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RICK_BENTLEY

Columns 2018

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Rick Bentley
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Netflix series has a powerful ‘GLOW’

One of the advantages a streaming service such as Netflix has over the traditional broadcast networks or even basic cable is that once a new series or season starts, every episode can be consumed with visual gluttony or sampled in small bites.  Either way, all of the episodes are available whenever the time is right to watch.

Such is the case with Netflix’s Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling – better known as “GLOW” – a series that’s based on the actual efforts in the ‘80s to create interest in women wrestlers.  Until GLOW came along, it was an all-male lineup in the ring.  The second season of 10 episodes of the series can now be seen on the streaming service and a third season of 10 episodes has been ordered.

At the heart of the series is Ruth Wilder (Alison Brie), an out-of-work, struggling actress who gives in to the idea her last chance to find stardom is to slip into a spandex outfit and join a group of other misfits who agree to be part of the new female wrestling world. In one way, it is art imitating life as none of the original GLOW wrestlers had been in a wrestling match.  The same goes for the real-life actors who star in the series as the majority of them have never stepped into a ring.

To get the actors in shape to play the actors getting in shape to be part of GLOW takes the work of wrestling coach, Chavo Guerrero Jr., stunt coordinator Shauna Duggins and female stunt artist Helena Barrett.  What Brie – best known for her work on “Community” – found out quickly from her trainers is that there are big differences between women’s and men’s wrestling.

“Probably the biggest difference is breasts,” Brie says.  “So we have the male and female perspective on wrestling while we’re learning it.  Chavo teaches us the moves and then Shauna and Helena kind of translate that into women’s bodies.  I think it’s less about male wrestling versus female wrestling and more about ’80s wrestling versus contemporary wrestling.

“Today you find a much more polished performances going on in wrestling and what we’re doing on ‘GLOW’ was a bit more scrappy.  The women of GLOW, like us, we’re actresses learning how to wrestle.  Most of them were not wrestlers before they started shooting the show, so you see a lot more hair-pulling, a lot more really raw moves.”

Brie has had to stop watching current wrestling because she will see a move that she would like to incorporate into the series.  That’s when the training staff has to explain to her the move wasn’t created for at least a decade after GLOW came and went. 

Although she had no wrestling background, Sydelle Noel – who plays Cherry “Junkchain” Bang on “GLOW” – has an athletic past as she attended the University of Georgia on a track scholarship.  A stress fracture she got while running track professionally after graduation ended her track career.

What she has observed about current women in wrestling and those in the ‘80s is that the window is very short for female wrestlers to make an impact.  Except for a rare instance, most matches featuring women are known – according to Noel – as “popcorn matches.”

Noel adds, “So maybe you’ll get two minutes while the men get five and, in that two minutes, you have to tell a story and make a point and make yourself a star in two minutes.  So I would say the difference between women and men wrestling, women have to endure so much more to make it.”

Whatever the current “GLOW” team is doing has earned them a lot of attention.  The series has earned two 2018 Primetime Emmy nominations including one in the Best Comedy Series category.  The other nod was for Betty Gilpin, who plays Debbie “Liberty Belle” Eagan, in the Best Supporting Actress division.

Gilpin had no problem slipping into the character of Liberty Belle who is a former daytime drama actress who left show business to have a baby.  Her plans to take a different life direction are thwarted and she gets pulled back into the work world.

“I really relate to Debbie in a lot of ways, as a woman and actress, and from watching my friends become mothers, I guess I see this part of them that you sort of connect to your Greek self.  And maybe everyone feels this way, that there’s this tiny part of you that thinks, oh, maybe I could be powerful and maybe I could be special and loud and a thousand feet tall if someone gave me the opportunity to,” Gilpin says.  “And then Debbie feels that way, and then her job for the day is to paint her nails and put on a nice outfit.  And all this thousand-foot-tall feeling gets crammed into this very small posing package.  I think she’s just done with it and is ready to explode.

“I think wrestling has given her an opportunity to feel a thousand feet tall if only for five minutes.  But I think that a trait that a lot of the characters share is that, even though we’re all very different, I think a lot of us are very lonely and feel like our lives didn’t go the way that we thought they would.”

The cast of “GLOW” also includes Marc Maron, Britney Young, Jackie Tohn, Britt Baron and Kia Stevens.  To see what happens to the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, you will need to subscribe to the streaming service.

Contact Rick Bentley at rickb@n2newsnet.com