How Season Two of Netflix’s GLOW Is More Relevant Than Ever

The wrestling ring is set up: a perfect square brandished with girly, pink ropes. It’s surrounded by elevated seating and complete with an extravagant chandelier hanging directly above the arena. This overtly feminine scene (constructed by men, can you tell?) welcomes season two of Netflix’s series-within-a-series GLOW. 

Courtesy of Digital Spy

The first season of GLOW was greeted with outstanding reception, and for good reason. Well written with a talented, diverse cast, the story of GLOW and its leading women delves deeper than staged suplexes and witty trash talk. The very 80s aesthetic of the show’s premiere season is layered on thick in season two, assisted by spandex leotard and heavy eye makeup, making it glaringly obvious that the show’s trends are buried in the past. They (thankfully) remain in an era three decades in the past, leaving behind only a smudged trail of blue eye-liner and an undying devotion to Hall and Oates.

So how is it a cheesy comedy set in the 80s, with outdated style, still rings true to gender inequalities and politics happening today? This question slapped me in the face as I watched the first episode, “Viking Funeral”. All it took were a few lines of dialogue from trailblazing character Ruth (Alison Brie), and the harsh comebacks from frustrated, mildly drug-addicted, filmmaker Sam (Marc Maron), a man on the brink of losing his authority to a woman. Ruth confidently (and briefly) replaced Sam as director, triggering his outrage and sparking the verbal frenzy on who really is in charge: the man. “Who here is confused about who the director is? Really? Is no one confused? Because I’m f***** confused”.

Courtesy of Forbes

As the minutes ticked by and the episode neared to an end, it became even more apparent that GLOW’s second season definitely wasn’t going to shy away from portraying the very real, very relevant ongoing fight against gender inequality. 

The season kicks off with morale around the ring finally raised, when our gorgeous ladies of wrestling receive their contracts for the staged fighting spectacle. As the group of women flip through the pages of the almost-humorous Terms and Conditions, it becomes clear they are denounced to property, owned by the small town TV studio. But this is a big break, and the dozen women know their position, in both the entertainment industry and the wrestling world, is not one to toy with. Like today, opportunities for women landing work in industries that are engulfed by either a male gaze or dominance, can be a challenge. How many breaks can a girl be lucky enough to get?

One woman who refuses to be brought down to an amateur level is newly single mother Debbie (Betty Gilpin). Using her newfound independence from her uninspired husband, Debbie doesn’t settle for anything less than top tier. She shocks the studio executive by negotiating her contract and eventually becomes the show’s co-producer. Debbie’s bravery in approaching this male-dominated arena was one of the more satisfying scenes of the season’s premiere, a brazen and unexpected move in the eyes of the confused husbands watching. This is when I knew GLOW was bringing out the big guns.

Courtesy of Variety

This power play is one of many that unfolds in the episode and throughout the ballsy season. Flashback to season one: struggling actor Ruth passionately delivers a compelling monologue on business and honour. In the midst of her audition, she is abruptly cut-off, reminded by the agency she is reading a man’s role and only had to read the secretary. Sound familiar? Most definitely, as the dialogue surrounding the demand for diversity in film and television is one still ongoing in the zeitgeist.  Whereas most of the season oozes heart-warming comedy, armed with a kitsch and glitzy dazzle, it touches on a more sinister reality. And yes, one that we are still in the midst of.

The fifth episode “Perverts Are People, Too”  could be crowned the winning #MeToo moment of recent television history. Taking all-too-realistic inspiration from the exposed Hollywood dynamic – the influential producer exploiting both their position and the “vulnerable” young actor – what was once a fabled cliche has been revealed to be a disturbing trend. There’s a hot tub, a studio executive and a terrified Ruth, persuaded into the “meeting” for an advance in her career. Once again, sound familiar? Only two weeks ago, Terry Crews shed light on his experience of sexual assault in the hands of a Hollywood top dog, citing a detrimental pattern of abuse and silence in the industry.

Courtesy Tom and Lorenzo

The striking modern-day relevance is, at best, concerning. GLOW’s characters are, in fact, based on real-life women. The fact their perseverance in the face of adversity can be compared to women’s rights movements, over thirty years on, is pretty shocking. The recent past has seen countless women’s marches around the globe in response to the ongoing and unacceptable measures of inequality and discrimination, which begs the question: how far have we really come? Never thought Netflix could make me ponder contemporary society like this.

I wonder if Trump watches GLOW.

Are you up to date on GLOW? What did you think of the new season? Tell us in the comments below.