Glow season 1, a candy-colored feminist joyride, is all about getting to know the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling and the bumbling men around them. Most of that introduction is centered around G.L.O.W.'s, the show-within-a-show, greatest adversaries: longtime friends Ruth Wilder (Brie) and Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin). Ruth slept with Debbie’s husband. Debbie, a former soap star, took the lead in G.L.O.W., which Ruth was working on first. Drama, wrestling, and the dark side of female friendship ensues.
In season 2, however, we already know these women, their issues, and the entire Glow cast of characters. And, they already know how to wrestle. So, the series can really explore what happens when a bunch of women are forced to truly play into their greatest stereotype to succeed. Ruth has to play the villainous Zoya The Destroyer because, with her mousy brown waves and feminist rhetoric, no decision-maker in 1980s Los Angeles wants to see her as a lead. For the creepy boys club of Hollywood, an outspoken woman like Ruth, who's also lacking bombshell curves, is a literal bad guy (gal?). Beautiful, blonde Debbie, on the other hand, gives her all to play the fair-haired American sweetheart and perfect hero Liberty Belle… all while the wrestler’s in-process divorce wreaks havoc on her life outside of the ring.
While Ruth and Debbie’s tension with the characters they’re forced to play is an important part of season 2, one of the new season's best developments is watching its women of color grapple with the roles they must embody to succeed. The results run the gamut between hilarious and heartbreaking.
Arthie Premkumar (Sunita Mani) is a dorky, harmless beanpole who’s afraid to talk about sex. Yet, as a woman with brown skin, she is made to play Beirut The Mad Bomber, a gun-slinging terrorist, in G.L.O.W. For the record, the actress playing Arthie is Indian-American, while Beirut is in Lebanon, at least 4,000 miles away from India. Even the racism on G.L.O.W. is hacky. While Arthie is desperate to shed her offensive wrestler persona, her plan goes awry in a way the reflects the double standards women of color are often saddled with.
Similarly, one of Glow’s stand-out arcs goes to Tammé Dawson, the middle-aged, plus-size Black woman who plays a wrestler named Welfare Queen. In her real life, Tammé is a hard worker and proud mother to a child with a promising future. In the ring, she is exactly the trope of a woman Ronald Reagan vilified in the 1970s and ‘80s: lazy, stubbornly rude, and living the fur-coated high life while bilking the government of public funds. You know, a derogatory caricature of Black women that still influences racist opinions today. Watching Tammé’s two worlds eventually collide in a way we won't spoil is one of the most powerful lasting images of the season.
Amid all of the hard-hitting racial statements of Glow 2.0 you'll find a general message of how hard it is for women to thrive in the workplace. Stereotyping isn’t the only form of disrespect these gorgeous ladies of wrestling have to battle. Throughout the season, the issues range from unwittingly rude behavior — when the boys club has been business as usual for decades, you don’t actually see a problem with the boys club — to purposeful disregard, to willful manipulation that could very easily escalate to assault. It’s obvious Glow’s writers are very aware of #MeToo and want to put a 1980s lens on the feminist movement. This is because things that seem awful in 2018 were simply called “the way things are” back in the day.
Yet, all of Glow season 2 isn’t a depressing slog of harassment and racial bias. Rather, the dramedy leans even further into the “comedy” half of that moniker this time around. One late-in-the-season episode is filled with so many comical bits, I couldn’t stop smiling as I watched it. Another episode manages to make a situation that should be very, very stressful very, very funny instead. We can thank the entire ensemble for both of those achievements, as they are simply a funny group of people. Director Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron) grouches his way through being a put-upon dad (hey, remember Justine?). Melanie “Melrose” Rosen (Jackie Tohn) is a quip machine who proves to have real heart hiding beneath all that Aqua Net and Spandex. Hilarious new addition Yolanda (Shakira Barrera) makes everyone in her orbit even funnier. Sheila (Gayle Rankin) is a wolf.
This is a fun crew to hang out with. The kind of crew worth one glorious weekend binge.
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