Someone told me I should check out this show on Netflix, GLOW, based on the real 1980s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. I burned through that first season in a day and watched it many more times over the past year, including the Netflix documentary about the real women wrestlers. A female ensemble of women who want to work hard? Who have dreams? Who are using their bodies in a physical way we usually only see from stories about men? It’s inspiring. And So. Much. Fun.
Season two is just as good and we dive deeper into their lives without losing the zany aspects of the original show. This season tackles racism, sexism, AIDS, friendship, divorce, queerness, motherhood, women’s career goals, totally outrageous wrestling moves and 80s nostalgia. Here are the highs and lows from the big-haired, internet-free days of GLOW season two.
Girls just wanna have fun - by filming a main title sequence at the mall
Ruth wants to help Sam out and stretch her directing muscles so she shoots an opening title sequence for the show at the mall. It’s everything 80s and then some. Escalators, shoe phones, a food court and so much girl hang-time it’s like the dream sleepover from our childhoods where we stayed up all night choreographing dance routines to songs on the radio. Reggie (aka Vicky Viking) says to Ruth after they finish “It’s more fun when you direct.”
The title sequence in the fictional show is based on title sequences they used in the real GLOW in the eighties. And yes, it was this silly.
An entire episode is filmed like a real episode from the 80s - with a PSA
When episode 8 started I was waiting for the ‘real show’ to begin and it never did. It’s filmed entirely like if you had seen the show in the 80s. Corny dialogue and VHS tape camera work all based around Liberty Bell getting her daughter back from Zoya the Destroyer. There’s a group dance scene, a showdown between Black Magic and Britannica in a laboratory, Zoya’s non-evil twin sister travels by donkey from the Soviet Union and there’s a lesbian dream sequence between Yolanda and Arthie. But when they bring out the PSA, it’s game over.
The public service announcement anti-kidnapping song is a parody on the We Are the World video of every famous musician in the 80s singing together for Africa famine relief mixed with a little bit of McGruff the crime dog lessons.
According to an interview in Rolling Stone, show creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch said: “the filming of that PSA video was a highlight for everyone working on season two, as almost the entire crew turned out to watch it, whether they were needed on set that day or not.”
“They kept being like, ‘I can’t believe people are letting us do this. I can’t believe this is my job;” says Mensch.
They address their racist wrestling characters
Most of their wrestling characters are racist by name and made worse by the fact they didn’t get to choose them. But this is based on the real show in the 1980s. The Netflix show can’t pretend it didn’t happen.
Arthie hates her character, Beirut - especially since she’s Indian and not Lebanese. As a heel (aka villain), she plays a terrorist. When she gets her costume for season two she says “it still smells of beer...and racism.” She wants to detonate a suicide vest to blow herself up and then out of the ashes her new character, The Phoenix, will rise. Unfortunately, Stacey and Dawn steal her idea and she’s stuck as a stereotype.
Meanwhile, Tamme, who plays Welfare Queen, visits her son at Stanford. He has no idea his mom is on a wrestling show until other parents recognize her. She invites him to a match and he’s appalled at how her character perpetuates stereotypes, and yet, he can also see how much she enjoys wrestling and how rare these opportunities are for women in general, and even more so for women of color (and in the 1980s).
Did people in the 1980s know these were stereotypes and racist? It’s not clear. We know in 2018 it’s racist and the show tries to walk a line between showing the opportunity the original show afforded women who otherwise might not have had a chance at any kind of role but also the hurt they are inflicting by playing into these stereotypes (which were placed onto them by the men in charge, let’s not forget).
Bash marries Rhonda - but what about Carmen?
Last season, Bash tried to save Carmen from her professional wrestling father who wanted to forbid her from being on the show. He said she should be trying to find a husband instead. Bash came to Carmen’s rescue and kissed her in front of her father and declared they were in love. Despite Carmen’s father seeing right through it, Carmen and Bash had a special connection after that.
In the second season, Bash is struggling with receiving his millionaire allowance from his mother and ends up staying in Carmen and Rhonda’s motel room during the training/filming season. Some of the other women even make fun of Carmen when they find out Bash has been sleeping on her floor.
But when the season finale concludes with a real wedding between Rhonda and a weird fan just so she can get a green card and stay in the country, Bash steps in at the last moment with his heroics and says Rhonda should marry him instead of a stranger. The look on Carmen’s face says it all. Wasn’t she the one he had formed a bond with? Does Bash just go around trying to save any and every woman from their fathers or from marrying strangers? How hurt is Carmen going to be in season three?
Ruth and Debbie make up by crushing bones
Debbie does cocaine and then breaks Ruth’s ankle. How’s that for resolving conflict? Once friends now frenemies, Debbie (Liberty Bell) has never gotten over how Ruth (Zoya) sort of unknowingly slept with her husband, leading to Debbie’s divorce.
What makes it harder is that they’re perfect wrestling foes, with Zoya as the heel (villain) and Debbie as the face (hero). They are forced to work together but still haven’t worked through their personal issues. As Debbie spirals from divorce, her producing responsibilities, motherhood and the uncertainty of GLOW’s future, she uses some of Sam’s cocaine before the match and takes things too far - breaking Ruth’s ankle.
They have a showdown in the hospital where hurt feelings are finally yelled out into the open. But the damage has been done. Ruth’s broken ankle will take weeks to heal and she won’t be able to wrestle for the rest of the season. DRAMA!
Sam goes from Jerk to Dad to Ruth’s love interest - say what now?
If there was an award for Most Changed Character for the season it would go to Sam. The misogynist director of GLOW is full of contradictions. When Ruth directed the opening title sequence, he felt his masculinity and power was threatened and he refused to talk to Ruth, even though he also apparently had feelings for her. He acted like a jerk and fired Reggie, undermined Debbie in her producer role and couldn’t deal with his emotions.
In the first season, we learned Justine was his daughter and she’s now living with him. When Justine’s mom sees her on TV - after Justine ran away - she shows up at Sam’s door to get her daughter back. Everything culminates, strangely, at a high school dance wherein a complete 180 Sam spouts some pretty cool dad wisdom to his daughter Justine and then tries to kiss Ruth.
I cringed at this moment. Sam and Ruth had established a relationship that was probably the first time Sam had ever felt respect and trust and true friendship with someone. But something about it didn’t seem right. I think they are meant for a great friendship and only that. Maybe Ruth felt that way too since she ditched Sam for Russell. We’ll see what happens in the third season if GLOW is renewed. In the last episode, as they all drive away on a bus for Vegas, Ruth and Sam are sitting together and Russell isn’t even coming. Nice way to leave the door wide open on that storyline, Netflix
Honorable mentions: Cherry’s badass stuntwoman skills, Bash dealing with the loss of his friend/butler to AIDS and the final wrestling match with the LumberJacksons.
What did you think were the highest/lowest moments of GLOW season two? Tell us in the comments below!