Why now: In light of the current fan-led #GiveDivasaChance social media campaign, it seemed appropriate to revisit this documentary on a piece of women’s wrestling history that I had no idea about.
Netflix Assigned Descriptors: Heartfelt
Netflix’s Rating Guess: 4.7 stars. Those are high expectations, Netflix. And you are correct.
Why is it in the queue: I sort of just added every wrestling documentary I came across to the queue. It also seemed unusual that I didn’t know what GLOW was until this documentary.
Review and Discussion: Before getting into the documentary, let’s get real about a “fake” sport and all My Feelings.
Internalized misogyny (and racism and homophobia, but those are for another day) is something I’ve had to fight against for a long time, and frankly it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve semi-successfully combated them. Seriously, I was in college and still claiming lady tattoo artists weren’t as good as their male counterparts, and thought Lita and Chyna were the only WWE Divas* in the Attitude Era worthy of my praise. This had a lot to do with them being what would be counted as an Anti-Diva (a term that WWE has been using in their current storylines, pitting AJ Lee, and now Paige, against pretty much anyone else who doesn’t wear all black) because I saw the other women as lesser-than just because they were everything I’d been taught was ideal, essentially everything I wasn’t. Bleached hair, thin, and capable of walking down that entrance ramp in 5-inch heels. I Othered those women and tried not to associate with them at all. I did not “fall into the trap” so that made me better than them. It’s a low point in my self-esteem, my feminism, and my general relationship with society.**
Thankfully, with the help of great lady pals, and just generally becoming more conscious of the patriarchy and how society has gotten its grubby fingers into my brain, I can now admire women of all backgrounds who choose to get into this crazy business we call professional wrestling. I’ve gone back to watch Trish Stratus matches and acknowledge the incredible things she did in the ring. I’ve seen how the Bella Twins have grown to love the business even if it wasn’t The Childhood Dream. It’s inspired me to look into all-women promotions like SHIMMER and Shine, and just celebrating broads being broads.
That’s where this documentary comes in. GLOW, in basic description as a show where pretty women wrestle, sounds like what WWE does with its Divas division, but in practice seems to go beyond that. With a the whole show devoted to women there were a variety of characters, some variety in body types, goofy sketches, and of course some sweet, sweet awkward 80’s rapping This could’ve been a game changer if I’d seen it as a kid. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me so long to be proud of being a woman.
From what I gather, with the exception of Matilda the Hun who fucking wrestled a bear at one point in her pre-GLOW career, most of the women involved were not bred in the wrestling industry. They showed up to what they thought was an acting audition. The ones who stuck it out then got trained by Mondo Guerrero (yes of The Guerreros), and then GLOW was born. In the end, the women formed a sisterhood with each other, and came to love doing what they do. No one wants to get hurt for no fucking reason, and Beetlejuice knows you wouldn’t last very long in the ring if you did not like it. It’s why two of the women in the first season of Tough Enough left. They realized wrestling wasn’t for them and left. So to say any woman who wrestles is only doing it to further an acting career or a modeling career doesn’t get it.
That just might be the biggest take away from this documentary. Every woman interviewed really loved being on GLOW and was committed to the end. They discussed how they’d get injured and would try to play it off as Just a Flesh Wound so they could keep going, partly because they needed to get paid and partly because they loved the job, something that seems to be the eternal dilemma for all wrestlers.
Women who start wrestling for the “wrong reasons” get a lot of shit (including from Past Me), as if every male wrestler was trained in a fucking shitty gym by the Hart Family or Killer Kowalski, rather than, oh, being an ex-football player, or an Olympic lifter, and other non-wrestling endeavor. Regardless, the women who do come in for the “wrong reasons” stay for the right reason: They stay because they come to love it. That is so fucking important. This is nicely demonstrated by GLOW’s Tina Ferrari who would later wrestle for WWE as Ivory, admittedly during the time period I tried to convince myself wrestling was stupid and fake. She didn’t go in thinking she’d be a wrestler, and lo and behold it would become her entire career. Not all the women would continue wrestling, but you can tell they would’ve done it for much longer if GLOW hadn’t been canceled because (allegedly) the investor’s wife thought he was sleeping with the wrestlers.
One of the best parts involved Mountain Fiji, a GLOW wrestler who qualified for the 1980 Olympics as a shot-putter but never made it due to the boycott. Today she is not well physically and lives in a nursing home. But fucking hell, listening to her talk about GLOW is incredible and a shot to the heart. She seems like the sweetest fucking human, and the way everyone else in the doc talked about her was a bit like how everyone seems to talk about Andre the Giant, with love and reverence. Hearing Fiji talk about how special the show made her feel just makes me want to fucking cry. Isn’t that what we all want in the end? To find something that makes us feel special and important? Watching the other women get excited about the reunion because they knew how much it would mean to Fiji was the best.
Fucking hell. This doc left me with all the good vibes. Broads loving Broads is the greatest.
Also there was so much glitter. SO MUCH FUCKING GLITTER.
Favorite Part: Ninotcka is Lana’s mother and I refuse to be told otherwise.
*I really really hate the word Diva. I think it’s ridiculous that the male wrestlers in that company get to be Superstars, while the women are labeled in such a way that breaks them down to stupid stereotypes. And if you want to argue that people know better and the difference, remember that I—an intelligent, self-aware, grown-ass woman—am still struggling to completely shake off the girl-hate that can come so easily. Still. That’s fucked up shit. I highly recommend reading Paul Arrand Rodgers post on the #GiveDivasaChance thing, and J. Rex’s essay which Rodgers references. They both bring up really great points about the problems of women in WWE and how it’s an issue that won’t get solved just with more air time. (While you’re at it, check out Wrestledate, Rodger’s hilarious and on-point Tumblr.)
There needs to be a creative overhaul of the main roster women’s division. The writing is a joke and falls into those previously mentioned stereotypes, basing feuds on what is essentially a misguided Me vs Other Girls Tumblr post. NXT has shown that WWE is capable of better, more varied story lines for women, and of giving the audience an exciting and lengthy women’s match. That’s just not happening in the main roster. Main roster women have to be allowed (with accounts of being scolded for being “too good” from former wrestlers like Michelle McCool, and active wrestlers like Brie Bella saying they want to do more on TV but can’t, really show that “allowed” is unfortunately the key word here) to display their athleticism for more than 50 seconds. The company is still working under Vince McMahon’s outdated view of wrestling, and needs to stop limiting the matches and assuming they either won’t be as good as the men’s matches when there is a TERRIBLE MEN’S MATCH EVERY FUCKING WEEK. Nikki Bella, who I unfortunately wrote off when I was younger due to the Bella Twins not having a wrestling background and coming in through the Divas Search competition, can fuck people up. The Rack Attack is a great move to watch, and you know she’d be able to do that shit to Seth Rollins if she wanted. Her match against AJ Lee at TLC last year was an insult to both of them. That could’ve been an incredible match, but instead the company had the Bellas cheat in the dumbest way, and the match was over before anything actually happened. The way the company views the Divas can be easily summed up with the way they set up their online store. They list wrestlers in the following order:
- Current Men’s Roster
- Retired Roster
- NXT Roster (mixed gender listing)
- Current Divas Roster
I love Mick Foley and Sami Zayn so much, but that’s some bullshit. It’s easy to say that if the women don’t like it, they can just leave WWE or go down to NXT. That’s not the point though. Yes, SHIMMER, Shine, and NXT, among others, are giving women the opportunity to show what they can do, but WWE is often The Goal in professional wrestling. It’s supposed to be the pinnacle of the industry, the tower to be conquered, it’s where you can supposedly make money, and at the moment it is. For men. It should be that for the women too. Saying “If you don’t like it, just leave” is like telling a POC to accept a racist organization rather than try and fight against that prejudice.*** #GiveDivasaChance is a great first step in addressing the larger issue of misogyny at WWE. Hopefully the company will actually listen rather then halfheartedly respond on Twitter and wait for fans to forget.
It really boils down to the fact that broads are powerful, broads can fuck you up, and broads deserve better.
** I highly recommend reading Liz Prince’s Tomboy, as it wonderfully talks about internalized misogyny through her own experience with it. It’s such a great comic.
*** That is reportedly what Alberto Del Rio did, though, because WWE has a whole lot of issues. The issue of race in the company is fantastically covered in this article in the Atlantic.