GLOW, Heroes, and Villains

Netflix’s new series, GLOW, surprised me. I almost didn’t watch it (an odd thing to say less than a week after it was released, but somehow it’s true), but I like Alison Brie, and it looked like something different, something unique.

GLOW is the story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It’s a bit of a misnomer, but in a good way: Some of the women aren’t traditionally beautiful, but I love seeing such a diverse cast instead of the standard lineup of 6 skinny white women (though, granted, the two leads are skinny white women). I’ve seen this level of diversity on several Netflix shows, and I really appreciate that such a variety of actresses are getting roles like these.

The writing on GLOW is superb. There are a number of moments where the script is so raw and real that I had to pause and rewatch certain parts. This helps the characters really come to life on the screen. The acting is also fantastic, especially given the physicality required.

I also learned a lot about wrestling, which has never particularly interested me. But my job is to entertain, just like wrestlers, so it was really neat to see how exaggerated archetypes and a clear distinction between good and evil are used to rile up a crowed. A hero is the most effective when they have a great villain to compete against.

I was thinking about that concept when I watched the Team Ninja Warrior finale yesterday. I realized that in American Ninja Warrior, there are only heroes, no villains. For the most part, I enjoy watching a bunch of likable people who genuinely seem to root for each other. The only “villain” is the course itself.

But…it would probably be pretty interesting if there was a villain on the show. Someone who is really, really good. Someone who people root against…but they’re so talented that you also kind of root for them. Someone who pushes the other contestants to their limits. I don’t know for sure if it would work, but it would be a neat concept to test for one season.

What do you think? Does a great villain always make it more fun to root for our heroes? Or can a show succeed with only heroes? Oh, and if you’ve watched GLOW, what was your favorite part about it?


7 Responses to “GLOW, Heroes, and Villains”

  1. Scot Duvall says:

    I could be wrong — it’s been a long time — but I think American Gladiators had a group of regulars some of whom were cast as somewhat of a villain to root against.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      I only watched the reboot a few years ago, and I think you’re right.

      • Chris Broadbent says:

        Iintended to say the same thing. Though they were almost a part of the course. What if the villain caused penalties and handicaps to a team if they outscored the team? Seems that would inspire people to rally behind the teams.

        • Jamey Stegmaier says:

          Chris: That’s an interesting idea! In Team Ninja Warrior, there are a few obstacles that have shared elements, meaning that it’s nearly impossible for two people to use them at the same time. This has created some dramatic moments where one player will cut the other off mid-race.

  2. Gregg says:

    I think any good story requires a problem to be solved (and often the very best never solves the problem)…any problem that captivates the viewer works: a villain, a physical disadvantage, a natural disaster…

    I’ve watched 10 minutes of GLOW so far, and agree that the writing and acting is superb, but am cautious about seeing similarities to A League of Their Own. I’m also disappointed by the slight exploitation of Alison Brie’s physical attributes (the locker room scene and the under the toilet shot did not seem necessary to me). Still looking forward to watching it!

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Gregg: It’s been a long time since I watched A League of Their Own, and I’m curious to hear if you still think that after watching the series (if you do). My recollection is that a big part of that movie is about sexism, while that’s a very small part of GLOW.

      As for the nudity early on in the show, it was an interesting choice. As random nudity goes, I actually thought it was more integrated into the script than other shows/movies, as she’s in the middle of talking about how she used to change under her shirt…and then a few seconds later, she’s changing in front of her friend. Then the scene moves on. There’s another instance of nudity later in the show (a different actress), and again, it serves to reveal something about one of the other characters.

      • Gregg says:

        You’re right that the director/writers did integrate it into the script better than most…I just wish they illustrated the character’s personality in a different way.

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