Glow is as much about wrestling as Mad Men was about advertising. A black comedy that exposes not how far we’ve come, but how little we’ve changed.
I love Glow, I absolutely love it.
A show which takes on stereotypes, misogyny, and the entertainment industry in general with such flourish and good (often black) humor, Glow is as much about professional wrestling as Mad Men was about advertising. What the two things have in common (aside from the outstanding Alison Brie, who had a small, recurring part in the latter) is that while it shows apparently “how far we’ve come,” it still shines a light on how little things seem to have changed when it comes to the way women are treated in the workforce, the entertainment industry, in society in general. In the show’s very first scene, Brie delivers a monologue in an audition; overcome with emotion about how rare such a solid, meaty part for a woman is, she’s then informed, “You’re reading the man’s part.”
Circumstances (the all-too-familiar ones involving not getting the part, the job … again) lead Brie’s character to audition for what turns out to be a low-rent wrestling show overseen by a schlock auteur (Marc Maron) seeking out “unconventional” women for the show. An actor of her qualifications and training (she’s done Strindberg!) wouldn’t think twice about something so low-art as pro wrestling, but circumstances unfold that there’s talent required; there’s technique, training, and – believe it – actual fun to be had. There’s empowerment inside the ring, where little seems to exist outside of it.
Glow has plenty of ’80s flavors to it, from the “sad family photo” costuming and big, mousse-y hairstyles, the neon-heavy opening titles, to its pop soundtrack (the pilot opens with the Scandal/Patty Smyth hit “The Warrior” which wins you over and then just gets better); there are leotards and legwarmers, and references to Steve Guttenberg, Witness, Quincy, and Back to the Future … and a home pregnancy test which looks like a science experiment. As a child of that decade, it was a joy to see it replicated with such detail … down to the lensing: this thing looks like it was shot in 1985 using that era’s film stock.
Alison Brie is sensational in this – raw, exposed (in close to every sense), and so very honest. There’s something about the character’s construction that she resembles – in many ways – Taylor Schilling’s Piper from Orange is the New Black; pretentious, self-involved, convinced she’s waaaay better than the circumstances she’s finding herself in, and about to learn some painful truths about the world.
Marc Maron, who seems to be playing on par with the persona he adopts for his WTF podcast (which is great, I’d have you know), plays his director part here as bitter, acerbic, drug-addled, and in the best kind of Ed Wood way as a true artist under the schlock, ebbing on the fringes of entertainment, knowing that his great work is there – he just needs someone to believe in his artistic bonafides. Sure, he made Blood Disco 2, but he’s got so much more to offer. I also have nothing but praise for the ensemble, notably Betty Gilpin as the former soap actress with more than just her career invested in the show’s outcome.
This is a note-perfect representation of a time, of an ongoing struggle, discussion, and issue. It could not be more fun or more enjoyable. Glow is glorious.
Glow is now streaming on Netflix.
This piece was originally published on The Lesser Column as “Glow – Season One”.