It’s time for a middle aged white male to get some female perspective as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the latest season of '80s homage GLOW and a comedy special that may well make you cry.
GLOW Season 2
Created by Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch (2018)
In case you missed the first season of GLOW, the series is a fictional version of a real TV show that existed during the '80s; Gorgeous Ladies Of Wrestling. Telling the stories of a rag-tag bunch of lady wrestlers and their reluctant director/father figure (a fantastic, crumpled Marc Maron), GLOW strikes a nice balance between comedy and drama with a strong line in '80s nostalgia.
Season 2 starts out with the ladies under contract to produce a weekly TV show, but struggling to learn the moves from the one worker who actually knows how to wrestle, the genuinely sweet Machu Picchu, played by Britney Young. On top of this, the ladies have to deal with sleazy producers, and the bubbling rivalry between aspiring director Ruth (Alison Brie) and professional actor Debbie (Betty Gilpin). Halfway through the season, this rivalry comes to a head, with Debbie breaking Ruth’s ankle in a coke-fueled match that echoes a number of real-world incidents between wrestlers.
It’s this commitment to character development that elevates GLOW: you genuinely care about what happens to this group of weirdos and when the show is moved to a 2 AM timeslot you really feel their hurt and confusion. Fortunately for the viewers, this allows GLOW to move in new and unexpected directions, with a number of later episodes playing with format to highly entertaining effect.
Compared to much of the premium drama produced by streaming services, GLOW is pretty light. It’s a lot of fun, but unless you have a soft spot for the 1980s or the weird world of professional wrestling, you might find it a little hard to get into. But I encourage you to make the effort. If you watch two episodes of GLOW and still hate it, feel free to move on. But I have the sneaking suspicion you might find something to like…
Created by Hannah Gadsby (2018)
Much like the blues, many people believe that you need to suffer to create great comedy. It’s true that many famous comedians have suffered from depression, from Stephen Fry and Jim Carrey, to Sarah Silverman and Catherine Tate; the best of them are able to find humour in their suffering.
It would be fair to say that Hannah Gadsby hasn’t has an easy life. Born in Tasmania and discovering that she was a lesbian in an era of rampant homophobia, it is somewhat remarkable that she survived the violence and bigotry she encountered, and even more remarkable still that she’s been able to turn abject suffering into some of the funniest and most cutting comedy of the decade.
The first half hour of Nanette is pure genius, a tightly written set of intelligent comedy covering everything from art history to gender identity. Around the halfway mark the mood shifts, Nanette becoming one of the most compelling pieces of confessional art I’ve ever heard. This is not to say that it’s not funny, but the laughs are tinged with deep layers of pain and self-doubt.
There are some straight white males who will find Nanette confronting, exactly the way it should be. But don’t let that put you off. This isn’t just comedy for lesbians or the super-woke — this is comedy that will change the way you think.
At one point during the performance, Gadsby points out that comedy is a low art and nobody will be leaving the room a better person. With all possible respect, she’s wrong. You would have to have the sensibilities of a rock not to be moved by Nanette and if Hannah Gadsby doesn’t make you think, then I suggest you might be reading the wrong website, my friend…
While both communicate messages of female empowerment, it would be hard to find two more different pieces of entertainment than GLOW and Nanette.
GLOW is entertaining, funny and moving at times, with an engaging cast of characters, great music and some awesome '80s outfits. By comparison, Nanette is hilarious, moving, deeply affecting and should be a must-watch for MRAs, conservative religious nuts and anyone who has ever even thought of hitting a woman. Or anyone else, really. It’s that good.
GLOW and Nanette are available on Netflix.
GLOW — 7/10
Nanette — 10/10
Books by John Turnbull are available on Amazon and Kindle, including supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in paperback in the IA store HERE (free postage).
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