Available on Netflix
TV shows and movies about female empowerment always seem to fail in some way as dramas. Maybe it’s because we generally expect everyone in a drama to be at each other’s throats or maybe it’s because we expect real-life to be full of failure, but anything in which everyone is heart-warmingly co-operative and in which the plucky underdog manages to triumph against the odds – and those who would oppress her – never feels truly authentic.
It doesn’t help that ’empowerment’ has been co-opted as by marketers for just about anything. What Women Want is ruined by many things – including Mel Gibson – but its relentless attempt to persuade you that Nike Women is really all about empowering women rather than extracting cash from them in exchange for over-priced trainers is downright nauseating. And that’s before we get onto anything in which stripping, pole-dancing, posing for naked calendars, beauty competitions et al are portrayed as actually completely liberating experiences, not exploitative, you sexist.
The first season of GLOW was therefore something of a rare beast. At first, little more than a sub-comedic drama set in the 80s world of women’s wrestling – being very loosely based on the genuine show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – it rapidly evolved into a hymn to ineptitude that sees failed actress Alison Brie (Community) working with equally failed schlock film director Marc Maron (Maron) to try to put together a viable pilot for a show about female wrestlers that, really, just isn’t that good. There are terrible storylines, all the women end up playing terrible stereotypes (eg suicide bombers, ‘welfare queens’, evil Russians, members of the Ku Klux Klan) and no one’s actually any good at wrestling or even acting. And at no point doesn’t anyone try to argue that what they’re doing will close the pay gap and end discrimination as we know it
The first season took a little while to get into gear, it has to be said. Mild guffaws, for sure, but it wasn’t until episode seven when they’re actually shooting the pilot that we got some genuine comedy and the season started to come together.
So expectations were… mild for season two. More gentle comedy while a group of slightly diverse women learn to get along together while fighting one another?
Pretty much, yes. That’s what season two is. But let’s not knock that. There are worse ways to spend your time by far, and there is one episode of absolute genius, too.