With a premise that seems like it’d be feminist AF, Netflix’s new comedy-drama series, GLOW, completely fails to achieve the level of girl-power I had expected.
The series is a retelling of true events: the creation of TV series Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling back in 1986. The first of its kind, the original series introduced the world to female wresting — an unpopular sport in the 80s. While initially filled with wrestling amateurs, the show eventually became a roaring success until its sudden cancellation in 1990.
In Netflix’s show, the women spend most of their time bringing each other down and arguing, as opposed to working together to improve their skills and get their show organized.
For instance, two of the female leads (played by Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin) go from being best friends to mortal enemies due to a case of infidelity — the man receives little backlash for his part in the affair, of course — and they spend the rest of the series constantly at odds with one another, even getting into several serious fights with one another.
In the rare moments the women are shown to be friendly to one another, it’s usually to stab one another in the back only moments later. At one point, one girl overhears another talking about her miscarriage, leading to an incredibly uncomfortable scene involving a ketchup bottle and a fake “miscarriage” in the boxing ring.
Instead of talking about their feelings or sorting out this issue, the women just fight until one of them passes out. Sounds like more of a male response to conflict than a female one, in my opinion.
The series is also filmed in a slightly sexist manner. This could in part be because male directors tend to shoot in a sexual way, but also because the show’s content itself can easily be sexualized (women in leotards and all that). There are numerous scenes that strongly focus on the actresses’ breasts — in locker rooms, showers, whilst breastfeeding — and I couldn’t help but think “Is this necessary?” as I watched it happen.
The male gaze, which is already so prevalent in the media, is very strong in this show that should be about female empowerment.
I first noticed the strange exploitative and sexual nature of the show when I wasn’t fully paying attention to it. While the show played in the background I had to wonder, “Is a sex scene happening right now?”. It wasn’t. Many of the sounds the girls make during wrestling practice seem like something out of a porno, not like the sounds athletes usually make. Just listen to Serena Williams on the court, no erotically charged moans of ecstasy there.
A lot of the dialogue even has sexual undertones. At one point a male character even says, “I like the whole ‘objectify me’ vibe” to one of the female wrestlers. Come on.
Perhaps I’m the only person finding issues with GLOW. After all, countless publications have applauded the series and it currently holds a rating of 96 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. I just think it’s odd that the original GLOW from the 80s seems more progressive than its modern-day retelling.