The Ladies Wrestle With Body Image Issues in ‘GLOW’ Episode 3 (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for GLOW Season 3 Episode 3, “Desert Pollen.”]
In pro-wrestling, body-issues are just as common as body-slams, especially for the female performers, who are often judged far harsher than the men when it comes to appearance. It’s a topic that the WWE addressed head-on last year in a storyline feud between Alexa Bliss and Nia Jax. “[Nia and I] both have struggled with image issues in the past,” Bliss told TV Insider in a 2018 interview. “So, it’s a very real subject that we are bringing to light… I think because it’s an actual issue, people can relate.”
The third episode of GLOW season 3, “Desert Pollen,” shines its own spotlight on pro-wrestling’s body image issues. Insecurities are exposed when the ladies are confronted by the idealistic standards of showbiz. It leads to some of the series’ funniest scenes to date—particularly between Ruth (Alison Brie) and Debbie (Betty Gilpin)—but also some of its most bleak and harrowing. The dark underbelly of glitzy Las Vegas continues to reveal itself episode by episode.
It starts when Cherry (Sydelle Noel) brings the girls to a showgirl dance class to help with their conditioning. “What are they gonna do, teach us to walk downstairs with our tits out?” Melrose (Jackie Tohn) scoffs. But the class is no joke. The showgirls—with their skinny ballerina physiques and perfect poise—make the GLOW ladies look like a bunch of bumbling circus clowns. “They’re like department store mannequins whose bodies don’t need to contain organs,” says Debbie, who abandons the class after being told her ass sticks out too much.
The class brings up too many bad memories for Debbie, who as an actress, has undoubtedly dealt with her fair share of crude remarks about her body from sleazy producers and network executives. Producers such as the Zeissman twins (played by the Sklar brothers); two pervy misogynists who Bash (Chris Lowell) spends the entire episode trying to butter up. The brothers bust into the women’s dressing room unannounced and make crass jokes about how “a showgirl’s tit” should fit perfectly into a champagne saucer. “I’m more of a brandy snifter girl myself,” Debbie quips. “Maybe a pint glass.”
Debbie sets off on a path of self-doubt. She starts skipping meals and secretly running the hotel stairs in hopes of shedding a few pounds. Sandy (Geena Davis), who as a former showgirl knows what it is to be body-conscious, tells Debbie that she shouldn’t be so concerned with being the star of the show. “You’d be surprised how much more is possible when you let that part go and pick up the reins,” Sandy explains. The Fan-Tan entertainment director is speaking from experience as a woman who has dealt with decades of showbiz sexism and not only survived but used her smarts to gain power and influence.
Ruth, meanwhile, tries to appeal to Debbie as a friend. Brie and Gilpin have such incredible chemistry that it’s always magic when Ruth and Debbie share scenes together, and we get two classics from the pair in this episode. Firstly, when Ruth strips off and performs a goofy showgirl routine in order to “seduce” Debbie into eating with her. “You look like a band nerd in a giant hat,” Debbie remarks before both women fall into a fit of hysterics. The moment is temporarily broken when Sam (Marc Maron) walks in and unintentionally catches a glimpse of Ruth’s boobs.
The second is when the two women sneak to the back of the hotel kitchen to chow down on cheeseburgers. It’s that beautiful blend of humor and heartache that GLOW does so well, including emotional confessions and Barbra Streisand impressions. Ruth boosts her friend up: “Your ass is big and juicy and sexy. And it’s an honor to have it in my face every night.” While Debbie admits where her insecurities stemmed from: “When I was 14, I got the idea that the only thing people are ever going to notice about me is my body… so I guess it better be f**king perfect, and somehow it’s never left me.” It’s a sentiment I’m sure many can relate to.
The other ladies of GLOW can certainly relate. Sheila (Gayle Rankin) is judged because of her looks at an acting class; despite delivering an excellent performance. Tammé (Kia Stevens) is dealing with back pain, but she doesn’t want to show it—afraid that admitting her body is broken will lose her her spot on the show. And Melrose winds up feeling self-conscious about her sex appeal when she accidentally sleeps with a male prostitute. “I don’t pay for sex!” she yells, embarrassed that anyone could see her as someone so desperate.
Cherry, too, comes to a realization about her own body. She and her husband Keith (Bashir Salahuddin) have been trying for a baby. Both seem excited at the prospect of starting a family until Cherry learns that the showgirl dance teacher was written out and replaced once she fell pregnant. “We never really talked about what this is going to do to my body,” Cherry tells Keith. Her body is her livelihood; in fact, it’s both their livelihoods, given that Keith isn’t currently working. Who knows how long having a baby could keep her out of commission. “I don’t think I want to have a baby,” she tells an angry and heartbroken Keith.
If there is any hope in this episode, it’s soon dashed by the final scene, when Debbie returns from her cheeseburger feast to her hotel room alone. You can feel it coming as she’s watching the home video of her baby boy. You desperately hope to be wrong. “Just go to bed,” I was screaming in my head. But as she takes the slow walk of shame over to the bathroom, it’s inevitable. Debbie sticks her fingers down her throat and makes herself throw up. A dark but unfortunately real ending to the best episode of season 3 so far.
-I must mention, it isn’t just the women feeling body-conscious. Sam is also pondering his health following Ruth’s comments about his age. And the thorough ass-whooping he takes in the tennis game against the younger, fitter Bash doesn’t help matters. There’s a moment where he almost throws away his carton of cigarettes, but he ends up pocketing a couple for safe-keeping.
-“Mothers are allowed to eat cheeseburgers.”
-Ruth’s excuse for moving rooms away from Sam is because of the “pollen” affecting her allergies. “Desert pollen?” Sam questions.
-Things that Debbie would rather do than hang out with the Zeissman twins: “lick out a dog’s a**hole.”
GLOW, Streaming, Netflix