Alison Brie and ‘GLOW’ Co-Creator Carly Mensch Discuss the Artistic and Political Functions of That Abortion Scene


[Warning: Spoilers for episode 8 below.]

GLOW gets better and better as its first season progresses, as it begins to show the deeper, character-driven components of its relationship to wrestling and gender. In the beginning, like many an audience member, the characters on the Netflix series — who’ve all somewhat randomly fallen into the strange performative world of televised wrestling — don’t take that world particularly seriously. But as wrestling becomes a vessel for them to fuck with perception, body type, and racial stereotype, and ultimately a way for them to transcend society’s myopic idea of what women’s bodies can and should do, they start embracing the sport far less ironically. The series also, in an unhurried way, begins developing its characters, both through their relationships to their bodies and through bits of backstory that permeate their practicing, bonding, and ring-persona-building routines. Alison Brie and the series’ creators spoke with the Hollywood Reporter about a particular episode late in the season in which Brie’s character, Ruth, has an abortion — and how it ties into the series’ themes of bodily ownership.

Brie told the publication:

What I especially love about that episode is that it’s a very easy choice for Ruth to make, whether or not the emotional repercussions will continue throughout her life. They might or they might not. This is a show about women’s bodies and about them taking control of their own bodies, and that’s highlighted beautifully in that episode.

What’s remarkable about this episode is not just that it displays something that’s the seed of a current, frightening, legislation-backed debate threatening women’s reproductive rights — but also that it does so artfully. In no way does it feel like an over-dramatic declaration (“and here’s where we’ll be Relevant”), and, incidentally, its all the more relevant for the way it occurs organically within the texture of the show. Series co-creator Carly Mensch said to THR:

We did have a lot of heated discussion in the writers room about whether we wanted to show the abortion. If we were telling honest stories about things that women go through, whether it be in the ‘80s or now, a bunch of us felt that was a very relatable and normal story for certain types of women and that we shouldn’t shy away from showing that if it’s an actual, real experience.

Of course, the realism and anti-dramatism of the scene — the thing that makes it so artful — has upset publications on the Right. Leave it to The Federalist to declare, “‘If a show like ‘GLOW,’ which has been lauded for passing the Bechtel [sic] test and other arbitrary metrics of feminism, fails to show what an abortion is really like, including the pain, recovery, and bleeding, and gets zero flack for it, that’s telling. It indicates yet again that the abortion agenda isn’t about providing women informed ‘choices,’ it’s about lying to women to make killing a pre-born child seem like no big deal…” And leave it to The Daily Wire to respond to the scene with, “all in all, Netflix’s GLOW represents another bright, shining example of what happens when nefarious leftists kill a fun concept by injecting their anti-social worldview into the mix. The equivalent of enjoying a bowl of fruit punch while rocking out to Billy Idol only to have the DJ switch the track over to Barbara Streisand and pour arsenic in your cup. Feminists really do ruin everything.” Yes, on behalf of all nefarious leftists, a sincere apology for ruining your metaphoric Billy Idol party.

Of course, as you can see, publications on the left/liberal-leaning center will laud this inclusion in the series, and on the other end, it’ll be seen the insidious propagation of that baby-killing feminist agenda. At this point in our bifurcated reality, it’s not like this episode of television was #important because it’d change the minds people on the conservative end of a wildly divided public — but for those willing to appreciate the nuances of it without judgment, it’s a scene that fits smartly into the fabric of a show that examines the ways society attempts to own, and broadcast a morality, and various classifications onto, women’s bodies.