In 1988 I was in a group of girls that resembled the core of Jenji Kohan’s series Glow. It was in California’s Central Valley, so there was the same amount of spandex leotards, pool parties, and roller skating. The difference being that we were eight years old and instead of wrestling bringing us all together, it was Girl Scouts.
The same day my family moved into our house I was approached by a neighbor who told me about the Girl Scout troupe. She brought with her two girls my own age she was watching after school. The girls were making the transition from Brownies to Juniors, so it was a perfect time to join and make new friends in a strange place.
I found myself in an even stranger place, surrounded by a group of girls who were a mash up of introverts, extroverts, givers, takers, and DIYers. They all had their own idea of what they wanted to achieve in their time with the group, and each of us had to make space for all of it.
Writer and Producer Jenji Kohan has a gift for creating magnetic and diverse female characters and the women of Glow are the real deal, in spite of each episode’s thirty minute run time. While there isn’t the same kind of room in an episode to dive into their history with flashbacks, each character manages to get a bit of personal attention that highlights their perspective.
Some pretty rough life paths can lead to women’s wrestling as a career choice, and it isn’t the glamorous lifestyle a steadily employed actress imagines herself living. No only that, but the work itself is challenging. It is a highly physical team sport, both a television production and live theater. It isn’t for most people, but each of the women in Glow find a niche for their own skill and passion.
While the women of Glow wrestle to find their characters for the ring, we are priveledged to watch as they establish their own role and identity within the group. Cherry takes the lead as head coach, Rhonda a cheerleader, Carmen a wrestling mentor, Melrose a rebel, and Jenny is a dynamite party planner.
Like the women who showed up at the casting call for the Georgous Ladies Of Wrestling, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I was signing up for. Girl Scouts was the kind of team atmosphere that brought vastly different identities together, because there was always something different to do. Some wanted to sew, others wanted to sell, do community service, or hike the great outdoors; but in order to succeed in doing anything we had to do it all together.
I did make friends, some of them even lifelong friends, within that strange mash-up of human beings. But there were also a fair number of girls I simply could not relate to, and I was certain they did not understand me. To meet our goals harmony had to be maintained, and in order to do that we all had to learn where our identities fit into the group dynamic.
As seen in her previous Netflix success, Orange is the New Black, and in Showtime’s Weeds, Jenji Kohan likes expressing the bizzare and funny environment created by a sequestered group of diverse people. The same kind of messy kinship is glittering in Glow. Kohan has a knack for translating the dynamics of a clan of women for the screen by getting personal with each character through hilarious and turbulent interactions.
In the middle of the season the women of Glow are thrown together into a sorority like situation at a western themed motel, The Dusty Spur. Here they can maximize the few weeks they have until the show airs to get into fighting shape, craft their characters, and build the kind of teamwork and trust they will need in the ring.
The real women of the original GLOW television wrestling show had to live in the same way. They could not be a part of the show if they didn’t drop everything and move into the rooms reserved for them at the Rio hotel on the Las Vegas strip. After the bright lights and insatiable thirst of the main drag began to wear on the girls, they were relocated to a motel in a quieter part of the city.
They had a strict curfew and guidelines they had to follow. The girls had to be in character all the time while out in Las Vegas or anywhere else. Being with each other in the hotel rooms was the only place where they could be themselves and it worked like a charm to bring the women together in a powerful way.
The amount of time my scout troupe spent together was akin to crowding into a cheap motel, training and working together, while bonding over birthdays and b-movies. We lived in the same neighborhood, were in the same class, spent troupe meetings, badge activities, and vacations together. We did school plays and sports together. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot more drama than anyone would give grade schooler’s credit for.
Life inside the motel looks a lot like summer camp or dorm life. It has all the campfire comraderie building, but also its share of conflict. There isn’t much time or space for a private moment, some people feel trapped by rules, others are just deeply uncomfortable being around people. All of the pent up frustration can come out in ways that others will be offended by or simply find irritating.
Each woman must carve out her own territory. Sometimes they do it by using their words like Debbie. Sheila leaves more subtle landmines, like a dead squirrel in her roommate’s bed. Ruth is a bit lost and has trouble with boundaries, but learns that in order to survive in this group of powerful women she’s going to need to be honest with herself and communicate better.
As inconvenient and infuriating as motel life can be the ladies find themselves all on the same wavelength by their first dress rehearsal. The coked out weekend that spawned the crack-brained idea of cramming them all together actually works exactly as it was supposed to, building an unstoppable team of super women passionate about their project.
The zero hour before the big show proves to be the final test for the Glow teamwork badge. Nothing brings people together like a crisis, and the thought of loosing everything they have worked so hard to create pushes each of the women to give her best to her teammates in order to pull off the weird and wonderful world of women’s wrestling.
The second season of Glow is in post production and is due for a late summer release this year. You still have a few months to put the finishing touches on your wrestling persona and practice your suplex. But if you want to build a killer team like the ladies of Glow you might have to abandon your present way of life.
Image Credits: Netflix