The Sunday Magazine: Netflix’s GLOW

A year ago, as I was working my way through the first season of the Netflix series GLOW I listed it as a guilty pleasure. By the time I finished the season there was no guilty attached to it. The show surprised me with where it finally ended up. I just finished watching the second season which took the show to a higher level.

The show is based on the original syndicated television show Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling-G.L.O.W. If you were up late at night in the late 1980’s it was likely you ran into this show while channel flipping. The actual show had a crew of wrestling stereotypes putting on their promotion at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas. It was done on an elaborate faux-ballroom set with a wrestling ring trimmed in pink in the middle. It was the epitome of cheesy late-night television. This reality is the inspiration for the fictional GLOW.

The series is created by Liz Flaive and Carly Mensch after they saw the 2012 documentary on the original syndicated series. Their concept was to chronicle the women’s movement in the 1980’s. The series which has come out of that speaks to the present by looking back at that time.

Betty Gilpin (l.) and Alison Brie as Liberty Belle and Zoya the Destroyer.

Season one introduced us to Ruth Wilder an aspiring actress played by Alison Brie. She is discouraged as she goes on audition after audition never getting and lasting acting gigs. Her best friend is Debbie Eagan, also an actress, played by Betty Gilpin. Debbie has gotten a regular acting job on a soap opera. These are the two tentpole characters through which we experience GLOW. I use the word tentpole because GLOW is a kind of circus and the other characters are equally memorable; starting with the ringmaster.

Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia

Actor Marc Maron plays director Sam Sylvia. Sam is the renowned director of b-movie horror films who has been hired to direct GLOW. He works with the producer Bash Howard played by Chris Lowell. They are really the only two men who have stories which continue.

All of Season one is the creation of the wrestling promotion introducing us to all of the other wrestlers. Because this is wrestling the characters are broad stereotypes based on ethnicity and appearance. There is an ongoing theme throughout as we learn these women, who are more than a stereotype, feel empowered by having a job which gives them the ability to make decisions for themselves. It is touched on throughout season one but in season two it is hammered home in an episode where two of the wrestlers who are mothers interact with their children. It is where the show really begins to spread its wings commenting on social issues which have meaning today.

This is all done with a comedic tone around the serious ideas. At every turn GLOW surprises as the characters grow into their roles as empowered females. The show doesn’t diminish the power men still had over these women, but they also show triumphs. One of them negotiates her way to becoming a producer showing a woman finding her way in the decision-making process of a business.

Finally, I like that everything the women hope for is hard earned. Nothing comes easy. Including the friendships.

If you want to watch something great check out GLOW on Netflix, it is one of the best television shows of the year, no guilt involved.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Non-Perfume FAQ July 2017

One of the great joys of writing Colognoisseur is the amount of e-mail I receive. The interaction between reader and writer has sparked many story ideas on fragrance. When I started Colognoisseur I wanted to spend one day a week writing about non-perfume things. I always expected those to be my least read piece of the week, or month. What has been a pleasant surprise is some of the readership is also interested in the same things I am. I also get e-mails about that too. Because the perfume ones eventually get answered through a story I thought I’d take a week to answer some of the questions which have been asked about The Sunday Magazine topics.

The question I have received, particularly in the last three weeks, several times now is what convinced me to write this column. “What do you think of Twin Peaks: The Return?”

The volume of this question spiked after the airing of Episode 8. First as I replied to everyone who asked; no I have no idea what exactly was going on for that entire episode but I expect some of it will become clearer by the end of all 18 chapters.

To the larger question I have really found myself immersed in the vision of David Lynch and Mark Frost twenty-five years later. I think Mr. Lynch is telling the story in a way so different that it can be hard to embrace. Halfway home I am happy.

I received a half-dozen emails on the graphic novel “My Favorite Thing is Monsters” by Emil Ferris. With the question is there anything else like it to read? Short answer; no.

Better answer is Ms. Ferris uses graphic storytelling to tell her story in an unconventional way. If it is that which you are looking for “The Best We Could Do” by Thi Bui tells the story of her Vietnamese-American family and the immigration experience in the United States. It is timely and poignant.

What wine should I serve with BBQ? That’s an easy one where I have recommended the same thing for many years. The best BBQ wine is the reds from France’s Cotes du Rhone. They all come in at under $20 a bottle and provide an ideal counterpoint to the smoky barbecue. The best ones are from Guigal, Vidal-Fleury, and Louis Bernard.

Nobody asked but my favorite recent guilty pleasure is the Netflix series GLOW. Loosely based on the story of the first televised women’s professional wrestling show it captures the Los Angeles 1980’s milieu hysterically well. It is mostly played for laughs but the underlying point of women figuring out how to own their own lives by dressing up as wrestlers; is heartfelt.

Which leads to the number of responses my column on strong women in pop culture generated. From “not good enough; yet” to agreement with most of my hypothesis. I am happy that we can have the discussion with so many examples to choose from. I am looking forward to seeing Charlize Theron as Atomic Blonde next weekend. I don’t think that movie ever gets made five years ago.

Please keep writing to me and I’ll do this periodically when there are enough responses.

Mark Behnke