Cast Members From Netflix’s ‘Glow’ On Why This Show Is A Winner For Female Empowerment

If you haven’t yet binge-watched Netflix’s ‘Glow’, we’re not kidding when we say “run, don’t walk” to your streaming device now! Seriously, you will inhale each episode and immediately crave more. It is the latest offering from executive producer Jenji Kohan, the woman who brought us ‘Orange Is The New Black’, and by now her legacy in the world of digital and new media is firmly being cemented as the diversity queen.

Where many networks dared not venture, Jenji and Netflix have managed to prove all the naysayers wrong by creating not one, but TWO incredibly addictive TV shows primarily featuring women, of all ages, body types, and races, and centering story lines around women with men mostly in the peripheral. And it turns out, shocker of shockers, that female-driven content does indeed draw audiences!

Based on the original cult-hit TV series from the 1980’s, the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling feature a cast of women, most of whom are not professional wrestlers, who dress up as various characters and battle it out in the ring to entertain audiences, much like many are accustomed to seeing in today’s WWE shows.

But what sets ‘Glow’ apart from other wrestling shows and instead puts it in the category of female empowerment is the way its female-centric story lines and cast are transcending typical female character tropes and giving space to narratives that allow audiences, and no doubt TV executives, to think outside the box when it comes to female-driven content.

Don’t watch ‘Glow’ expecting to see women as the background characters, the manic pixie dream girl, the madonna, the whore, or the “hooker with a heart of gold”. Instead, expect to fall in love with fully-formed complex women who compliment each other without the need to hang onto any sort of sexual objectification hook to keep audiences interested. Two of the show’s stars, Betty Gilpin who plays Liberty Belle, and Jackie Tohn who plays the sassy Melrose, recently shared their perspectives on being involved in something where their female-ness or indeed the industry’s need to justify and categorize women’s bodies for once did not factor into their performances.

Writing an op-ed for Glamour.com titled ‘What it’s like to have pea-sized confidence with watermelon-sized boobs’, Betty talks about being the skinny, tomboyish girl before puberty, then blossoming into a fuller figured woman which became the very thing that people started noticing her for. Although her body had changed a lot, her inner dialog still told her she was primarily being valued for her physical appearance, especially as an actress, until ‘Glow’.

“Then I booked Glow, a series about women’s wrestling in the 1980s with a cast of 14 women. I panicked. I’d hoped I could skip thinking about my body as an existing thing altogether…In the month leading up to shooting, the 14 of us learned to wrestle. We started with somersaults, like in preschool. They showed us a video of ourselves doing the move to help with form. Watching my thighs jiggle, I made a mental note to Google-image “meadow” to erase the sight from my mind,” she writes.

Partnering up with Kia Stevens, the one cast member who actually had been a professional wrestler (google “Awesome Kong”) and immersing herself in the physicality of the rehearsals became a transformational moment for Betty, as well as her body.

“When my bicep I spent my entire twenties hating circled her neck, she screamed to the sky in faux-pain, as if I were the most powerful being who had ever touched her…I saw our power in other ways too. I won’t name names, but sometimes a TV set can be a shame-and-fear obstacle course for an actress. Ten points if the sexist-gargoyle producer tries to flirt with you after you’ve gone through hair and makeup, so you don’t disgust him…Laugh hard at the lead male actor’s improv, then be word-perfect for your line, “Oh, you boys!” Glow was the first set I’d been on run by women. It was a magical never-never land run by type-A amazons. I saw power and care together for the first time. Seeing women possess those two things simultaneously was a huge lesson for me,” she writes.

The political climate of the presidential election in 2016, as well as the Women’s March this year also became a pivotal moment for Betty after realizing her body was made for more than entertaining or being pleasing to the male gaze.

“My body was harder from giving it protein and vegetables and treats every day so that I’d be strong enough to throw Alison Brie into the air…My stomach was tight because I needed to engage my core when Kimmy Gatewood swung me into a suplex. I hadn’t winced at the mirror in months. I stood taller. I took up space. I was in an American flag unitard. It was November 8, 2016. Luckily, I was already learning how to push through shame and put up my fists. On January 22, in Washington, D.C., I screamed at the sky and pounded my chest in power and pride,” she concludes.

While cast member Jackie Tohn also touches on the empowering aspect of learning how to wrestle with a whole group of women in an interview with Parade mag, what stood out for her was the different tone ‘Glow’ set for everyone involved simply because it was executive-produced and written by women – a rarity in Hollywood. As an actress, she talks about the wonderful experience of not having to compete for only one seat at the table.

Having been in this business since 11 years old let’s say, normally when you go on an audition, you’re trying out for the one girl in the thing. If you don’t get it, someone else gets to be the one girl in the thing. It’s exceedingly rare and exciting to work with a cast of such diversity in shapes and sizes, colors and creeds, and whatever. It’s incredible to be surrounded by women from all walks of life who all bring so much individuality to their role,” she said.

Ironically, the series opens with Alison Brie’s character Ruth, an aspiring actress, literally auditioning for one of these types of limited roles for women before she eventually gets cast in ‘Glow’. Jackie gives kudos to Jenji for creating shows that allow women of all types to not be tokenized and instead be afforded full-bodied roles.

Jenji created ‘Orange Is the New Black’ and is executive producing our show and she is a big proponent for lady-driven projects and diversity-driven projects, so in that regard, they have a lot in common. They’re both largely run by women, directed by mostly women, starring mostly women, so they definitely have a lot of those things in common,” she said.

We definitely need to see more shows like ‘Glow’ which have the opportunity to influence a whole new generation of women and girls to know their lives and bodies should not merely just be props on screen. Kudos to Netflix and Jenji Kohan for creating a new type of canvas for audiences to dream their escapist dreams free from traditional Hollywood limitations.

As actress Ellen Wong (who plays Jenny Chey) says in the video below, “It’s a group of brave, beautiful misfits coming together and finding a place where they belong.”


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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