GLOW is a show about women in the entertainment industry in the 1980s. Made by women in the entertainment industry in 2018. With the ‘casting couch’ having existed as a concept and a reality since — well — forever, and the industry finally now waking up and recognizing the seriousness of the implications, it makes sense that in a post-#MeToo landscape, GLOW addresses the issue.
Episode 5, called “Perverts are People, Too”, dedicates a big portion of its run-time to an arc expressly about bigshots in showbusiness abusing their power. It draws jaw-dropping parallels with the stories that have emerged about the M.O. of one particular Hollywood heavyweight. Yes, we mean Harvey Weinstein. So here’s how it goes down.
It all starts when Glen from the network calls the show’s production team – Sam, Debbie and Bash – to a meeting. He tells them their sponsors are pulling out. He explains that the ratings are “soft”, which will make getting a new sponsor difficult. Before saying that Tom Grant, the head of the network, has taken an interest in the show. Grant wants to meet with them. However, it seems he’s particularly interested in Alison Brie’s Ruth. His secretary calls Ruth to invite her to a meeting over dinner with Grant, since apparently he’s a big fan of her character Zoya, and Ruth is stoked. During the phone call, there’s a neat “me too” from Ruth, responding to something inaudible the secretary says, which blatantly sets up what’s to come.
When Ruth arrives at the meeting location, a hotel restaurant, she tells the maître d’ she’s there for Tom Grant. He directs her to his bungalow. She points out that it’s a dinner reservation.
The maître d’ replies: “Mr. Grant always takes dinner meetings in his room”, then directs Ruth dismissively. She walks, visibly uncomfortable, towards bungalow two. She pauses trepidatiously before she knocks. She’s delighted when Glen opens the door. His presence clearly assuages her fears.
Grant proceeds with his clearly carefully laid plan, and tries to lull her into a false sense of security. He tells her he just got in from New York and is too tired to face the restaurant. He then offers her a glass of white Zinfandel. He sets about flattering her, and getting her to relax with wine and conversation, at which point Grant gives Glen the nod. It’s a signal that it’s time for him to leave. Glen makes out he’s off to get menus and says he’ll return. The two are left alone. Grant continues probing into her career, and her ambitions, looking for vulnerability to exploit.
When Ruth says she feels strong, and in control, Grant edges closer and asks her to show him a wrestling move or two. He grabs her hand and moves it up his torso, to feel his gym-honed body. He makes her put him in a headlock while he nuzzles into her chest. Then he twists her arm up and pulls himself close up behind her as his lips linger on her neck. He then tells her he’s going to check the jacuzzi jets in the bath and assures her not to worry about Glen as he’s not coming back. When he goes into the bathroom, she takes the opportunity to escape.
Because of Ruth’s refusal to play ball with Tom Grant, their show gets shifted by the network to a 2am time slot.
“Nobody watches TV at 2am, Ruth. That’s the point. They’re burying us,” says Debbie. “And we’re going to be cancelled.”
“I think this might have something to do with me,” says Ruth before explaining what happened to her at her meeting with Tom Grant.
Where today a man accused of something like this will have the full force of the internet’s condemnation rained down on him and will be called to account, in the 1980s such incidents were generally swept under the carpet, and treated — and, indeed, thought about — very differently.
GLOW reflects the time period, with no consequences forthcoming for powerful, would-be rapist scumbag Tom Grant. But it doesn’t shy away from discussing the issue. Debbie’s attitude is representative of the women who put up and shut up. She reacts angrily when Ruth tells her that she ran away.
“I can’t believe this,” says Debbie. “How could you be so f–ing stupid. You’re in a hotel room with the head of the network. He comes onto you and you run away?”
Although she doesn’t go so far as to say Ruth should have slept with him, Debbie is adamant that Ruth should have played the game. “You’re supposed to make him think that you might f— him or that you desperately want to f— him if only you didn’t have a fiancé or your period or an extra set of teeth where your vagina should be.”
She adds, “That is how this business works, Ruth. Men try s— and you have to pretend to like it until you don’t have to anymore.”
“It shouldn’t be that way,” protests Ruth.
“No, it shouldn’t… and women should get to direct and not be washed up by the time they’re 30, and I should have gotten to eat a piece of my own wedding cake without worrying about how minutes of Jane f–ing Fonda it was going to take to work it off,” replies Debbie. “But that is the way it is. And you don’t make it better by flouncing out like some f–ing Victorian schoolmarm every time some sleazeball puts his hand on your knee. You’re taking 20 other people down with you.”
Season 2 of GLOW is finally on Netflix 😻💋✨🌟 pic.twitter.com/7lGMtkeLje
— cc bloom (@caseygwilliam) June 29, 2018
Debbie is a woman who knows the way the world works and is used to complicity. But she is a victim of the patriarchal systems in place and, consequently, it’s apparent that at some point she’s made the decision to make it work for her in the best way she knows how. For Debbie, fighting the system is not an option. It’s reflective of long-held attitudes. It’s only now that we – as a society – are waking up. Both men AND women are wising up to the fact that behaviour like this is very wrong. And better yet, WHY it’s wrong.
Perhaps the boldest move the show pulls here is showing that not all men in the industry are the same, when in a later episode we get to see Sam’s reaction. After Ruth finally reveals all to Sam, she’s clearly worried he’s going to react similarly to Debbie and blame her for the show’s time-slot shift.
But he doesn’t. Instead, he’s shown to be a progressive and thoroughly decent human being when he recoils in shock at the news. He’s appalled at Grant’s behaviour and doesn’t care about the fallout from Ruth’s knockback. He defends her all the way, and is quick to both believe Ruth’s account and condemn the sleazebag.
GLOW Season 2 is available to stream on Netflix now.