So I just started watching GLOW and I’m obsessed. A couple of my girlfriends and trusted women writers on twitter recommended it but I always kind of put it in the back of my mind because I found the concept a little too distracting. Women wrestlers in the 80s seemed very campy. But when The Handsmaid's Tale finished, I was left scanning Hulu, Netflix and whatever other streaming service I passively pay for in search of another series that could hook me. I was ready for a good laugh (what with the world and all) but comedy specials make me so nervous anticipating the punch line that I find them astonishingly unpleasant. Then I realized entertaining would distract me as much as funny. I saw GLOW and decided to give it a shot.
I'm still in Season 1 but there have been a lot of gems so far. At the end of episode 2, the director turns to Ruth and exclaims in delight, "You will be the villain and everyone will hate you!" Ruth is horrified because she doesn’t want to be hated. The director is like, "That’s just your problem. Try not caring for once. Not giving a shit. There’s power in that." Scene and episode end with her standing mouth agape in the parking lot. She’s shook. She’s an aspiring actress and the idea of not performing for the approval of others is totally foreign.
I loved that. Ruth can be powerful if she simply doesn't care about being likeable. It stuck with me today. Women know how important it is to be likeable, pleasing, dare I say subservient in a handmaid kind of way. But there’s plenty of glory in the unlikeable parts of ourselves.
Growing up, everyone called me “nice” like it was compliment. I suppose they meant well. I learned very early on to prioritize being nice over everything, even over being honest or good. It spread like a cancer. All the necessary traits got eclipsed by niceness. Ambition? Too rude, let others go first. Expression? Hogging the limelight. I became akin to TCBY non-fat yogurt with no toppings, so muted that no one actually wants it. I was not only nice but I was Nice, the complete embodiment of all things syrupy sweet and deferential and quiet about every kind of injustice or aggression. I was nicest towards my aggressors because perhaps, you know, I wasn’t being nice enough when someone hurt me. Try harder, Nice said to me. I promised to do so. It made me a very nice-angry person.
“Kind” would have been better. I am a kind person. I care deeply when people suffer. Like I know the flavor and nuance of other people’s suffering, and I can sense what to do to alleviate it for a bit. (Hint, it’s often not the object of their suffering that people want removed. They want to be understood.) But, I was really unkind to myself.
When I began doing Muy Thai, I started to understand that being nice is catastrophically useless. I once asked the coach what to do when a sparring partner had me in a cascade of punches and kicks. I was asking tactically, like was there some trick move I didn’t know about. And he looked at me squarely and was like, get out the way and strike back - you’re not a punching bag. As I improved, I learned what it felt like to score a punch or kick or elbow. I learned that if I wasn’t careful, my kicks were so strong that they could cause the pad holder to get a pad in the face. I learned that repressed anger is really powerful. And an angry woman is a freaking god.
So I think that’s what I like about GLOW so far . The ensemble feels like Hera and Athena and all the others rolling around hurling great forces of nature at each other. The act of being totally ruthless and physical and expressive feels so freeing and un-lady like. I’m reveling in that now.