English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: Glow

Gender in Glow

Gender is a central element of the show Glow; whose entire focus is the “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling”. Despite the entire focus of the wrestling league being women, there are no women in any leading or executive roles working on it. The show utilizes this to exemplify the “glass ceiling” commonly imposed upon women, where women rarely rise to executive positions even in fields where they constitute a plurality or majority of workers. Though the entire focus of GLOW is the women, the director, producer, and sponsor are all men. Though Cherry is given some power she is rarely taken seriously either by the other women or her superiors. This is made particularly clear in season one episode five, where Sam and Bash are attempting to secure funding for the show.

Sam tells the women they are only present for “window dressing”

Though the women are the entire focus, they are brought merely as “window dressing” and are essentially just intended to be sexual objects and not speak or display their wrestling talents. Ultimately, they display their worth when Ruth provides a convincing performance and engages the crowd, managing to secure funding for the show, but despite their legitimate value and talent the women are treated as if they are less than the men and not taken seriously merely because of their femininity. These problematical issues that Glow draws attention to in this episode are representative of similar issues women commonly face on a regular basis in the workforce both in the US and across the world. There are countless issues, such as the wage gap and glass ceiling, that have a profound and negative impact on women. Glow manages to highlight these issues by showing how women are unjustly treated unfairly based entirely upon their gender.

Abortion in Glow

In the eighth episode of the first season of Glow, Ruth discovers that she became pregnant from her affair with Debbie’s husband, Mark. This dilemma is used to introduce the theme of abortion and provide input on the pro-choice versus pro-life argument. Ruth – already embarrassed and ashamed by the affair, attempts to remain as secretive as possible about her pregnancy and her choice to have an abortion performed. She has no real hesitation in making the decision to have an abortion performed. Not only is she single and a struggling artist and is therefore in no real position to raise a child, she also presumably would not be able to work on Glow while pregnant and would further damage her relationship with Debbie and Debbie’s relationship with Mark. Thus, Ruth can make the decision to have an abortion with relative ease, and with Sam’s aid she goes to an abortion clinic and has the operation performed.

Ruth confirms her decision to have an abortion with the doctor

The writers of the show use this story line to exhibit how there are scenarios where a woman is not able to have a child, and in doing so makes the argument that women should have the choice to have an abortion. This argument is representative of the show’s cultural stance and input into the hotly debated and controversial topic of abortion prevalent in modern-day America. This concept that women should be able to have control of their lives and be able to make their own decisions ties back into the general theme of the show that women should be able to be independent and self-sufficient. The entire idea of a female wrestling league exhibits the concept that women are perfectly capable of doing tasks traditionally associated only with men. The fact that the main character, Ruth, is single and living alone, putting herself out into the world to try to pursue her dreams and support herself further reinforces these themes.

The Cinematography of Glow

Cinematography is, in many ways, the unsung hero of television and movies. The lighting, colors, and shot choice can play a plethora of roles beyond the obviously important fact that the choices made with cinematography sculpts how the director portrays the show to their audience. These elements can also be used for character development, foreshadowing, and as a plot device, among many other important aspects that impact how the audience perceives the show.

In this post I will take a look at some of the ways that the first episode of Glow utilized cinematography to introduce the series to the world.


Ruth delivers the wrong dialogue

The show begins with this long, close-up shot of Ruth as she demonstrates her acting chops and masterfully delivers a dialogue intended for the male lead. Ruth is kept centered and as the clear focus of attention throughout this extended shot. We don’t know where she is, or she is with while delivering this shot. For all we know, since this is the very first shot of the series, Ruth is running some business and this is not a dialogue delivered from a script, but in fact her very own words. This is because the director focuses not on providing exposition here, but instead focuses on developing Ruth. We can see the strong emotions she’s attempting to portray easily since she is the clear center of attention in this introductory shot.


Ruth enters the gym

There are also a number of deliberate lighting and color choices made throughout this episode. In this shot, where Ruth first walks into the gym where the casting for Glow is taking place, the lighting is deliberately dim, and the colors deliberately muted. This gives the impression that the setting, and the people inside of it, are in a destitute state of affairs similar to Ruth, and appear to be desperately seeking work just as Ruth is.

These are just a few examples of how the first episode of Glow utilized cinematography as a means of characterization and exposition.

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