***Warning: Spoilers for season three of GLOW below!***
Have you watched GLOW yet?
It’s an award-winning Netflix original comedy, that tells the fictional story of the founding of a real-life womens’ wrestling show from the 80s called Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. Confused? Don’t be. All you really need to know is that it’s good. It doesn’t have the same fanfare as a lot of Netflix originals like Orange is the New Black or Stranger Things, but it’s arguably better than most of them; it’s funny and fresh and effortlessly does female empowerment in a way other shows couldn’t even dream of doing.
Its Jewish character is a minor one, a wrestler named Melanie who provides a lot of comic relief and not much else. She’s the classic TV Jew you’ve come to expect, the loud one who speaks with a Brooklyn accent and says ‘tuchus’ every so often and that’s about the extent of both her Jewishness and her character.
The episode is a Passover-themed one (including but not limited to two of the main characters wandering lost through the desert) and in one of the series’ best scenes, depicts a Seder held around a campfire as Melanie talks about the Exodus and about the meaning of Passover. When somebody raises the point that Jewish slavery in Egypt happened “a bajillion years ago,” she responds about how it’s still a recent issue, obviously referring to the Holocaust. And in the face of her friends’ discomfort, she adds, “Why, you’d rather I just joke around? Just jokes, huh? Not really get into the trauma that’s behind all the shit we don’t want to talk about? How my Aunt Pestel and her eight children died in Treblinka? Or how my dad, my dad, won’t live in a house without a basement or an attic in case we have to hide again?”
The scene feels nothing short of revolutionary — a seder being shown on TV? a discussion about the continual relevance of Passover? A discussion about inherited trauma from the Holocaust and how descendants of survivors continue to be affected? The first time I watched it, I had to rewind and watch it twice more. We so seldom get scenes like this in the shows we watch, and GLOW goes all out. This isn’t the first one GLOW has given us, either; season one has a scene set at a teenager’s brit milah — a Soviet Jew who was unable to practice his Judaism until he got to America. Mainstream storylines that centre around Jews are more often than not comedic (looking at you, Mrs. Maisel) and resort to the same tired stereotypes we see over and over again (still looking at you, Mrs. Maisel.) This scene reminds us that the Jewish stories we see on screen can be more than just trying to make us laugh, that our stories can have depth and talk about our culture in nuanced, poignant ways.
About the author
Shoshana Gottlieb is a writer fresh out of uni and mooching off her brother’s Netflix account. An avid TV and movie fan, she dreams of writing romcoms and Hallmark Chanukah movies. Her favourite TV shows at the moment are The Good Place and Big Little Lies, and her favourite romcom is When Harry Met Sally. You can find her movie reviews at shoshanagottlieb.wordpress.com and her inane musings on twitter @taxiapologist.
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