Netflix’s wrestling comedy GLOW is back, with more sass, style and hairspray than ever. But just focussing on the spandex ignores a huge part of what makes season two special.
The show’s central story about a group of women trying to make it in Hollywood has taken on even more urgency post-Weinstein and mid-#MeToo movement, as the stars of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling try to navigate their way through hazardous gender politics and TV power games.
“I think a theme of the show has always been about women empowering themselves, finding themselves in new roles and trying to define their own roles,” star Alison Brie tells RadioTimes.com.
“In season two it’s even more of a challenge. They’re realising as women how much they’re capable of, what their desires are, allowing themselves to have those desires – and very quickly being penned in by the men around them.”
In season two episode five in particular, that pressure comes to a head. Alison Brie’s character Ruth finds herself in a private hotel room with a network executive, the man who holds the fate of her show in his hands.
The ‘meeting’ quickly turns highly uncomfortable: first the exec asks her to put him in a wrestling headlock, to ‘show him the moves’ as it were, before inviting her to try the jacuzzi bath. Ruth, thankfully, makes her escape.
But that’s not the end of it: later Ruth’s co-star and producer on the show Debbie (played by Betty Gilpin) discovers that they are being moved to a late night time slot: “They’re burying us,” she says.
When Ruth reveals how she was harassed by the exec, instead of supporting her, Debbie turns on her: “How could you be so f***ing stupid? You’re in a hotel room with the head of the network, he comes on to you and you run away?” she says incredulously.
“That is how this business works,” she adds. “Men try shit, and you have to pretend to like it until you don’t have to anymore.”
As both of them explain in the video below, that scene in particular was a unique and difficult challenge to film.
“Scenes like that hotel scene which have happened forever, we’re now seeing that for the first time,” Gilpin says. “I think that’s what’s so great about [GLOW creators] Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s writing is that where some projects the camera would stay with the man while the woman goes off into the hallway, we follow the woman and we see the stories that were secondary or not told in previous projects.”
Gilpin admits that her ‘stomach turned’ when she read her character’s reaction to Ruth’s cry for help for the first time: “When I read Debby’s reaction to that episode my stomach just turned. I was like, ‘Please no, let her support Ruth.’ But that’s a huge part of that story too, women encouraging each other’s shame so that they can keep working.”
Brie says that the idea for the scene had been in place for some time even before the Hollywood revelations of last year: “I think they had always planned on putting something like that in our show, women’s movement aside, and obviously it’s more relevant than ever,” she says.
“It’s something that actresses have always faced and have faced for a long time, and we’re so lucky to be living in a time right now where people are talking about it in such a major way.
“Women are realising the power we have when we all come together, and it feels like actual change could be happening – rather than maybe in the past when women were talking about these things but in sort of a smaller way, and made to feel that their experiences were very unique and weren’t happening across the board to most women.”
Watch the full video above, where the pair also discuss their experience of feeling “replaceable” as actors, signing away power in show contracts and more.