It’s theatrical. It’s a glitter unibrow.
And here we are, at the end of ten episodes of comedy, wonder, and wrasslin’. Sam was AWOL for a three-day bender and returns only to leave again. He’s trying to patch things up with Justine who has taken refuge in Pizza Babe Billy’s house. Ruth is her most theatre self, stepping up as one hell of stage manager in his absence and that leaves Bash to be our adorable host and announcer. Debbie has decided that she wants to give it another shot with Mark so she says goodbye, leaving the card in disarray, and Ruth without a match.
Let’s take a look at our final card:
Brittanica v. Arthie
Junk Chain v. Viking
Melrose v. Sheila the She-Wolf
Welfare Queen v. Machu Picchu
The Red Menace: Zoya the Destroya & Fortune Cookie v. The Beatdown Biddies: Edna & Ethel
Zoya turns on Fortune Cookie which leads to…
Zoya v. Liberty Bell which leads to…
Welfare Queen v. Liberty Bell
Sam and Justine sort of make up… or at least set the stage for the chance to know each other, as father and daughter. Cherry gets the part from the mysterious audition last episode. Carmen overcomes her fear and anxiety, with the supportive chants of her father getting her over. Ruth and Sam have both proven themselves as visionaries and artists of a kind. Debbie and Ruth are able to enjoy their joint victory as storytellers, and Debbie seems to have closed the door on Mark and to be considering cracking it for Ruth (“Do you wanna get a drink?” “We’re not there yet”).
Presumably if you’re here you’ve watched it. I want to talk about the show as a whole now that we made it through the binge. Let’s get down to the knitty gritty and consider all that GLOW season 1 has given us:
Writing for the show has been pretty solid, but that isn’t even the meat of its relevance. Like professional wrestling, GLOW is important for its potential to offer us heroes. Female characters flourished here. They made mistakes, they were petty, cruel, silly, naive… you know, like people. Ruth isn’t simply a homewrecker, not a cruel seductress with no heart. Debbie isn’t just a mother, isn’t just a pretty soap star. Cherry isn’t a two-dimensional strong black women from one of the films she stuns for. Even Melrose, the most simplistic of the characters, isn’t just a party girl. She’s an addict who needs. Men had an interesting shake of representation as well. Who they were, ultimately, was about who they were to the women. It would’ve been easy to make Sam or Bash (or both) the villain in this story, but GLOW never does.
Equally problematic to the women, Sam is everything we know about the kind of male writers and directors who are the worst, but he’s also aware of his failings. I don’t know how actively he’ll ever work on changing it, but speaking those things aloud, and the moments that he does try, are not about his angst or meant to redeem him. He’s just a garbage person who does care about these women, even as his selling point is dudes like to see women fight. Bash is a speed-addled toddler who loves wrestling for it’s harmful stereotypes and doesn’t hear the women around him, but these women are also his family. He’s passionate, enthusiastic, and particularly with Carmen, he’s willing to be vulnerable and be there. Quaaludes certainly aren’t the same as a bouquet of roses on opening night, but hey, that’s Bash’s WASP-y little love language. Mark shows us that Nice Guys have been around since at least the 1980s. He blames Debbie for taking away his power and making space for him to fuck someone else even as he says those things aren’t an excuse for his behavior. How many men who offer bare minimum effort are championed, celebrated? How many times are women told to shove down their hurt and pain and agree to disagree for the sake of a marriage? In a little way GLOW turns that on its head.
Women exercise their agency quite often in the show. Bodily autonomy becomes very important, a beautiful thing in a show about an art as physical as professional wrestling. The handling of abortion is episode 8 is one of the best representations of it I’ve seen. And I came close to crying when Debbie talked about wrestling making her body hers, “It’s like I’m back in my body. And… it doesn’t belong to Randy… or Mark. […]I’m like, using it for me, and I feel like a goddamn Superhero.”
Carmen exists outside of the truth and belonging of her father and brothers. Sam’s right hand man is not a man, but Cherry. Sheila’s identity doesn’t belong to any preexisting construct, or family, or… She’s a wolf, you guys, and it has been a touching part of the narrative. Justine’s A and B plot are about men: her entire pursuit of this is to connect with Sam, her father, and we get to know her through a very big crush. That being said, she’s still her own person, with her own feelings, who stands up for herself to both men when they aren’t what she imagined them to be. GLOW offers us so many kinds of women, not just in character, but in race and body. It’s beautiful to see yourself in media emotionally but important to see yourself physically, too.
We talk about problems and gaps in stories more than ever before. Maybe it’s the age of the internet, maybe we’re all just sick of the same old stories, but it’s easy to feel like nothing you like is good enough, easy to feel guilty or to be called out. In a way, GLOW is about loving problematic media, existing in problematic spaces, playing the role, but still empowering yourself and other women. Perhaps making it easier for the women who come after you. It echos the feeling of loving wrestling as a woman today. It’s not good enough. It makes us look bad, it reduces us to male-created fragments of ourselves. But if it makes us feel strong and powerful, if we think we could make it better and if we think it can give to the little girls who come after us… shouldn’t we be there anyway? Isn’t seeing a woman who looks like you or acts even a little like you powerful?
I hope that GLOW gets a season two and if it does, this is what I hope to see: more screen time for the women of color in the show (Arthie and Jenny are so interesting in their smallest moments and Cherry was introduced as a key player and then shoved to the C plot), showing the consequences and struggles of their portrayals (the bottles being thrown at Arthie and Rhonda’s match was the first and only time this season), representation for LGBTQ folks, and maybe a smidge of awareness and growth by Sam and Bash. I hope we see the women struggle more with wrestling as they go for more complicated moves or push their bodies harder with training. Show me mental hurdles but show me bruises, too. This show has been profound thus far, but I want to see it go even further. I believe it can do so with ease.
All in all, GLOW furthered how we see women in stories, it opened many people’s eyes to the insane world of professional wrestling, and presented athleticism without body image issues or strife. It was smart, funny, and warm. It was also fun. It reminded me, a relatively dead inside lifelong fan who writes about it, of why I love wrestling. It’s not about who is the technical best. It’s about big characters, big risks, and pushing the limits of physicality and aesthetics, while telling the best story you can.
Thanks for sticking with us here at Fight Booth for the first season of GLOW! Let me know in the comments or over on Twitter what you hope to see in season 2!
Heel: Sam (but he’s killing it)
Face: Dads (weirdly including Sam)
“Sam had a family emergency.”
“What? He doesn’t have any family.”
“That’s the emergency.”
“I brought my tuxedo. I was born for this moment.”
“Next time don’t fucking run away so I have to come looking for you when I’m supposed to be directing a goddamn television show.”
“Do you wanna make out again?”
“It was a tag team match into a double cross into a phoenix rising from the crowd, which is all very surprising.”
Finale rating: A-
Season rating: B