Recently, Netflix released the second season of "GLOW," otherwise known as the "Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling." The show is a fictional retelling of how the "GLOW" wrestling show of the '80s came to be. It's entertaining, with fantastic costumes and an amazing cast, but what's even better is that it lets women act.
Actually, let's rephrase that. "GLOW" lets it's characters act like real women. They get to bicker and laugh and cuss and be crude; they are not shoved into a trope box. They simply get to be well-rounded, real women and it shows. The main conflict in the series revolves around Ruth Wilder (wrestling alias "Zoya the Destroyer"; actress Alison Brie) and Debbie Eagan (wrestling alias "Liberty Belle"; actress Betty Gilpin) after Ruth has sex with Debbie's husband, Mark; by the way, Debbie has just had a child. The affair gets enough screen time to explain the situation and the majority of the first and second season features Debbie and Ruth dealing with the fallout.
What makes this situation so interesting, is that the audience doesn't watch two women having a catfight over a man for twenty episodes. Instead, the audience gets to see two women deal with the makings of a television show while balancing the remnants of a broken friendship. Ruth has to deal with her personal issues and horrible decisions, and Debbie has to deal with a world-shattering secret coming to light. In the tradition of Hollywood — and society for that matter — it would only be natural for Ruth to be treated like garbage, by both Debbie and the other women around her.
That doesn't happen though, not for a very long time anyway. The other actresses on the "GLOW" television show are friends with Ruth, they hang out with her and care for her and generally behave like any other friend. This doesn't mean that they have chosen Ruth's side in a dilemma none of them are involved with. They all have a certain level of kinship with Debbie as well, and this is where the show gains its standout-ish quality.
Real life is messy. Bad things happen to men and women. Generally, good people can do bad things and still continue living. When someone cheats, there tends to be a consensus that they must be banned from life itself, but how often does that actually happen? Not to say "GLOW" is advocating for people to go have an affair with their best friend's husband, but it's definitely highlighting the grey areas of a difficult situation.
Ruth and Debbie have to deal with each other, Debbie is allowed to be angry and Ruth has to deal with it. The complications in their relationship grow and the women are allowed a harshness in their emotions. They are not portrayed as the perfect hero or the perfect villain, they are just real women. A prime example of this is towards the end of season two, during episode seven, "Nothing Shattered." The episode is about Ruth going to the hospital after Debbie has broken her ankle in the ring. When Debbie visits Ruth to check on her, they have an explosive argument, one that has been building up since the first season. It is filled with impeccable acting by Brie and Gilpin because the intensity and raw emotion is such a stark contrast to their wrestling match in the previous episode.
It begins when Ruth claims that Debbie broke her ankle on purpose and Debbie returns with the earth-shattering line, "No, Ruth, no, no, no. No, it was an accident, Ruth. Unlike the time — you accidentally fuck my husband twice!" This drags the original crack in their relationship back to the surface and it is ugly because as the second season progresses, Debbie only treats Ruth more poorly (and with good reasoning, even though it may not be kind) and now Ruth has grievances to air. Both women go back and forth, yelling at each other and all of their misfortunes, and it's difficult to watch.
Debbie was betrayed by her own best friend, but the scene has set it up so Ruth — lying in a hospital bed with a broken ankle — is in a position of vulnerability, so the audience can only sit back and take the unfiltered emotion in one second at a time. It's hard to choose a side because there isn't one to take because the women are so well-rounded. Ruth is a decent person who made a bad decision and will probably eat shit for it for the rest of her life, and Debbie is a decent person who did not deserve what happened to her and has started to bully Ruth because of it. That's a hard thing to swallow, it's a hard thing to accept, but that's what makes the women on "GLOW" real. They still have lives outside of this conflict, they're still on a wrestling show. Debbie's life as a mother is still progressing, and Ruth's struggle with acting has not stopped.
These women are so multi-faceted that every aspect of their lives can't be covered in one article and they're only two women out of a very large line-up of lady wrestlers. "GLOW" isn't trying to pry a moral battle out of the audience, it simply wants the viewers to experience real women and show that their lives are much more complicated than a checklist of character traits.
Go watch "GLOW" and discover many of the other real women waiting for you on Netflix.