Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, July 03, 2017

A look at the muses of might that inspired Netflix's GLOW

I am pleased to report that one of my summer TV viewing goals has been completed, thanks to a weekend binge watch with my sister of Netflix's GLOW, loosely based on the mid-1980's women's wrestling series.

The show is fun and at times funny yet not devoid of real drama between the characters with standout performances by Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin and Marc Maron. Even if you didn't grow up with the actual GLOW series, there's plenty of nostalgic entertainment to go all around.

The series also manages to capture the wild and wacky(as well as sadly stereotypical) nature of the wrestling characters created by and for the girls and some of the fun factor in watching this version is seeing which actual GLOW personalities are being fictionally showcased here. To that end, this is my short list of who is actually who in the ring:

ZOYA/NINOTCHKA: On the Netflix series, Alison Brie plays Ruth, a struggling actress who is holding on to her spot on the GLOW line-up by the skin of her teeth.

In order to make herself indispensable, she creates the perfect heel(a villain in wrestling terms) to go up against one of the better wrestlers, who also happens to be her former best friend, becoming Zoya the Destroya, a ruthless Russian.

Zoya is clearly based on Ninotckka, who was said to be a former colonel from Russia and who loved to ridicule audiences with her Soviet supremacy shtick. She was played by actress Lori Palmer and often displayed a nice sense of comic timing during the mini-skits that the show had the girls do in between matches. Ninotchka was one of the few characters to last during the entire four year run of the original show, thanks to her unbridled zest for over the top villainy:

LIBERTY BELLE/AMERICANA: Betty Gilpin plays Debbie,  a former soap opera actress whose marriage is falling apart and is eagerly recruited by the director of GLOW as the main headliner.

She becomes Liberty Belle, an All-American champion who goes up against Ruth's Zoya with a rather personal motivation indeed. While reluctant to take the role, Betty eventually embraces the power of Liberty Belle as she steps into the ring.

To old school fans, this character is meant to be Americana, the feisty fighter for freedom who took on all enemies of democracy but especially Ninotchka. She was played by Cindy Maranne and only lasted for two seasons, with her red,white and blue banner taken up by other characters such as the Southern Belles and cheerleader Susie Spirit. Nonetheless, Americana was a real fan favorite who still has s bit of a following there:

MACHU PICCHU/MT.FIJI: One of the supporting players on Netflix's GLOW line-up is Britney Young as Carmen, who comes from a family of established pro wrestlers.

While she has the legacy and physical strength to become a formidable female champion, her father is dead set against her joining up but defy him she does and takes the name Machu Picchu with some backup from one of the show's backers.

To me, it seems that she's based upon the legendary Mt. Fiji, played by Emily Dole, who was not from a family of professional fighters yet was an Olympic contender in the early 80s. Before GLOW, did a small role in the film Personal Best, along with several other top athletes. Later on, she also made appearances on Mama's Family and Son In Law with Pauly Shore.

Mt. Fiji was always one of the heroines of the show, the one that came to many a tag team partner's rescue(including her own sisterly partner called Little Fiji) and had a winning personality to match her winning moves in the ring. She was a solid standard for the entire run of the GLOW series and a real sweetheart who never failed to showcase her strength when called upon:

SHEILA THE SHE-WOLF/DEMENTIA: Quite the memorable character is Gayle Rankin's Sheila, who just doesn't don this wolf girl outfit for her wrestling gig. It's a full time persona that she guards fiercely, even from her reluctant roommate Ruth, who is more that willing to understand.

There were a few supernatural based characters on the original GLOW, including one called the Princess of Darkness, but my best bet is that Sheila is taken from Dementia, who was played by two different actresses(Michelle Duze and Nancy Daley) during the second and third season.

Dementia was sort of a Friday the 13th meets William Castle's Strait-Jacket, as she often came out in a cage wearing a hockey mask and carrying an ax. Other times, she would have a doll or other toys that distracted her from the bout that she was taking part in and wasn't the best tag team partner to have there. Then again, she wasn't the best one on one fighter either but always oddly interesting to watch:

As of this writing, there is no confirmation of a second season for GLOW but I can't see why there wouldn't be. This is a smart and savvy show that focuses on female relationships in and out of the ring with plenty of satirical knockout punches to pack for a few more rounds.

 It's also good to have an excuse to relive those goofy glory days with the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, who are being honored as the awesome misfit maidens of might that they were. Give them a Season 2,Netflix! We certainly could use some women warrior power anywhere we can get it these days:

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