Where was I when ladies wrestling was a regular fixture on broadcast television? Brett Whitcomb's new documentary GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling paints a picture of massive fame, if not fortune, experienced by these very 1980s ladies, plucked out of obscurity and placed in a televised ring of glory. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (go ahead, try the link--you'll be amazed) filled the screen on Saturday mornings for years, offering an alternative, but no less campy, option to the testosterone fueled WWF (now WWE) of the time. Partly due to the program's day and time slot, the fan base that developed around GLOW was primarily made up of children, although, as one of the film's subjects points out, hung-over frat boys were a big part of that crowd, too.
As a film, GLOW has a lot of the essential elements in place. There's the undeniably oddball story of a Vegas-financed, all-female wrestling team, made up of mostly non-wrestlers who had to learn their trade on the job. Whitcomb has access to all the colorfully named personalities on hand: Mt. Fiji, Little Egypt, Matilda the Hun, Jailbait, and Big Bad Mama, to name just a few. And since we're talking about a television show, there's a ton of archival footage on hand, too, including one nasty looking injury and a large slathering of posturing in line with what we think of when we think of televised wrestling. If there's one thing missing from the story, it's the perspective of the fans; the size of GLOW's following is mentioned often, yet there's never any insight offered up from the rabid audience that developed around these Gorgeous Ladies.
Still, Whitcomb offers up a deep look into a forgotten moment from our not so distant pop culture past. A doc like GLOW promises on the surface to supply viewers with something to laugh at--and there's certainly more than enough ridiculous stuff to giggle about here--but, surprisingly, the film digs below the surface, unearthing a more emotional perspective than one expects from a documentary about ladies' wrestling. If you're not moved by the story of Mt. Fiji, you're not human. Even if you find wrestling exceedingly dull, the excitement that GLOW generates will spare you the sleeper hold.
GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling plays two-nights-only at the Hollywood Theatre beginning on Saturday, January 5th at 7pm. More info available here.
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