Netflix continues its trend of extraordinary programming with a real treasure. GLOW was screened at ATX Television Festival on Sunday and Alison Brie has truly found a character to sink her teeth into in Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress in L.A., desperate for a part. Any part. In the first scene of the pilot, her character delivers a very good reading at an audition for a meaty part. Turns out, however, that she’s reading the man’s part. Her part: a one-line secretary letting the interesting male character know his wife is on line two. Maybe not literally, but figuratively, pretty much every women has been in this position. We know we’re capable of so much more, but the opportunity just passes by time and again.
At her wits’ end, Ruth agrees to go on an audition for "unconventional women.” The audition is for GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) wrestlers, the real-life, all-female wrestling league of the '80s.
Brie has made a name for herself with characters like Mad Men’s Trudy Campbell and Community’s Annie Edison, and her role in GLOW lives at the intersection of the Venn Diagram of these two characters. Plucky, determined but down on her luck, Ruth Wilder is at once indomitable and vulnerable. Trust me, when it comes time to hand out Emmys, you’ll be hearing “Warrior” (the more than apropos series theme song) play someone on stage early and often. Related: come for the show, but stay for the soundtrack. The '80s music for GLOW is flawlessly curated. I thought “Oh, I love that song!” three to five times during the pilot.
Co-created by Jenji Kohan (who is becoming the Netflix hero of creating strong female roles with Orange is the New Black and now GLOW) and Liz Flahive (Nurse Jackie), I left this screening feeling empowered. And that's not because the women of GLOW are perfect heroes flexing their arms and shouting inspirationally into the camera and if they can do it, SO CAN I! No, these characters are all pretty flawed, Ruth even more so than the others. That was the exact quality that struck me, however, and will strike all of you when it premieres on Netflix on June 23rd. This is essentially the last chance for many of these women to make something of themselves. They’re beaten down and they’re discouraged, and they've maybe even given up on themselves a little. Who am I kidding - they’ve given up on themselves a lot.
I don’t have to tell any of you, male or female, gay or straight, zebra or toaster oven, that it hasn’t been the most encouraging time to be a woman. I’m regularly asked at my job where my boss is (I’m the boss) and I hear identical if not worse stories from my friends at pretty much every happy hour. At the panel afterward, Brie herself relayed a hellacious audition story where she was asked to take off her top and then DIDN’T EVEN GET THE PART. Watching this show and listening to the all-female production team and actresses talk, however, made me realize that the only way we can't do whatever we want is if we give up. Even if we screw up or we fail or we’re told that we can’t, all we have to do is try one more time.
So, I’m not going to give up, neither are the women of GLOW, and neither should you.