Welcome to our weekly series “Cry of the Week,” in which we highlight whichever moment made us ugly cry on our couches in the past seven days.
Spoiler warning: This post contains plot details for the first four episodes of Glow Season 1.
You only have to watch one episode of Netflix’s Glow to realize that the wrestling is somewhat incidental. The new comedy, co-created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch and executive produced by Orange is the New Black creator Jenji Kohan, follows the OITNB model using a heightened setting to tell deeply personal stories about its outwardly “quirky” characters.
But Glow and OITNB both excel at illustrating that none of their characters are any more or less “unconventional” than the rest of us; they’re flawed, funny and fucked up, just like every other person on the planet.
Uptight white women might be the audience’s entry point into both shows, but just like OITNB, the joy of the show is in its ensemble dynamics. Watching these women wrestle (sorry) with societal expectations of their race, gender and body shape then finding ways to subvert them or own them is one of the most compelling aspects of the series.
Glow arguably does a better job of interrogating and dismantling our preconceptions right out of the gate which is even more impressive considering that the show is only 30 minutes long, compared to Orange‘s 60.
That’s especially true of episode 4, “The Dusty Spur,” which opens with “Sheila the She-Wolf” (Gayle Rankin) putting on what we think is her wrestling costume including yellowing her teeth with nail polish (!) as she starts her day.
But we later come to discover that it’s not a wrestling persona in a poignant moment with Ruth (Alison Brie), Sheila reveals that she’s been wearing some version of her ensemble every day for five years.
“It’s not a costume, it’s just me. And what I do in the morning, what I put on, what I wear… it’s not for you. It’s for me,” she tearfully explains. “I know that I’m a human, but spiritually, I’m a wolf.”
Promotion for the show has described Sheila as having “species dysmorphia,” and when Ruth struggling to find an insult to express her frustration calls Sheila a wolf instead of a freak, it’s clear that instead of being offended, Sheila feels truly seen, perhaps for the first time in her life. That’s a powerful thing.
Ruth doesn’t offer any judgment over Sheila’s revelation; instead, she tries, somewhat clumsily, to relate, by telling Sheila that after her grandfather died, she dressed as Anne of Green Gables for a year.
It’s a touching scene that perfectly encapsulates the show’s humanity and heart; we’ve all got our stuff, but it doesn’t define who we are as people, or our value in the world. If that feeling of acceptance doesn’t make you a little weepy, nothing will.
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