The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling are back. And despite the era it’s set in, the recently released Season 2 tells a story centered around women that — for better and worse — feels utterly timeless in its relatability.
Yet oddly, the events that have taken place between Season 1 and Season 2 make it almost feel like GLOW is returning to a different world than the one it premiered in.
#MeToo and Time’s Up have transformed the way we talk about women’s inequality and sexual harassment, especially when it comes to trying to make it in Hollywood. One GLOW Season 2 scene in particular, from an episode titled “Perverts are People, Too,” feels like the show’s deliberate response to that seismic shift in cultural conversation.
“Those scenes did bring up some personal feelings for me.”
But actually, Alison Brie — whose quietly brilliant performance as Ruth remains the glue that holds GLOW‘s many moving parts together — told us otherwise.
“It’s really interesting to note that the episode was written before the #MeToo movement was at the forefront. But,” Brie said with a wry smile, “it was not written before sexism.”
Whether a testament to the agelessness of GLOW or of sexism itself, the scene where the naive Ruth finds herself in a casting couch-like situation is instantly familiar. To Brie, it was almost too recognizable.
“Shooting those scenes did bring up some personal feelings for me — which I sort of didn’t expect,” she said. “Honestly, when I first read it I was like, ‘Is this scene bad enough? Is he really doing anything bad?’ And then I had to stop and realize, ‘Oh, wow, I’ve been in a lot of bad situations. And I’ve really normalized that kind behavior, even for myself.'”
The scene between Ruth and the TV executive reads like any one of the countless accounts from Weinstein’s assault survivors. The head of the network creates a scenario where they wind up in his hotel after a business dinner. He seems invested in her career as Ruth talks about the difficulties of being an actress trying to make it, and about how GLOW finally gave her a sense of control and purpose.
Sickeningly, he takes this as his opportunity to ask her to show him some wrestling moves — before rubbing his genitals against a paralyzed Ruth.
It’s a heartbreakingly real exchange. And you can see exactly why an actress like Brie, who’s been working in the industry for almost two decades, would need to brush off those kind of experiences.
Ultimately, Ruth does what many survivors wish they could have done in retrospect, but which can feel so impossible to do in the moment: She leaves.
“It was such an admirable moment for Ruth as a character, for me to go like, ‘Good for her — she get’s out of there!'”
But of course, the repercussions of sexual harassment to women’s career don’t end there, even if you do leave. When Ruth confides in her friend and fellow wrestler Debbie about exactly why the network was burying GLOW rather than saving it from cancelation, she yells at Ruth for being so “fucking stupid” and selfish.
“Debbie’s reaction just shows how ingrained it is into women in this industry,” Brie said. “That this is the way we are supposed to respond to those situations — as if there’s a right or wrong way. But there’s a truth in it, because it affects everyone around you.”
Ruth’s decisions to get herself out of a dangerous situation nearly brings down twenty women’s careers.
And yet somehow, we’re still hearing cries from men in Hollywood asking the public to show mercy to accused male predators’ careers in Hollywood. Careers which might suffer only a few months’ hiatus before the industry welcomes them back — even now, at the height of #MeToo.
“It doesn’t ever change.”
“It doesn’t ever change,” Brie agreed when asked about what this scene, set in the ’80s but indistinguishable from right now, says about the supposed progress we’ve made. “But I feel like we are living in a moment of change. Like, if it’s going to change, this will be the moment where see actual change, actual consequence, actual awareness registering within our industry. Which is something that we haven’t seen before.”
GLOW was one of the unique precursors to that change, as a show and set run almost entirely composed of female directors, stars, and creators. Brie notes what a relief it was to shoot a scene like that in an environment where her comfort was the top priority for everyone, including her male costar.
The deftness of its depiction of harassment in Hollywood only highlights what makes the show so powerful, through both its seriousness and silliness.
GLOW is one of those rare shows where women can just be people who happen to be women. There’s not artificial pressure to Send A Message or make these women characters examples. Because unlike so many other shows and movies, there are enough women (and enough diversity among them) that no one character is burdening with representing all women.
Don’t get me wrong: GLOW remains female as fuck. It’s deeply entrenched in women’s perspectives and relationships to each other — the simultaneous trials and immeasurable gifts of womanhood.
But as with Ruth’s sexual harassment scene, the centrality of women’s experiences in GLOW is uniquely presented as a given. It doesn’t need to explain itself, or belabor the common, yet still shockingly underrepresented, realities of being a woman.
And maybe that’s why its approach to #MeToo feels both so haunting and healing to watch.
“It felt really good actually, to shoot that kind of scene right now — while everything is happening,” Brie concluded.