Sunday, June 25, 2017


I sometimes delve in to television and this seems appropriate (for those that don't know, I'm a big pro-wrestling fan). I figure I'd give my opinion on this show to balance out all the inevitable "think pieces" written by folks who never watched wrestling, the original show this is based on (or even knew it was loosely based on a real show to begin with).

I guess I'm fascinated by this new Netflix show for nostalgic reasons. I cant think of the original Glow series and not be reminded of my dear late Aunt Myrna. I discovered the original series staying up late watching TV with her one night. I was such a huge fan of the WWF at that point (circa 1988) that I'd watch anything wrestling-related. I was mesmerized by Glow. And not for the obvious reasons. I wasn't attracted to any of the women on the show. They kind of scared me to be honest. I was attracted to the surreality & low budget quality (perhaps this explains where my love for Tim & Eric Awesome Show came from). What made Glow stand out so much was that while it was a wrestling show, it was also a heavily scripted episodic show. The Netflix series didn't really touch on the fact that Glow was intentionally supposed to be based in a fantasy world with just as much attention given to the backstage vignettes as the actual wrestling matches (but it's only season one. Perhaps we'll see more of this explored in season two).
By the mid-80's we had seen plenty of backstage vignettes on WWF & WCW but those shows were were still based in reality whereas Glow was intentionally “fake” (not that the Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling didn't work hard, but it definitely pulled back the curtain on the wrestling business to some degree). While some people frowned on Glow's episodic soap opera approach (and others loved it), it was still unique and hadn't been done before in the world of wrestling. So no matter how you look at it – Glow brought something new to the world of pro-wrestling. These days you cant watch the WWF without some elaborate backstage soap opera-style scene. There are even current shows like Lucha Underground that got its basic blueprint directly from Glow.

It also gave female pro-wrestlers a platform to show off their athleticism. While there were exceptions like The Fabulous Moolah & Mae Young...
The Fabulous Moolah dominating her opponent
...a woman's place in pro-wrestling for the most part was that of a manager and/or eye candy (managers are important in pro-wrestling so I'm not trying to belittle their position, but women could do more than carry bags and act as a distraction)...
the legendary manager Miss Elizabeth w/ her ex-husband Macho Man Randy Savage

So as cheesy and cliché as this may sound, Glow is still a somewhat important story for female athletes & struggling actresses.

What did bother me about Glow was its somewhat dishonest all-inclusive approach. As someone who actually watched this show, Glow was predominantly white. However this new Netflix series would give off the impression that every race was included (African America, Asian, Indian, etc). That's not exactly true. But I get it – it's 2017 and filmmakers are trying to represent everyone. This could be seen as both good and bad. It's good because the world we live in is not all white so the shows & movies we watch should reflect that on some level. However, I don't know if television shows and movies should be forced to fill a quota (especially by people who dont know how to make natural/organic characters of color to begin with). It gets a little patronizing & formulaic.

Season one of Glow dealt with race in a sort of half-assed way. A lot of the characters the actresses play on the show are racist/bigoted stereotypes and for some reason that seems to be ok. But this is common. Racism in pro-wrestling goes back a lot farther than Glow so I would never dare to put all the problems concerning racism in pro wrestling on the shoulders of this one show. Just look at some of the many examples of the kinds of racist characters and angles that pre-date Glow...

Rowdy Roddy Piper in blackface
the infamous Brickhouse Brown whipping angle

I know some of you are wondering why I watch & enjoy wrestling and to be quite honest I don't have the most solid answer. I grew up with it and it just kind of stayed with me through the years. But wrestling also had a few strong/no-nonsense black personas that have yet to be topped to this day...

Bad News Brown
Ron Simmons (the first Black world champion in the WCW)

On the Netflix show we see characters like “The Welfare Queen” played by one of the black actresses. Now...I'm not even surprised by this. This is the sport that gave us characters like The Godfather & “Cryme Tyme”...

"Cryme Tyme" 
The Godfather (a pimp persona not too far removed from the welfare queen persona)

Racism is very real in wrestling (contrary to what a lot of white fans think). The only problem is the Netflix show kind of grazed over it. In one brief scene we see the actress who portrays the welfare queen express her concerns with playing a racist stereotype. But noting comes out of it because by the end of the show she still portrays the character in all of its racist glory (she's actually motivated to "own" that persona and make it hers by a white guy).

Like I said, these are issues that are much bigger & deeper than just Glow (the original series and the new Netflix series) but it's almost like the Netflix series tried to safely cover its bases by acknowledging how aware it is of the racism associated with pro-wrestling but not dwelling on how fucked up it really is (perhaps we'll go deeper in season two?).

I guess that's my only real issue with the show. Sure it's only one issues but it is a major issue. It sort of re-wrote the history of the show but must biopics and stories based on true events do that so I guess I cant single out this one show for doing something that everyone else does.

I still don't want to steer people away. It handles the sport of professional wrestling with respect. Actual wrestlers lie Brodus Clay & John Morrison make appearances and the show makes a point to use real wrestling lingo (no matter how “fake” it may be to some people, there is a skill that goes in to being a pro-wrestler and a lot of it has to do with not harming yourself or your opponent). I also don't know if there is a role more fit for Marc Maron to play.
I also don't want to turn this piece - about women's wrestling - in to a piece about male wrestlers. Women often had to work twice as much and twice as harder than their male contemporaries. In the world of pro wrestling women used to have to wrestles (reluctant) men in order to get over/gain notoriety...

Watch the show if you haven't. Women's wrestling is taken a lot more seriously these days (as it should be) and this show will play a small part in adding to the legitimacy. Just know at the end of the day it handled race lazily, safely and kind of falsely.


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