Season Two of Netflix’s original hit show GLOW premiered last Friday with ten episodes to binge on, and the season was thankfully tamer compared to season one. But that’s not saying much considering how season one was one big “fuck you to the Republican party,” and was filled with rampant sex, foul language, abortion and more.
The campy dramedy is loosely based on the real-life GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling) TV show from the ‘80s that was aimed at kids and aired on Saturday mornings, a prime time for cartoons and other family-friendly programming. While Netflix's GLOW focuses on the lives of the female wrestlers behind the scenes, one has to wonder what the creators were thinking in showing a “kid-friendly” program as featuring so many highly inappropriate sexual wrestling moves.
Outside the ring, in the “real” lives of the women, things aren’t much better as we are treated to gratuitous drug use, rampant foul language, a lesbian storyline purposefully inserted because there were no gay storylines in season one, anti-religious themes and language, and more liberal digs at conservatives.
Phew! Yes, all of that jam-packed into ten episodes. Let’s break it all down, shall we?
Concerned Women for America
Season two picks up where we left off last season, with the women's wrestling show enjoying successful ratings, gaining fans, and the women getting updated contracts. This gets the attention of the conservative public policy group Concerned Women for America (CWA), though the show refers to them as the “Concerned Women of America,” which is the name of the third episode. Whether they got the name wrong on purpose or by accident isn’t clear.
Glen (Andrew Friedman), a rep from the network KDTV which airs the show-within-the-show GLOW tells racist, verbally abusive, coke-addicted, misogynist director Sam (Marc Maron) that the CWA is worried that the show is too sexual, especially for children. Sam reads from a letter penned by the group, “...the senseless violence, explicit and tasteless sexuality and promotion of the occult seen on GLOW can have a lasting and dangerous effect on the youth of this country.”
Glen explains what this means, saying that the CWA “lobbies for more wholesome content. And if we don’t, you know, listen in some regard, they boycott our sponsors.” He suggests that “an easy fix would be to throw in a positive message or two. You know, show our characters promoting great American values for the general public.” Sam replies, “You mean make a fucking public service announcement?” Sebastian “Bash” Howard (Chris Lowell), the show’s millionaire funder and announcer exclaims, “That’s great! I thought you were going to say, ‘Change the whole show. No more wrestling, everyone in turtlenecks.’”
Sam enlists Debbie/Liberty Belle (Betty Gilpin) to write the PSA, “Then get it to me, and I’ll come in and, you know, shoot whatever preachy shit you want to say for 60 seconds,” he tells her. Ruth/Zoya the Destroya (Alison Brie) and Debbie brainstorm on a topic and end up deciding on teen pregnancy.
Debbie looks at Sam’s daughter Justine (Britt Baron), who is 16 (remember Sam almost slept with her last season before he knew she was his daughter, and he openly proclaimed that he didn’t care if she was underage), and decides she should star in the PSA. Arthie/Beirut (Sunita Mani) then asks, “Are teenagers really having so much sex that we need to make a PSA about it?” Justine replies, “Yeah. Tons of stupid girls get pregnant. Billy and I have sex all the time, but I’m on the pill. So, it’s fine.”
Melanie/Melrose (Jackie Tohn) is jealous because she hasn’t “fucked anyone in weeks.” Others chime in, “Me, too,” and new lesbian wrestler Yolanda (Shakira Barrera), who plays “Junkchain” this season (the original Junkchain, Cherry Bang (Sydelle Noel) was fired in season one but ends up coming back as a different character, Black Magic, later in season two after she fails as an actress in a primetime show), says, “Yeah, whatever it is, it’s contagious. I haven’t seen any bush since taking on this job.” Arthie is embarrassed and asks her not to be so graphic, leading Yolanda to reply, “Oh, okay. I haven’t gotten any pussy since joining your straight-as fuck all women’s wrestling show. Is that better?”
Mel announces, “This is totally unacceptable! We are on TV and none of us are getting any, except the teenager? Fuck, no!” She asks the group, “What are we going to do about it?” The group shouts back, “Get fucked!” They then plan a party for the sole purpose of having sex.
The PSA, in the meantime, is finished with Justine and Bash in the starring roles:
Debbie: Just when her life should be the most fun, the most carefree, Lisa’s baby is destroying all the wonderful things her future might hold. Here comes college.
Baby: Poopy diapie!
Debbie: Perky bosoms? Nice figure?
Debbie: Say goodbye. Look! A fun party Lisa would love to go to.
Debbie: Here we have international travel.
Ruth: Wow. That is a terrifying baby.
Justine: No, Conrad! I’m not ready to have sex! A baby could destroy my future.
Sounds more like a pro-abortion PSA to me and that makes sense considering the abortion episode last season.
Incidentally, later Patrick O’Towne ends up pulling out as a sponsor of the show after seeing the PSA. Even though he’s “not an advocate for teen pregnancy,” he wasn’t happy with the ad because his mother was 15 when he was born. (Low ratings were a factor, too.)
I was a teen mom, and while I believe in teaching youth the risks of premarital sex, I can honestly say my baby didn’t “destroy my future,” she was my future. Despite the pressure on me to abort my baby, for many of the reasons listed in the PSA, I wouldn’t have traded being her mom for anything. Did it make life more challenging? Sure. But the blessings that come with motherhood far outweighed those challenges.
In episode seven, “Nothing Shattered,” we start getting the anti-Christian agenda. Debbie seriously injures Ruth’s ankle in a match. Sam takes Ruth to the hospital and the women of GLOW visit her one-by-one in the ER to help pass the time and calm her nerves. During one woman's visit, she reads to Ruth from the Bible.
“If two men fight together,” she reads, “and the wife of one draws near to rescue her husband from the hand of the one attacking him and puts her hand down and seizes him by the genitals, then you shall cut off her hand!’ It’s like an action movie. I should’ve read this sooner.” If Hollywood productions were wrestling matches, we’d call this one the overused “Leviticus” move, where writers pull out ancient laws that only apply to Biblical times in an attempt to make the Bible look ridiculous.
Episode eight, “The Good Twin,” was entirely about the show-within-a-show. Among the various scenes, Black Magic uses a Satanic spell to turn a mannequin into a real man for Britannica aka Rhonda (singer Kate Nash) in exchange for her brain, telling her she won’t need her brain or her job once she has a man to take care of her. Since when did Satanic spells become fodder for children’s entertainment?
Speaking of good vs. evil, there was a glaring overabundance of breaking the third Commandment this entire season for some reason, and I believe misusing the name of the Lord our God possibly occurred more often than the popular “F” word. There was also a religiously irreverent wrestling move called, “The Crucifix,” where one woman holds the other behind her in a position that’s parallel to the floor, which then looks like a crucifix. And we also discover that Justine works selling “merch” for an anti-capitalist band called “Shitpope.” Lovely.
Justine was also featured in episode eight as she plays high school student Lisa who helps Britannica get her brain back. They figure out that it’s backed up on a floppy disc, but Britannica can’t remember how to use the disc since she doesn’t have a brain. She eventually sticks the disc up her skirt and appears to have an orgasm while giggling and moaning, saying in a child-like voice, “That tickles!”
Once she has her brain back, Black Magic appears again and demands a sacrifice, leading to a match in the ring between science vs. magic. At one point, Black Magic puts a sleeping spell on Britannica, leading Britannica to bend over and hang her arms towards the ground. Because her promiscuous school girl uniform is so short, and because she’s wearing a thong, child viewers are treated to a full view of her rear end.
There were similar scenes throughout the season. Episode five, “Perverts Are People, Too,” gave us an ‘80s version of the modern “dick pic” as Rhonda/Britannica shows the women a Polaroid picture of a penis that a fan sent to her. And yes, we see everything, including a “MOM” tattoo near the penis (because this show apparently has a thing for incest.)
This is also the episode that has Sam declaring, “I mean, it’s a wrestling show FOR KIDS, not Guiding goddamn Light,” in response to Debbie’s incest storyline pitch that reads like a soap opera. Kind of out of character for him, since he’s had no objections to the many other adult-themed and inappropriate storylines in both seasons. I mean, as we learned in season one, this is a man whose only interest in making GLOW was so that he could fund his next movie, “Mothers and Lovers,” that’s partly autobiographical about a boy who ”can’t stop jerking off” to thoughts of his mother.
Another particularly vulgar scene in episode 10, “Every Potato Has a Receipt,” has Debbie with her legs wrapped around a Mexican male wrestler who’s making a cameo appearance on GLOW. His face/mouth is firmly planted in her crotch as he swings her around the ring several times. Then she pronounces, “I have faith that U.S. and Mexican relations can only improve in the future.” See what they did there?
There was also a #MeToo moment included in episode five (which begs the question, is the episode's title “Perverts Are People, Too” supposed to apply to all the men in Hollywood who’ve been accused of sexual harassment and/or assault, like Harvey Weinstein?), as Ruth gets word that Tom Grant (Paul Fitzgerald) who is head of the KDTV network, is a fan of hers and would like to meet for dinner to discuss her career. Ruth is hesitant when she discovers the meeting is in Tom's hotel room but is relieved when she sees that Glen is there.
But when Ruth starts to look tipsy from the wine she was served, Tom signals to Glen to leave. Tom then asks Ruth to show him some wrestling moves and as she reluctantly does, he begins to grope her and come on to her, telling her that Glen won’t be coming back. She panics and makes a quick escape out of the hotel room when Tom goes to check on the Jacuzzi tub.
Later, she runs into Debbie who tells her that the network is moving them to a 2 a.m. time slot. Ruth then says, “But we’re a kids’ show. Kids don’t watch TV at 2 a.m.” (Proving again that the characters are fully aware that they are filming a show for children.) Debbie tells her that’s the point. The network is “burying” them and they’re going to be canceled.
Ruth, feeling that the cancellation might be her fault, opens up to Debbie about what happened with Tom, and Debbie has a surprising reaction. Instead of being outraged at Tom, she’s furious that Ruth didn’t play into Tom’s games. Debbie tells her she’s stupid and when Ruth asks, “Was I supposed to fuck him?” Debbie answers, “No! You’re supposed to make him think that you might fuck him, or that you desperately want to fuck him, if only you didn’t have a fiancé, or your period or an extra set of teeth where your vagina should be.” Ruth proclaims that she’s not that kind of person, and Debbie replies, “What? An actress? I mean that is how this business works, Ruth. Men try shit and you have to pretend to like it until you don’t have to anymore.”
Ruth insists it shouldn’t be that way, and Debbie says:
No, it shouldn’t, and women should get to direct and not be washed up by the time they’re 30. And I should’ve gotten to eat a piece of my own wedding cake without worrying about how many minutes of Jane fucking Fonda it was going to take to work it off, but that is the way it is. You don’t make it better by flouncing out like some fucking Victorian schoolmarm every time some sleaze ball puts his hand on your knee. You’re taking 20 other people down with you!
Ruth yells back, “So you just let them do whatever they want? Not exactly a guiding feminist principle.” Debbie, who is probably thinking back to when Ruth slept with her husband, says, “Feminism has principles, life has compromises. Congratulations, Gloria Steinem. The one time you keep your legs shut, we all get fucked!”
We discover in episode nine, “Rosalie,” that British Rhonda is in the country illegally when she's filling out an application to The Limited since GLOW is being canceled and asks the other wrestlers what a Social Security Number is. You see, Rhonda has been living "off the grid." The women are all worried and insist she go to the British Consulate and get a visa. Rhonda thinks the women are making too big a deal over it, saying, "Americans love British people. We get exceptions," but agrees to go.
Later, as the women are all smoking from a bong while brainstorming ideas for their final show, Rhonda returns furious because the consulate denied her a visa and she has 30 days to leave the country or she’ll be deported.
The women promise to help her fix it, but Rhonda cries, “You can’t. I’m on the records. Okay? I can’t believe I listened to you guys! I was getting by just fine by myself, like I always do. And now, I have to go back to my alcoholic parents in Bromley and have frizzy hair and be miserable!” Oh, the horrors! She should apply for asylum! /sarcasm
Suddenly they devise a plan to have Rhonda marry the fan who sent her the Polaroid, whom they’ve dubbed “Cupcake” after he brought her a gift of cupcakes, to get her a green card. She says it will make for a great final episode if they hold the wedding in the ring. Tammé chimes in with, “Okay. One, Marry Cupcake. Two, Get a green card. Three, Divorce Cupcake. Four, Live happily ever after.” Rhonda decides to go along with the idea which leads us to episode 10.
We finally get to the big GLOW finale wedding as Rhonda is about to marry her fan in the ring, but Bash interrupts and marries her instead. When the bouquet is tossed, Bash announces that whoever ends up with it gets the GLOW crown. Mayhem ensues and one-by-one, the women are eliminated from the ring.
Sam surprises Ruth, who is helping him direct, by telling her that her character Zoya is winning the crown in the final match. Heartwarming music plays and, just like last season, we’re supposed to be like, “Aww, shucks. That incestuous, verbally abusive, coke-addicted, womanizing, child predator isn’t such a bad guy after all!”
Zoya flies into the ring on a zipline and knocks all three women left out of it, making her the champion. She picks up the wedding bouquet, saying to the crowd, “You love to hate Zoya!” Playing the heel, she sniffs the bouquet and proclaims in a Russian accent, “Awww! Is like butt to me!” Then she holds the bouquet to her behind. Kind of inappropriate for a kids’ show but might be able to pass as crude, juvenile humor. But what she does next definitely does not pass any sort of child-appropriate humor whatsoever. She brings the bouquet around to her front and rubs it against her crotch while yelling, “Aghhh,” defiantly in the ring.
The writers finally managed to wedge in a gay scene this season. This is in addition to earlier scenes that lead us to suspect Bash might be gay, including a moment in a gay bar where Bash is looking for his missing friend and butler Florian. Bash later finds out that Florian died from an AIDS-related illness. Actress Kate Nash confirmed the rumors to be true to Digital Spy, saying of upcoming season three, “I feel like Rhonda is such a go with the flow, live in the moment kind of person, it be will be interesting to see what happens when she finds out about Bash's sexuality.”
There was no doubt about the sexuality of new character Yolanda, however, and it was obvious that her flirtation with Arthie was having a strong effect on her. Arthie even goes to watch Yolanda dance at a strip club and says, “I don’t know what’s going on...I don’t. She invited me here. I didn’t say no.” This culminates in the bouquet fight scene where Beirut and Junkchain (Arthie and Yolanda) start battling it out in the ring when suddenly Arthie kisses Yolanda before “self-destructing” out of the match. A lesbian kiss on a children’s television show during the '80s? Yeah, not realistic at all.
The Hollywood Reporter asked Glow creators Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch if the addition of Yolanda’s lesbian character was “in response to viewers wanting more queer characters after season one.” Mensch responded:
We felt it was something that was missing on our show and were excited to have. We had so many characters the first season that we barely had time to get through everyone that we even wanted. So with season two, we wanted it. We were excited about a storyline Yolanda has with one of the other women…It’s a group of now 15 women, it feels like their sexuality is going to be all over the map in terms of how to represent. Who to tell that story through is really just the question.
I read many reviews on season two hoping to find at least one reviewer who would point out all the unfathomably inappropriate scenes for a show that’s supposed to be for kids, but not only did they not seem to notice, they all raved about how empowering the season was and how it teaches men to behave themselves. (That last one is more than a bit of a stretch-it’s like reaching to the moon and back, then back again. Especially when said by actor Marc Maron who plays dirtbag Sam.)
Even more confusing is Kate Nash’s comment to The Hollywood Reporter that, “It’s really comforting having so many women on set. It just feels safe.” Right. Safe is having a male wrestler bury his face in the crotch of the star female wrestler, or pretending to have an orgasm, all for a children’s show?
I guess that’s the answer for why no one felt these scenes were inappropriate. Hollywood really is that far out of touch. If all of that is normal to them and goes without notice, then nothing else they create or review can come as a surprise. Which is a shame, because GLOW has enough going for it to be a really great show if the writers and creators didn’t feel the need to insert all of these offensive scenes, just to be, what? Cool? Edgy? Subversive? It’s the type of show you really want to like, but if you have any sort of moral compass, you just can’t ignore the idea of children being subjected to blatant, crude nudity and sexuality. Not to mention the anti-religious themes, gratuitous language, racism, and anti-conservative propaganda in the “real” lives of the women.
There is a middle ground between overly-innocent Pollyanna storylines and this kind of disgusting tripe. But Hollywood has yet to find that middle ground, unfortunately. Whether that’s on purpose or because they lack the talent to create such a production remains to be seen. But until they do, those of us with a conscience aren’t going to support this type of garbage.