Wednesday, June 28, 2017

REVIEW: 'GLOW' - Ruth and Debbie Work Hard to Make Their First Match a Success in 'Live Studio Audience'

Netflix's GLOW - Episode 1.07 "Live Studio Audience"

As the women prepare for their first live match, Debbie and Ruth seek outside help with their moves, and Rhonda gives Sam a good-luck gift.

GLOW has been so empowering to watch because of its approach to depicting women's bodies. It's a show about wrestling. It's women wrestlers in fact. It's a genre that could be very exploitative. The season has even examined that side of things and how these women need to embrace the gimmicks in order to be successful in this job. But the show is so strong because it highlights the physicality of its performers in a way that shows their strength and their vulnerabilities. It's not just another show where the female performers take their clothes off for no reason whatsoever. Whenever nudity is involved, it's for a very good reason. It advances the plot forward. But more importantly, it's crucial to see the changing evolution of these characters and their physicality as they become more and more skilled as wrestlers. It would be so lackluster if all of the training happened offscreen or was reduced to nothing more than an '80s-style training montage. There's no fun in that. It's instead much more compelling to see the highs and lows of the women training for the big event. The show depicts many different shapes and sizes when it comes to these women. They are all treated equality. Some have natural abilities in the ring. Some have to work really hard in order to succeed. And some are just finding success as the punching bags of the story the show within the show is trying to sell. All of those depictions are valid and leads to a series that is incredibly nuanced and layered. But more importantly, it's just such an appreciation of the strength that comes from women's bodies. It's empowering in all of the right ways.

Of course, there is an '80s training montage in "Live Studio Audience" as well. It's both a parody of the form while also a straight recreation of it as well. It's incredibly fun to watch. Ruth and Debbie both want this project to succeed. They have finally agreed to start working together. That's the first step to them becoming an iconic wrestling partnership and feud. They want to be the title match that gives the audience something different than what they saw just before. Cherry is doing her best as the trainer at the gym. She knows wrestling and how to make it look good. But she's also basically giving everyone the same moves to work with. They are in a different order but it's not all that special or inspiring to watch. It's fun that as a result Ruth and Debbie seek outside help for their moves. They reach out to Carmen's brothers who are willing to help while their father is out of town. It's pretty impressive to watch too. These guys have been doing this for awhile. They can show Ruth and Debbie a ton of cool tricks. The women have high hopes as well. They want to be able to do all of those impressive moves. In reality though, it's going to take a lot of hard work in order to pull it all off. That's the purpose of this montage. It shows that they need to keep doing things over and over again until it works. The first move they attempt looks horrible. Carmen is still nice and says it looks good. She's so sweet and caring. But it's the repetition and the confidence that ultimately leads them to figure things out.

Trust plays a role in this as well. Ruth and Debbie aren't really on speaking terms when it comes to their personal friendship. But when it comes to the job, they are choosing to be a part of each other's lives. They are working together. They are bouncing ideas off of each other in order to determine what would make for the most interesting match. They share a common goal in making Debbie look good in the ring while it not seeming like an easy or fake victory either. As a result, the two of them walk away from this episode seeming like the most talented wrestlers at the gym at the moment. It's easy to feel that way because the audience goes on that journey with them. We see the progress that they've made. We see how their bodies have changed. We see how they are growing to trust each other even though they still haven't discussed Ruth sleeping with Mark at all. They are building a new friendship. One that is completely about the job. It's a life that they are both comfortable with because they are so similar. They both have the same reaction upon learning that it's time for places for the big show. They are both actors who approach the material the same way. They've put in the work. And now, it's time to see if it has all paid off.

Of course, there are problems going on elsewhere in the gym as well. Problems that could threaten production on the show. Sam and Bash haven't been spending a whole lot of money on this show to really make it a high quality production. But it is revealed that Bash has actually paid for a ton of things. He bought the gym. He's paying everyone's salary and housing. It's all starting to add up. And now, he no longer has the support of his family - who didn't even know he was funding this project. So, he wants to cut costs wherever he can. So, this preview isn't all that impressive. For the women, it's their first big showcase in front a crowd. It's an exciting time for all of them because they finally get to show off their skills. But in reality, it's not that great. The crowd is small. Yes, the network executive is there. But it's mostly just random people who've wandered in from off the street. Meanwhile, Keith has been hired to be the referee in the ring despite it not being clear whether or not he knows any of the rules of this sport. And the lighting and music is very minimal. As such, it leads to a couple of matches that are good but aren't exciting. It somewhat seems like Sam has just randomly paired the rest of the characters into these matches. Debbie and Ruth are the big show. He's put all of his effort into them. The rest are just there for more entertainment.

And yet, this event still comes alive in two major instances that show just how thrilling it can be to watch these women wrestling. It's inspiring to watch and makes it seem like there may actually be some legs to this show. It may all actually be coming together. Of course, it's entirely because of the work that the women put into it. They are the ones ensuring that it is a success. Sam just paired Cherry and Tammé with Dawn and Stacey because they were probably the only pairings left. He didn't do it to provide some commentary on race. He didn't think about how powerful the image would be of two black women beating up some "old ladies." So instead, things are quickly turned around by an idea that Cherry has. She is able to convince Dawn and Stacey to dress up as members of the Ku Klux Klan. It's something they are nervous about doing. But they also think it's okay because a black women told them to do it and their faces would be covered the entire time. This is the match that really gets the crowd going. Sam has no idea what is actually happened. He has lost control of his show. And yet, the show is better as a result. The audience needed this shot of energy. It needed villains to root against and strong, empowering heroes to root for. Cherry created all of that and it led to a rousing victory for her and Tammé. After Ruth and Debbie, those two are easily the most impressive wrestlers in the rest of the group.

The main event is able to continue on that momentum. When Debbie enters the room in her Liberty Bell persona, the audience is actually engaging with her. She's putting on a show and everyone is enjoying it. All of her hard work is paying off. Then, Ruth enters and she gets the reaction she wanted as well. She wanted to be booed. She got that. It's all set up for an engaging final fight for the show. The physicality of it again is really engaging to watch. The two of them are putting everything into this performance. They've choreographed a routine that is exciting for both of them. It gives both of them time to play to the audience while also getting the upper hand on their opponent. It feels so real that even Keith is entertained by it and hopes that there is some big plan in the end. This is perhaps the most confident that Ruth and Debbie have ever been on the show. They have succeeded in this. And then, Mark shows up. That's a really devastating moment. It takes Debbie out of this moment completely. She instead shrinks down to a woman full of regret over the choices she has made as of late. Mark is a horrible man. But now, he's condemning every choice that Debbie has made in her life. He wants a wife who will be at home caring for him and their baby. Debbie no longer wants that life. But she is still struggling to escape from that identity. She isn't able to push it all down and continue with the performance. These emotions are still so raw for her. It leads to an anti-climatic ending for the show. But one that is still unifying for the concept. It's probably enough to convince the network executive to keep moving forward with production. But Debbie may not be in the best place in the immediate future because of the shocking divorce papers Mark delivers.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Live Studio Audience" was written by Rachel Shukert and directed by Jesse Peretz.
  • Carmen gets stage fright in front of this crowd. This is the moment she's wanted for her entire life. She's wanted to be a wrestler. But she has never performed in front of anyone before. And now, her nerves completely take her over and she has a panic attack. It's scary. But she is also comforted by Bash who lets his guard down and is incredibly kind to her in this moment.
  • Bash has spent $600,000 on this show already. That seems incredible. But the salaries and housing do start to add up after awhile. But perhaps, the most egregious purchase is the actual gym. He owns that building. He bought it for the show because the paperwork to rent it out was just too complicated.
  • The romance between Rhonda and Sam is still going strong. She even charms him with a little rap she has created for the show. It seems silly but catchy at first. But then, it's the thing that ultimately saves the show in the end once Debbie leaves the ring to deal with her personal problems. It's Rhonda who saves the day despite it being a somewhat awkward ending.
  • Sam's camera going missing is a huge deal too because of the money problems that Bash has at the moment. It motivates Sam to deliver the message that it needs to be returned immediately - though the person who stole it would be fired. Justine took it as a way of lashing out against Sam. But now, she's trying to frame Rhonda for it and fails in doing so. Sam can see right through her act. She's not all that subtle either.
  • Mark claims that he found out where Debbie was by following her parents when they left with baby Randy. And then, he was invited to this event by Gregory. However, Gregory isn't actually seen at the event. So, it's unclear if his perception of Ruth has changed at all.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.