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I had a vague idea that it is fighting which everyone knows is fake, and that it's where Hulk Hogan came from, but that was about it. Then my sister discovered wrestling fandom through her new boyfriend, and embraced it with an open heart. She has attempted to explain it to me, with limited success.
Professional wrestlers, I have learned, are more than stage names and costumes, they are fully-developed characters with elaborate storylines. Each wrestling match is an episode in an epic story of grudges and grievances, allegiances and betrayals. Wrestlers are divided into good guys (``faces'') and bad guys (``heels''), although a lot of the time, if one ventures to ask, ``which one is the good guy?'', the answer turns out to be a lot more complicated than anticipated and necessitates the relaying of a lot of backstory.
It was this cursory knowledge of wrestling that I brought to my viewing of new Netflix comedy-drama GLOW. An acronym for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, GLOW is a fictionalisation of the story behind the actual 1980s wrestling television show of the same name. Clips of the original show surviving online reveal a mottled spectacle of semi-believable physical combat, characters based on cringefully offensive stereotypes, and skits full of bad acting and worse puns, all wrapped up in a lot of massive '80s hair and extremely shiny tights. It's precisely the kind of retrospectively ridiculous pop cultural artefact that makes you wonder what the heck anyone involved was thinking at the time, which gives the producers of the new GLOW ample scope to work with.
The plot centres around Ruth (Alison Brie), a struggling actress desperate for a chance to play ``real parts'', or failing that, any part that will pay her rent. A casting call for ``unconventional women'' leads her to what turns out to be an audition for a women's wrestling show run by Sam Sylvia (Marc Maron), a disillusioned film director whose back catalogue comprises titles like Swamp Maidens of the Viet Cong, Blood Disco and Blood Disco II.
GLOW features an impressively diverse cast of interesting female characters (perhaps unsurprisingly, it comes from the creators of Orange is the New Black), notably including cynical former soap opera actress Debbie (Betty Gilpin) and frustrated under-employed stunt woman Cherry (Sydelle Noel). The comedy ranges from the ridiculous to the dryly subtle, and the show has plenty of eye candy and pop culture references for '80s retro enthusiasts.
GLOW has had plenty of hype, and it's well-deserved. Get on board.
I'm still probably not going to watch more wrestling though.
- C. Tilley H. Turner