Series / GLOW (2017)

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Sam: Fans are gonna tune in for the moves, but they're not gonna stay tuned in unless we give them what, ladies?
Reggie: Blood!
Melrose: Tits!
Sam: Storytelling, storytelling!

GLOW is a dramedy from Netflix which tells a fictionalized version of the characters and gimmicks of the syndicated all-women wrestling promotion ''Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling" or GLOW, which ran from 1986 to 1990.

The show stars Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder, a broke, down-on-her-luck aspiring actress in 1980s LA, who finds one last chance for stardom when she's thrust into the glitter and spandex world of women's wrestling.

Alongside other colorful newcomers, Ruth has to deal with Debbie Eagan (Betty Gilpin), a former soap actress who left show business to have a baby, only to be sucked back into work when her picture-perfect life is not what it seems.

The first season premiered on June 23, 2017; the trailer can be found here. The show has been renewed for a second season.


GLOW contains examples of the following tropes:

  • The '80s: The show is set smack in the middle of the decade, and everything from the wardrobe to the hairstyles faithfully reflects that.
  • '80s Hair: The show takes great care to replicate the hairstyles of the decade, in all their gravity-defying glory.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Carmen. Her ethnicity is unclear. The actress is half-white and half-black, and her father is played by a light-skinned black man, but her brothers are played by another light-skinned African-American (Brodus Clay) and a Puerto Rican (Carlito). Her wrestling character is Peruvian.
  • Author Tract: In-Universe, Sam's first script for the show, a post-apocalyptic dystopia, is a thinly veiled misogynistic rant against women's lib, full of man-eating lesbians and a villain named Kuntar.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Cherry Bang. A casting agent comments that it couldn't possibly be her real name. Cherry neither confirms nor denies.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Ruth's attempts to treat the project like a regular acting job result in her giving a terrible first audition. Even after she researches pro wrestling a bit more it still takes her a while to nail exactly what she should be aiming for.
  • Banned in China: Invoked. Sam is very proud of the fact that one of his movies has been banned in 49 states.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: The wrestler Steel Horse is apparently very well endowed and very good in bed, if Debbie's condition the next morning is anything to go by.
  • Blaxploitation: Cherry's acting career mostly comprises of stunt work and small roles in these types of films. Her character Junkchain is themed on blaxploitation Action Girl characters like Coffy.
  • Brick Joke: Early in the season, Sam describes the plot of a movie he has been trying to get made for over a decade, and it sounds like a piece of shit exploitation B-Movie. Fast forward to the penultimate episode of the season where he describes the plot once a again to the band at a party... and they all tell him they've already seen it, as it's almost the same story as Back to the Future, which had just premiered that week.
  • Captain Obvious: Sam's pathetic attempts at announcing the show's trial run amount to little more than awkwardly stating what's happening. When the KKK characters deliver some big hits, he flatly states, "It doesn't look good for the black girls..."
  • Cat Fight:
    • The central concept of the GLOW wrestling show, selling females fighting for titillation's sake.
    • The beatdown Debbie gives to Ruth in episode 1 is a real one of these, which gives Sam inspiration for the main event.
  • Cliffhanger: Sam injects one into the inaugural episode of GLOW to drive the plot of future episodes, saying, "The money is in the chase."
  • The Comically Serious: During GLOW's trial performance, the camera often cuts to a coven leader Sheila met who got dragged to the show, along with the rest of his coven. His stoic and effete reactions to show's more bizarre aspects are quite funny.
  • Complexity Addiction: Sam's initial draft of the show's story involves a Post Apocalyptic setting and lots of complicated backstory. It's an exhaustive process for the girls to talk him out of it and settle for simple characters and storylines that are easily relatable and understandable.
  • Country Matters: Sam thinks he can get crap past the radar by naming the villain in his initial draft of the show "Kuntar."
  • Crosses the Line Twice: invoked
    • Invoked by Sam when he is called on the offensively stereotypical personas assigned to the women. He claims that it is going to be so over the top that the audience will find itself seriously thinking about their prejudices. The women think it is a bunch of crock.
    • Invoked by Cherry and Tamme when they get the team otherwise known as the Beatdown Biddies (two young women playing kayfabe old ladies) to dress up like Klansmen.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The show faithfully presents the fact that a lot of the gimmicks and characters in wrestling in The '80s were based on stereotypes that would be considered incredibly racist by modern standards, but were considered Acceptable Targets at the time.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • The first episode has topless nudity (there is some more in other episodes, but for much less time than the first).
    • Between the first and second episode, Salty is Put on a Bus and Bash (who had not been mentioned before) is given a Second Episode Introduction.
    • The first episode makes Sam's involvement in GLOW seem more reluctant and desperate than in later episodes, which reveal that he conceived of it with a millionaire partner who pays all the bills and promises to finance his next movie as well.
  • Easily Forgiven: Two cases arising from the same incident...
    • Subverted in regards to Ruth's affair with Debbie's husband Mark. Sam tries to push this on Debbie to forgive Ruth basically saying "shit happens" and "everyone's an asshole" but it's just to preserve the duo and keep Debbie in the same room as Ruth due to the chemistry they have as Face and Heel. By the end of the season Ruth and Debbie have worked hard to perfect their fight scenes together and make for great in-character adversaries but Debbie makes it clear to Ruth she's still far from considering her a friend.
    • Frustratingly zig-zagged with Debbie's husband Mark. Debbie is at first adamant as to want nothing to do with him but his determined efforts to win her back combined with Debbie's lack of finances see's her become slowly worn down and accepting. Until she realises in the finale that he has never supported anything she does, and 'volunteers' from the crowd to fight Zoya, clearly over Mark's lack of support.
  • Enter Stage Window: This is how Mark gets into Ruth's apartment unseen to have sex with her. He even lampshades how hard it is to climb up a trellis.
  • Eureka Moment: Debbie had one when she finally realizes that pro wrestling is basically a Soap Opera and is finally able to connect with it.
  • Fanservice: As if featuring Alison Brie topless wasn't enough, the women spend a considerable amount of time in very tight outfits which show off their curves.
  • Fake Nationality: There are a few in-universe examples as the girls' stereotype wrestling characters are based on their looks:
    • Ruth Wilder (American) plays Zoya the Destroyer (Russian)
    • Arthie Premkumar (Indian) plays Beirut the Mad Bomber (Lebanese)
    • Jennie Chey (Cambodian) plays Fortune Cookie (Chinese)
    • Reggie Walsh (American) plays Vicky the Viking (generic Scandinavian)
  • Fake-Out Opening: The pilot starts with Ruth delivering an impassioned monologue as an tough, iron-willed heiress. It turns out that she's auditioning for a role. She's actually a Starving Artist.
  • Foreshadowing: The plot of the movie Sam has spent a decade trying to get made foreshadows the fact that Justine is his daughter, as it is about a guy who travels in time and has his mother try to have sex with him, which is what happens between Sam and Justine.
  • Generation Xerox: Both Sam and Justine are just as equally cynical, abrasive, and distrustful of mainstream society.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted with Ruth. Later on in the first season Ruth learns that she's pregnant with Mark's child. Seeing as her career as a wrestler would be sidelined as well as the extra scorn she would receive since everyone knows of her affair with Mark, Ruth decides that the cons outweigh the pros and goes through with getting an abortion after Sam drives her to the clinic in secret.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Billy Offal, the punk pizza boy, turns out to be quite the cinema snob.
    • Subverted by Sheila when she reveals that she can play the piano. She can only peck out one dreary song.
  • Hollywood Homely: Played for laughs when Sam asks Ruth to her face whether she's attractive, saying that sometimes she is and sometimes not at all. Ruth is played by Fanservice girl Alison Brie. In a later episode, Bash clarifies that everyone else would think she's attractive. Sam is just weird.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Gregory's nephew demands lots of vodka in order to go through with his bris.
  • I Resemble That Remark!:
    Rhonda: You're so bloody paranoid all the time.
    Sam: I'm not paranoid! Who told you that?
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Fortune Cookie is a mish-mash of Japanese and Chinese references. The wrestler portraying her is Cambodian.
  • It's Been Done: Sam has bad luck in getting beaten to the punch on his ideas.
    • Hinted at earlier - Sam gives the girls a sample script that closely resembles the plot of Harlan Ellison's A Boy and His Dog.
    • The film Mothers and Lovers that he's been working on for a decade: is about a teenager who goes back in time and meets his mom when she was younger, and she spends the movie getting the hots for him. The party guests all crack about how that's the plot for a brand-new film called... Back to the Future.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Sam Sylvia. He'll be the first person to tell you that he's hard to work with. He's a habitual coke user and womanizer who says cruel things to the women, demands complete control over his product despite not caring to know about the finer points of wrestling, and isn't a fan of apologies or admitting his faults. Hell, he even hates babies, and thinks that they're boring because they're obviously too young to party. And while he tries not to show it, he does have a tender side, such as the time he drove Ruth to the hospital for her abortion, and didn't fire Justine despite the fact she stole his video camera and tried to frame Rhonda up for it. He also stands up for Carmen when her wrestling family comes to take her away from GLOW, even taking a backhand to the face without being deterred until Carmen herself goes willing with her family to avoid more violence.
    • Bash's mother. She treats the entire enterprise as little better than a scam, but once she meets the girls and hears them speak, she decides to help them with a venue for the show.
  • Jewish American Princess: Melrose is revealed early on to come from a pampered, upper-class background in spite of her party-girl persona. She's also Jewish, as evidenced when she calls Cherry an antisemite after getting yelled at.
  • Kayfabe: The show takes a closer look at how this works, as the contrast between the wrestlers' lives and personalities and the characters they play is made evident.
    Ruth: Are you hiring actors to play wrestlers or are we the wrestlers?
    Sam Silvia: Yes.
  • Kick the Dog: Birdie Howard's first few lines include an antisemitic Greedy Jew remark, letting the audience take Bash's side against her even though Jerkass Has a Point about his uncontrolled spending.
  • Large Ham: Ruth. She is, after all, an actress by trade.
  • Leotard of Power: The most common attire of the wrestlers. It is The 80s, after all.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Justine turns out to be a daughter Sam never knew he had.
  • Male Gaze: Played with. The scenes with actual nudity and sex are shot very matter of factly and not for titillation. The scenes when the girls are in the ring fully dressed is another matter entirely.
  • Meaningful Name: Billy Offal's surname (likely an assumed name) means "garbage" and is also a homophone for "awful," both of which match his punk aesthetic. The name is also pretty similar to Billy Idol
  • Mistaken for Prostitute: Gregory, the manager of the motel where the girls live during the duration of their training, initially thinks they're all prostitutes. Even after Ruth explains the situation to him he still has his doubts.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Bash describes Ruth as a "farmer's daughter type." Farmer's Daughter was a character in the real GLOW.
    • Rhonda's Britannica character plans for having a horse to ride on is a reference to the very British Godiva in the real show.
  • N-Word Privileges: When Tamme is called a "big black girl", she responds with an angry Precision F-Strike.
    The fuck you say!?
  • No Budget: In-Universe, after Bash's mother freezes his trust fund because of all the money he had spent on GLOW, the money dries up completely and the girls have to make everything themselves and raise money to complete the taping of the pilot.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Although the show is based on a real-life wrestling promotion, all the characters are fictional, oftentimes based on the people behind the real GLOW. Carmen/Machu Picchu, for example, is an obvious takeoff on Emily Dole, a.k.a. Mount Fiji, while the admittedly difficult-to-work-with director Sam Sylvia is based on real-life B-movie director Matt Cimber. There are, however, a few Race Lift cases here and there, such as the Caucasian John Morrison playing the equivalent of the Mexican-American Mando Guerrero as the girls' trainer.
  • No Honor Among Thieves: Invoked by Ruth during the first televised match when Zoya double crosses Fortune Cookie and tries to seize the championship for herself.
  • Performance Anxiety: Carmen gets this big time on the first live show GLOW does, unable to get into the ring before having a panic attack.
  • Periphery Demographic: Invoked In-Universe when Sam pitches GLOW as "Porn you can watch with your kids" to a TV executive upon learning they're getting a Saturday morning slot. Truth in Television as GLOW was intended for all ages unlike some of the spiritual successors that followed like WOW and Wrestleicious.
  • Pet the Dog: The Spoiled Sweet rich kid Bash shows that he's a good guy in his first few episodes by seeing the best in his wrestlers. He brushes off Sam's dislike for Ruth, saying she's like a girl next door, and changes Carmen from a heel to a face after noticing her sweet personality.
  • Pink Means Feminine: The ropes in the GLOW ring are pink, because it's women's wrestling.
  • Poke the Poodle: Ruth's proposed heel character Aunty Christ is a mean old lady who gives out raisins on Halloween.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Sam Sylvia indulges in a number of negative stereotypes to create his characters, such as "Beirut the Terrorist" and "Welfare Queen," which cause the show's minority cast members some embarrassment. He claims he is using them to make a point about society's assumptions. Whether this is true or if he's just willfully catering to the prejudices of his 1980s audience to make a buck is unclear. He mentions he's a former civil rights activist, but it's also implied that he just joined to get laid. Keith says that Sam is "more sexist than racist," which is not a ringing endorsement.
  • Put on a Bus: Salty, the professional wrestler and trainer, is fired between the pilot and second episode, with Sam saying only that he "didn't work out." A large part of the first season is the girls figuring out what wrestling is for themselves and coming up with their own moves.
  • Race Lift: A couple of examples, when comparing the real-life GLOW personalities and their fictional equivalents.
    • Fictional head trainer Salty "The Sack" Johnson is white, whereas real-life head trainer Mando Guerrero is Mexican-American.
    • Fictional wrestler Carmen aka Machu Picchu has a black father, just like her actress, Britney Young, does. Her real-life equivalent, Emily Dole, is Samoan-American. (Strangely, her two brothers' actors are of different races/nationalities George "Brodus Clay/Tyrus" Murdoch is African-American, while Carlito Colon is Puerto Rican.)
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: To call the group of women Silvia gathers to create the promotion "colorful" would be a huge understatement.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: In-Universe, the animosity between Ruth and Debbie's ring personas is derived from their conflict in real life.
  • Rewatch Bonus: While all the other wrestlers burst into laughter at Sam's dating profile video, Justine has a Thousand-Yard Stare because she'd just watched her estranged father talk about how his cock works great.
  • Rich Bitch: Bash's mother is the most stereotypical conservative grand dame you are ever likely to meet this side of Flowers in the Attic and considers wrestling as little better than garbage.
  • Robot Buddy: Bash Howard, the promotion's producer, has a robot serving drinks and drugs at a party.
  • Rule-Abiding Rebel: Billy Offal. In spite of his punk aesthetic, he's a middle-class guy who lives with his mom and isn't allowed to play Clue because it contains a murder.
  • Running Gag: Gregory is convinced the team are actually prostitutes.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Bash shows up in episode two,
  • Shocking Swerve: When GLOW's first episode is almost finished with a crowd-satisfying victory for the All-American Face, Sam injects a new epilogue in which the Welfare Queen comes out of nowhere to steal her crown. Ruth and Debbie protest, but Sam insists that the show needed a cliffhanger to drive the next's episode's plot.
  • Show Within a Show: The show is about one of the most well-known female wrestling promotions in Professional Wrestling history.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Several to Back to the Future: Sam's screenplay Mothers and Lovers is said to share more than a few plot points with the film. In the first season finale, the GLOW wrestlers recruit people waiting to see the film at a theater, which also has the DeLorean on display.
    • Sam is in possession of a sample script that reads a lot like it could have been an early draft of A Boy and His Dog.
    • The episode title "Debbie Does Something" is a reference to Debbie Does Dallas.
    • When Cherry tries to give her some tough advice, Melrose tells her that she doesn't have time for this Louis Gossett Jr. and Richard Gere thing.
    • While attending a bris, Ruth mentions Yentl and learns that everyone in attendance is a big fan, so she sings a song from it.
  • Starving Artist: At the start of the series, Ruth only has $83 in her bank account and can't find any acting work.
  • Straw Political: Bash's mother is a hyper-conservative admirer of Nancy Reagan who hates liberals. She's unwilling to support his projects when he tries to sell them as a sob story about the dispossessed, but finally gets it and decides to support him financially when she sees Ruth give an honest but purely selfish reason for her role in *GLOW*.
  • Team Title: The eponymous GLOW is the name of the wrestling organization the main characters work for.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Debbie is extremely angry at Ruth but her Face character needs a good Heel and Ruth seems ideal for that. Steel Horse, an experienced male wrestler, explains to her that wrestlers do not have to be friends as long as they can be professional enough to make each other look good in the ring.
  • Technician Vs Performer: Debbie and Ruth. Debbie is naturally charismatic and classically beautiful, but becomes unstuck when she has to plan her promos or matches herself. Ruth lacks her magnetic personality and amazonian looks, but is more deeply committed to the craft of acting and creating drama. They eventually realize that they do their best work together.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • The trailers made Debbie Eagan out to be a Alpha Bitch who torments Ruth. In the actual show Debbie is quite a nice person and supportive friend who has a very good reason to be pissed at Ruth. She slept with her husband. Twice.
    • They also imply the girls will have a professional training them the whole time. Salty is gone after the first episode because of Sam and the girls have to basically train themselves.
  • Training Montage: A given since this is a show about Professional Wrestling.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Debbie's husband Mark is considerably less attractive that her. Sam lampshades it when he finally meets him.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Ruth and Debbie, when Debbie discovers that her husband Mark had an affair with Ruth. While they are gradually able to coexist and work together, Debbie still can't forgive Ruth.
  • Wham Line: Justine reveals that she's Sam's illegitimate daughter, just after Sam kisses her.
  • Wham Shot: In the first episode we see Ruth rekindle her affair with another woman's husband, with him revealed to be Debbie's husband a bit later with a photo of them attached to her keys.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: With all the cultural stereotypes invoked In-Universe, this is all over the place.
  • Wimp Fight: When Sam describes the various moves he expects the wrestlers to use in the pilot episode, he includes "that thing with the hands" and mimes the slap-fighting that is classically a part of this trope.
  • Worked Shoot: The finale features Debbie apparently choosing not to participate in the taping, with Ruth-as-Zoya being crowned GLOW champion... then Debbie stands up in the stands to challenge her, and wins as Liberty Belle, with it being revealed that Debbie's attending but not participating was all a work. Then Sam has a last-minute improvisation where Tamme wins the title from Debbie, so as to give the fans what they didn't expect and keep the story going.
  • Workout Fanservice: The trailer features Debbie getting a Male Gaze while rehearsing with Ruth.
  • World of Action Girls: GLOW's storyline has all of its female cast members as butt-kicking action girls, even the Beatdown Biddies.
  • Wrestling Family: Carmen comes from one of these, which impresses the show's trainer to no end.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Sheila's birthday cake has her age as 106, which Stacey, Dawn, and Jenny claim is her age in "wolf years", while her age in traditional "dog years" would be 87. Working backwards, that would put the clearly adult Sheila's age between 14-17. Could've been intended as an In-Universe example, but if so it isn't clear.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A very fictionalized version of the real GLOW.
  • You Are Fat: Carmen gets a panic attack that soon requires medical attention (with Bash close by), when she later asks the EMT to check her blood pressure, the EMT remarks if she's that concerned she needs to go to Weight Watchers. This is not played or laughs.

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