#StillNotOverIt – GLOW
How did this show get us so invested in wrestling?
For those who haven’t heard, this “#StillNotOverIt” running series was made so that people could write reviews for media that’s no longer new but that they can’t stop ranting and raving about. For me, that’s the show GLOW, which stands for the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.
I should preface this by saying that I’m not someone who had exposure to what wrestling shows really involve, and before watching this series I thought that wrestling was physically impressive, but I didn’t take it seriously beyond that. I started watching the show in early 2019 and honestly only chose to because the 80s-era costumes in the trailer looked impressive and Alison Brie plays the lead. I should also preface with a classic “spoiler alert,” as I will be talking about specific events in the show, but I’ll do my best to keep things as ambiguous as possible.
GLOW’s plot centers around the creation and production of an all-women wrestling show in 1980s LA, and the episode “Debbie Does Something” (S1:E5) is the episode that helped me realize the emotional investment spectators have in these shows. The character Debbie Eagan (played by Betty Gilpin) confesses to one of the other women during training for their show that she’s never seen a show, and she thinks they’re just silly.
To solve this, a few of the women go to a live men’s wrestling show where Debbie has the realization that the drama in wrestling shows is quite like the drama in soap operas. There are unique and refined characters, costumes and dramatic backstory, emotional investment in the plot of the shows, and of course the struggle of good versus evil. It’s pretty hard to get me emotionally invested in regular wrestling matches, but in the shows where the storytelling draws you in you naturally become invested and start to root for one of the two performers.
In GLOW the women wrestle in training and while performing, which I assumed was done through stunt doubles, but with a little digging I learned that the women did all their own stunts after attending an intensive boot camp to build their skillsets. They worked with Shaunna Duggins, a stunt coordinator who won a Primetime Emmy for the stunt coordination in 2018 and 2019, and specifically designed the wrestling scenes to play to these actresses’ strengths in the ring. One of my qualms with wrestling shows previously was only seeing women participate as eye candy for spectators, but this show celebrates the skills of these actresses in a way that goes far beyond simple sexualization.
Aside from doing their own stunts, these actresses also blow me away with some of the most authentic performances of emotional pain that I’ve ever seen. This show sugar coats nothing (fair warning), and in the first episode shows Debbie Eagan (Gilpin) confronting her best friend Ruth Wilder (Brie) in front of the other women after finding out Ruth slept with her husband. Gilpin’s performance in that scene made my jaw drop. As someone who’s been cheated on I’m familiar with the intrusive emotions one experiences, and Gilpin beautifully portrays the anguish, confusion, and dry anger phases in a way that leaves me speechless.
Some of the other heavy topics covered include how a miscarriage can impact a marriage, how fear of hate crimes can contribute to queer individuals staying in the closet, the ways wrestling characters play on racial stereotypes, struggling with internalized homophobia, the ways a misogynist’s views can change, and how a parent’s relationship with their child changes as that child becomes an adult. GLOW is a show that I’ve watched more times than I can remember, and while content warnings abound, the character growth that happens through these traumatic experiences is a perfect example of the resilience those experiences can lead to when a person is given the support they need.