TV Review: “GLOW” – Glorious

Written by Matt Butler August 26, 2017

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Wrestling is fake. Everyone knows that. It’s the second oldest sports joke in the book (the oldest sports joke is, obviously, Nascar). But is it even accurate for wrestling – more specifically the dramatic, persona-driven, “professional” wrestling – to be labeled as a sport? If GLOW has taught me anything, it’s that, no, wrestling is not a sport. Wrestling is a performance art. It’s a showdown of two sides pitted against one another in physical confrontation. It just happens to be choreographed, kind of like most movies, TV shows and basically all fiction. It’s not real because that’s not the point. I don’t love Star Wars because it documents life in a galaxy far far away. I love it because it’s an exciting clash of Good VS Evil, characters we love and characters we love to hate. And that’s the real appeal of wrestling. The characters. It’s also what makes Netflix’s GLOW so exceptionally endearing.

GLOW (short for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) was a real-life wrestling show that ran from 1986 to 1989. It starred women of all shapes and sizes as larger than life characters brawling it out in comedic and farcical fashion. GLOW, the Netflix tv series, is a fictional take on that. To me, this is an intriguing choice, because it means GLOW isn’t a straight-up biopic. It isn’t bound by the same ethical, yet always open-ended, rules as biopics like, say, The Crown (also glorious). But that show was a dramatic retelling of Queen Elizabeth’s rise to power. GLOW is a show about lady wrestlers. So the choice is fitting.

“Are you hiring actors to play wrestlers or are we the wrestlers?”

But after watching the 2012 documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, it’s clear that the Netflix series’ greatest accomplishment isn’t accurate historical documentation, but capturing the central appeal of its source material. The real-life GLOW featured such characters as Jungle Woman, Big Bad Mama and Matilda the Hun. Cardboard cartoon characters. GLOW (2017) knows this is what the audiences came for. The very first moment the team really draws the audience in is the tag team match of Welfare Queen (Kia Stevens) & Junkchain (Sydelle Noel) VS Two KKK Clansmen (Kimmy Gatewood & Rebekka Johnson).

Netflix GLOW TV Series 1

The big question though is where the show (both GLOW (1980s) and GLOW (2017)) stands on the empowerment of women. On one hand, these women are reclaiming a once male-dominated sport, and what’s more, they’re reshaping it into a wholly different beast. On the other hand, they’re playing outlandish stereotypes that play upon our most basic instincts.

“It’s a soap opera.”

I choose to look at it more on the empowering side, mostly since I can relate to the struggles of the show’s lead, Ruth (Alison Brie). She’s a driven, yet down and out working actress scrounging for cash. Nothing seems to go her way, and yet it’s clear she’s made some stupid choices herself. Nonetheless, she’s easy to sympathize with. It’s clear she’s trying to do the right things, but she’s still dug herself into a deep dark hole. That she’d choose to be part of a women’s wrestling show shows the place she’s in. That she’d choose to dedicate so much to the role shows the person she is. It’s flawed yet emboldened characters like this that convince me a show knows something about how to empower its characters.

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Ruth’s believability as a character is only matched by Sam Silvia (Mark Maron), the director of GLOW (the show within the Netflix show about the show from the 1980s, just to clarify). Sam starts out as the eccentric grump, sort of a lighter, less abrasive Terence Fletcher to Ruth’s Andrew Neiman. As we get to know the cast and they get to know each other, it becomes clear Ruth and Sam share a common goal in bringing GLOW to prominence. This allows for some endearing growth and unexpected turnarounds.

“This is the only place I get to do what I want to do.”

I’m finding it hard to believe I can extrapolate this much reverence from a show about lady wrestlers. But the short of it is I really enjoyed GLOW. It’s one of the few Netflix series that I thoroughly anticipated my chance to continue watching.

My Rating: 9/10

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About Matt Butler

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is a strapping young English Major with a fiery passion for the art of cinematic storytelling. He likes long walks on the beach and knows the proper use of 'your' and 'you're'. (Example: I hope YOU'RE having a wonderful time browsing our site, and I hope you enjoy YOUR time reading my film reviews. I wrote them just for you.)

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