Netflix Stars Are Calling Out Its Lack Of Diversity & Inclusion — Will It Make A Difference?

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Though GLOW was just shockingly canceled after just three seasons on Netflix, the cast of the popular wrestling series still has a very important message to share about their vision for the show, and it absolutely applies across various production on the streaming platform.
GLOW was first released in 2017, and it followed a fictional account of the 1980s women's professional wrestling circuit better known as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling or GLOW. The show was an instant hit, offering a deeper look into the struggles of a group of diverse women trying to be taken seriously in a sport dominated by men. However, over the course of GLOW's three seasons, its stars of color realized that their storylines weren't as developed as those of their white counterparts. Though every character in the story had a role to tell, the white characters tended to be fully fleshed out, while the non-white personalities simply served as character development or comedic relief.
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Today, just days after GLOW's official cancellation, its stars are revealing that their dreams for the fourth season would have addressed those issues. Earlier this summer, Britney Young, Ellen Wong, Kia Stevens, Shakira Barrera, Sunita Mani, and Sydelle Noel penned a letter to the shows creators and producers requesting that their characters be given more nuanced storylines. Mani (Evil Eye) shared that letter on her social media this past weekend.
"As the principal women of color on a show tackling racist and offensive stereotypes, we have felt disempowered throughout our time on the show," reads the letter. "We feel both devalued in our skillset and only valued for the diversity we bring...we can no longer be quiet about the pain this has caused us and the harm it has done in perpetuating the representation of people of color as sidekicks to white leads."
The letter went on to specify several tangible changes that could be made to the production to ensure a more equitable experience for its stars of color: hiring an executive producer or consulting producer of color, addressing the impact of racism and prejudice on its marginalized characters within the script, and giving characters of color more nuanced narratives.
In the same post, Mani shared that the letter had been received positively; it led to deep conversations with the showrunners about ways to implement those changes. Everyone involved was optimistic about the fourth season, she revealed, feeling certain that GLOW could be the show that they'd hoped it would be. Unfortunately, the series was not green lit for another installment.
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Even though GLOW won't be able to fulfill the requests of its stars of color, other Netflix shows would be smart to take note of the reasonable complaints and implement similar changes to their own productions. In recent years, the streaming platform has made a push for more diversity across its projects, but the move has been criticized as being surface level. Darker skinned Black women are rarely cast in projects (a known consequence of colorism), writers of color are forced to exit their own projects because of racism, and shows centering whiteness are still very much the norm.
Many Netflix users have had their concerns about the media giant's diversity efforts, and the GLOW cast's letter confirms that there is still so much more work left to be done on the streaming platform and in Hollywood at large.
Representation isn't just about putting different faces on screen — we have to be willing to take it a step further and dedicate time and resources to telling diverse stories. The women of color on GLOW are so much more than plot devices, and even though we won't be able to see their evolution on future seasons, Netflix needs to make sure that other actors won't have to fight a similar fight.

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