09th Oct 2020
Female ensemble Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling has been given the chop mid-filming – much to the chagrin of viewers
When news broke on the morning of October 6, we had two options. Either click the headline story of Trump’s queasy, wheezy White House balcony appearance – or find out more about GLOW’s unceremonious axing from Netflix.
“COVID has killed actual humans. It’s a national tragedy and should be our focus. COVID also apparently took down our show,” said the show’s creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch in a statement to Deadline. “Netflix has decided not to finish filming the final season of GLOW. We were handed the creative freedom to make a complicated comedy about women and tell their stories. And wrestle. And now that’s gone. There’s a lot of sh*tty things happening in the world that are much bigger than this right now. But it still sucks that we don’t get to see these 15 women in a frame together again.”
In summer 2017, a newly commissioned dramedy debuted on Netflix. Its name was GLOW, an acronym for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, inspired by the real-life women who found infamy in the mid-1980s, for throwing each other around a ring while wearing costumes as outrageous as their stage names. The original GLOW girls had their own syndicated TV show right through until 1990, although the brand has lived on in Ursula Hayden, who, back then, played Babe the Farmer’s Daughter and, since 2001, has owned the wrestling company – and became a consultant on Flahive and Mensch’s titular Netflix series.
The GLOW series made a leading lady of Alison Brie, who had impressed as Trudy Campbell in Mad Men, but here showcased considerable comedy chops as the hapless unemployed actor cum wrestler Ruth Wilder. Her (literal) sparring with frenemy Debbie aka “Liberty Belle” (Betty Gilpin) was just one plot in an ensemble of 15 motley characters, its largely female cast reflected by its off-camera crew of writers, producers and editors. It was funny, silly, nostalgic and had heart. Which begs the question: WHY?
GLOW’s fourth and final series was three weeks into filming when coronavirus struck. But rather than merely postpone production, Netflix decided to cancel altogether. Meanwhile, Cobra Kai – the cheesy-fun spin-off of The Karate Kid, which pits historic rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), and their offspring, against one another – has been commissioned a third series. Again: WHY?
Could it be because women-led shows depicting all shapes, sizes, sexualities, creeds and colours are seen as having less “value” than men’s stories? That because it subverts the male gaze and shows women being goofy and complex, without ever resorting to laddishness equivalence or one-note clumsy, “kooky” characters that might otherwise have been played by Zooey Deschanel or Rachel Bilson?
GLOW not so much as passes, but smashes and then dropkicks the Bechdel test
Let’s be clear, with so much Lycra on show, and women-on-women action, there is much here to love for the hetero-male, too. But it has always played to its crowd, ie the female audience, who demands fully formed, ordinary characters muddling through extraordinary situations. GLOW not so much as passes, but smashes and then dropkicks the Bechdel test.
Its cast and crew have been shortlisted for every Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG award going since it was first aired, its destiny from eternal bridesmaid to eventual bride looking likely in its final season. But the powers that be just don’t believe we deserve our finale.
Flahive and Mensch added in their statement, “We’ll miss our cast of weirdo clowns and our heroic crew. It was the best job.” We, too, will miss their cast of weirdo clowns, in which we saw our own flawed, scrappy selves – albeit with neon Spandex,1980s frightwigs and kick-ass moves.
Read more: Female-led films consistently outperform male-led films, new study finds
Read more: 8 Netflix picks to add to your must-watch lists
Read more: 25 feel-good, cocoon-worthy films