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The new Netflix series GLOW, about a women’s wrestling show, is being acclaimed as a feminist “send-up of industry sexism” (Salon). Ironically, GLOW feels more like a show about the making of pornography.
Ruth (Alison Brie) is a struggling actress in 1980s Los Angeles who can’t seem to get a job offer—except in the porn industry. Along with other misfits, she stumbles upon an audition for a new Saturday morning TV show, Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and decides it’s better than the alternative.
Netflix bills GLOW as “from the team that created Orange Is the New Black,” but the two shows have little in common. Orange brings to life systemic problems in the criminal justice system using flawed characters with rich backstories. GLOW is merely a cheeky commentary on sexism using high-leg-cut costumes.
The dichotomy comes off as bizarre. If you’re trying to make a point about the objectification of women, maybe everyone could keep their tops on?
Such choices (like the toplessness) are just gratuitous, and they continue throughout, along with abundant bad language. In early dialogue we learn Ruth has been sleeping with her best friend’s husband. Why show us the adulterous act in a graphic scene as well? (The show also uncritically portrays an abortion, a scene Planned Parenthood praised as an “authentic depiction.”)
As the diverse women of GLOW struggle to reconcile their fake, over-the-top (and horribly racist) wrestling personas with their real identities, they do form a kind of sisterhood á la Orange. But it isn’t enough to make us hope for the project’s success. The subject matter—prejudice in Hollywood—is not going to be helped by putting women in spandex and teaching them how to stage fight.