To put it frankly, Netflix’s newest show, GLOW, is unlike anything I’ve seen on television before. The cast of GLOW are a group of diverse women, but most importantly, they are a group of diverse women telling their own stories. Some are down, some are out, and some are looking for a good time, but by the end of the first season of GLOW, the women are trying to do it on their own terms. (Spoilers for GLOW Season 1 ahead!) It's so cool that the series shows these women embracing the physicality of their new roles. Debbie (Betty Gilpin) says it best in Episode 9 of GLOW: never before has she felt ownership of her own body like she does when she became a wrestler.
If you need a little background, GLOW centers on a group of women who, beaten down by society and its ever-demanding and deprecating view of women, are recruited to become professional wrestlers. It’s based on a true story, too — G.L.O.W., aka Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling, ran on television from 1986 to 1990. Watching the evolution of the women on GLOW is my favorite thing about the show (though the multitude of spandex outfits is pretty hilarious, too), especially as they move from newbies to all-out warriors in the ring.
In Episode 9, the show is almost a goner, as production has run out of money for a venue. Debbie Eagan — an wife and mother who's also an actor who believed her best role was behind her — wasn’t even a willing participant at first. So she expresses her own surprise at being sad about the show's implosion. Debbie says:
“You know what the craziest part about this whole mess is? I actually like wrestling. I don’t know, it’s like I’m back in my body. It doesn’t belong to Randy or Mark. I… I’m using it for me and I feel like a goddamn superhero.”
Societal norms imply that women are supposed to be small, dainty, and somewhat powerless, but GLOW turns this idea on its head. The women in the show are actually defined by their physicality in these ring, and Debbie’s statement about how it feels so good to move, to lift, to feel ownership over her muscles and bones? Well, that’s groundbreaking. For all of the talk of “strong is the new sexy” that I see all over fitness blogs and the like, there isn’t another show on television that features women using their bodies in such a demanding, physical way.
When Debbie is in the ring, she’s moving, jumping, and flying, and she’s doing it for herself. At home, Debbie is a caregiver to her baby son and her infant husband (I mean, he basically is), and I’m sure that mental maternal switch clicks all day long. I don’t have children, but that caretaker valve is always open for me, too. It’s my mother’s birthday and I have to remember a card. I should pick up my husband’s dry cleaning on the way home. My boss needs a favor and I should help him out. It’s constant thinking about other people all day long. It’s nurture, but it’s only the half of it. But women aren’t just mental creatures — we have roaring, strong bodies, too, and we should be able to use them however we like.
Debbie’s participation in GLOW fulfills her physical urge for movement and dominance. She feels powerful using her body for something instead of having it latched onto by her family and, abstractly, by the directors and casting agents that she dealt with when she was a more traditional type of actor.
Decked out in wrestling gear, the only thing on Debbie’s mind is herself and her next move against the ropes, and it makes her feel free. She’s a "goddamn superhero."