring the endless body slams with a raging bad back that hurts like a mutha!
Both Debbie and Ruth, portrayed brilliantly by actresses Betty Gilpin and Alison Brie respectively, seem to be on the mend when it comes to cautiously letting bygones be bygones, and that has a lot to do with the huge demands of the Vegas gig, and how it leaves very little room for pettiness.
Debbie’s dilemma of juggling motherhood with her growing responsibilities as both star and producer of a blossoming project that she’s determined to curate on her own terms despite push back from well-positioned males, is depicted in ways that still resonate for women who are intimately familiar with that routine.
Ruth’s burgeoning acting career is the constant alarm that never shuts off, even with the implementation of daily theatrical routines that exercise those talents. Watching her perpetual desire to keep searching for that “big break,” despite benefiting from the exposure of participating in lavish productions, that feature that one-of-a-kind entertainment value, is comfortingly noteworthy for those of us who will always be creatively restless.
The major highlights of GLOW has to be the refreshingly inclusive landscape, which goes beyond the brief detailing of characters of color that has to be curtailed for the benefit of White counterparts, who are the main attraction.
We get to watch the trajectory of Cherry, a Black woman wrestler played by former athlete and actress Sydelle Noel, who was able to showcase her best parts in season three. She’s definitely built for the role she embodies, but it’s more than the physical prowess, as we get the full spectrum of the personal battles that force Cherry to re-examine her mission statement when it comes to marital responsibilities and its progression.
It’s another illustration of what transpires when women are faced with the life-altering decisions that men typically don’t have to endure. The choice to start a family has drastically different consequences for women versus their equally career-oriented husbands, and that’s a fact of life that doesn’t get nearly enough attention.
Consider that years before social media became the portal of over-exposure, women entertainers rarely celebrated their pregnancies in public. In fact I don’t ever recall reading much about A-listers during the incubatory period, and those glossy pictorials were put on hold until the new mother was back in shape and ready for her roaring comeback.
We’ve all heard about the immense and unfair pressure that’s exacted on famous expectant mothers who are on the cusp of greatness, and way too young for the undesirable status of motherhood.
It happened with Lauryn Hill, and she poetically expressed the brutalization from her record label, and the resolution to embrace her blessing in the classic track, “Zion,” named after her first-born son, Zion David Marley. And even Cardi B, who is undoubtedly the most revered female rapper of the moment, bravely weathered the climate of disapproval from both the public and management.
GLOW also delivers awesome moments of self-discovery that give each of the women the freedom to explore what lies beneath the heavy makeup and weighty costumes. One character in particular, Sheila The Wolf, supremely played by Gayle Rankin, experiences a breakthrough that encourages the need to indulge her talents in an unexpected direction.
The male characters like Bash, played by Chris Lowell and Sam, played by the always dependable Marc Maron, are also stretched out for the purpose of progressive story arcs that enable major shifts that affect the women in their lives, with the inclusion of surprise guest appearances, who may or may not stick around.
There’s really not much to dislike about the functionality of GLOW, and we have to give all the props to the seamless machine that has retained the authenticity of the sprawling decade of excess, that’s nostalgically enhanced by the magical soundtrack containing necessary hits from voices that shaped the era that still leaves us breathless for more.
Another eighties-themed gem from Netflix’s massive library, Stranger Things, also does a swell job capturing the symbols that matter with astute attention to detail, but there’s the profound maturity that GLOW presents through the lenses of adulthood, and the gorgeousness of imperfection during a time when the hunger for material things was at an all time high, that ends up giving the latter a slight edge.
But we can’t escape the potent messaging of season three, as we are filled with the searing reminders of the never-ending fight that women face when it comes to hunting for the answers to a balanced existence. It’s the hunger for what’s flexible enough to encompass the delicate dance of womanhood and motherhood or the bold independence that comes with rejecting one for the other or assuming both positions with the fierceness of never dropping the ball.
As an avid viewer who proudly grew up in the eighties, it’s easy to get sucked into the charms of the fantastical backdrop of any offering that delivers believable sketches of that period, but GLOW goes beyond the set pieces and musical numbers to present female fighters of all variations and sizes, who don’t stop battling for what they want, even after the director yells “CUT!”
The ringside galore carries over into the pursuit of a lifestyle that has to live up to the heightened matches that give audiences reason to “boo” and “cheer.”
It’s the real life stuff that humanizes these characters that have become family members that we can’t wait to see again.
And that’s really what good TV is all about.