Glow: Take a Trip Back To The Eighties with The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling

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           One month ago, Netflix released its new series Glow, created by Liz Flahive and Carly Mensc. The story is a fictional story about the 1980s women’s professional wrestling circuit called “The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling” (or GLOW) orginally created by David McLane. Ruth Wilder, an actress looking for a job, is invited for a secret audition with dozens of women. She later discovers that she could be a potential character in a wrestling show directed by tortured artist Sam Sylvia and has to adapt to this new situation. The series also explores her conflicted relationship with her best friend Debbie Eagan, a former soap opera actress, as Ruth had an affair with her husband.

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         Glow has been already praised by critics – and it is clear why. The series is an amazing trip back to the Flashdance era with numerous references that will take you back to the decade of Rocky, but with a touch of feminism this time around. The eighties have recently become a trend in TV shows. The success of Stranger Things, another Netflix series that sparkled last year, shows that there is a sort of fascination even nostalgia for this period. The eighties revival in fashion has idealised this decade which feels both recent and far from us nowadays. More and more, the eighties seem like a new Golden Hollywood era in which our parents grew up during these years. In Glow, you will rediscover those neon clothes, those fitness courses that won’t appear during your Facebook daily scrolling, and that lacquered hair, exaggerated make-up and funny jeans. Less serious than Stranger Things, Glow is a genuine wink to the dynamic eighties while celebrating feminism.

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         While Sam appears as a sexist and mysognistic artist, he truly changes his mind with his new actresses. The girls all have different shapes, sizes and backgrounds. They are not “perfect” and are eager to know more about wrestling. They don’t consider the activity masculine one and do not hesitate to fight in order to improve what they do. The tension between sexism and feminism explores how the women are perceived and how the Gorgeous Ladies want to dismantle these ideas by performing wrestling. Each of them has a story, a unique personality that you won’t even find in your average eighties movie.

         If you haven’t watch Glow yet, just open your Netflix account and enjoy. Compared to Orange is The New Black by many reviews (Jenji Kohan, creator the series is the executive producer), Glow is a less dark version of the show with similarly incredible women.

3…2…1…Let’s GLOW !

 

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“She is beautiful when she is angry” : What I learnt from being an intellectual woman in a sexist society

 

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            We all remember this famous documentary named She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, released in 2014, which is about women involved in the second wave feminism movement in the United States of America. However, I must say that I am particularly interested in the significance of the title. It reveals that women are perceived in certain men’s gazes as only hysterical girls whose speeches are led by emotion and a kind of hubris they cannot control. Moreover, they are still beautiful because, as we all know, women are only defined by their beauty. Just take a look at women magazines and analyze their main subjects. How do we lose weight fast? How to be healthy? New make-up trends! Which one will suit you the best? …I doubt you will have the opportunity to read an article about Simone de Beauvoir or Jane Austen in your common Cosmopolitan Magazine.

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            I have never been a Cosmo girl – except when I go to pubs to get a nice cocktail! I got interested in literature at a very young age. From Les Malheurs de Sophie to Camus’s L’Etranger, I was always eager to know more about these writers who made me travel around countries of words and landscapes of sentences. I realized that I could imagine different stories and create my own world. That is why each step in the streets, at the beach, in cafés, each person passing by, each inquisitive animal became an unique element of a new story. I wanted to be a writer. It was not a wish or a dream. Being a writer appeared to me as a genuine goal. Unfortunately, people did not understand why I did my best to be an artist. At school, I felt quite different from the others. At the beginning, I thought that people saw me as “odd” because I was a literature/philosophy enthusiast who spent my free-time writing and thinking about my novel. However, the criticisms were more subtle as some professors and students hinted that women should get interested in other fields. Ultimately, this mindset influences our education as female authors are not taught in classes as frequently as male authors in terms of literature studies. Remember those women who took men’s names to write because they were not allowed to?

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            I thus was considered the “intello”, “nerd” one. Girls were particularly difficult to deal with. To them, it was quite strange to see another girl reading Voltaire’s essays. The Twilight series was way more interesting and “girly”. It resulted in my being defined as odd. My goals, my hobbies, my dreams. Everything was “odd”. And, I think they were probably shocked that I still enjoyed fashion, red lipstick and feeling pretty and sexy. After all, women cannot be beautiful AND intellectual. Pop culture have showed us this cliché lots of times. I remember watching Beverly Hills 90210 with my mum. Brenda (Shannon Doherty) was the popular and wonderful one while Andrea (Gabrielle Carteris) was the “ugly” BUT intelligent girl. This helps to explain why our society is steeped in misconceptions about women and is also still influenced by sexist images that have spread more easily nowadays. If we think about it, everything is about women’s bodies and looks. They have to “fit” in a perfect Ikea baking tin in order to obtain a marvellous rainbow cronut – ready to be the most “liked” Instagram picture ever. When it comes to intelligence, self-development and arts, women are easily critcized – particularly if they raise their voices against the system.

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            Although it was difficult for me to face these problems, I was inspired by many female figures who denounced this unfair silent treatment. Emma Watson, Ashley Grahams and Jennifer Lawrence are all new figures of pop culture and feminism promoting a whole new perception of women. Above all, Emma Watson brought into the spotlight the figure of the intellectual and independent women through her roles on screen (Hermione Granger and more recently Belle in the new Beauty and the Beast movie) and also her endeavours such as being an activist for the HeforShe campaign Similarly, some TV shows are more and more keen on depicting women as strong individuals. I watched the new season of Orange is the New Black and I found Danielle Brooke’s performance absolutely delightful. Her character, Taystee, is an amazing example of an intelligent, charming, sensual and funny woman who fights for her causes and never gives up. From a second-role character in the first season to the main role in season 5, Danielle Brooke revealed a rebellious Taystee that is for me an iconic feminist character. Andrea’s sad destiny is now slowly disappearing in order to develop “angry”, albeit wonderful women.

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            So, yes. I am angry. Sometimes a bit too much. Sometimes a bit less. However, I am a journalist and I am writing to expose my analysis and my thoughts that I developed over the years. And I am convinced that writing and speaking are both the best answers to sexism. Like Taystee, we just need to keep on fighting and reading. Because women who read are dangerous, aren’t they?

 

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Why my great grand-mother is my favourite super-heroine

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         All little girls have a favorite super-heroine. That’s why pop culture is full of interesting female characters to whom you can relate. From Disney Princesses to Marvel comic characters, we all have admired a heroine because of her physical appearance, personality or powers. Society shows us different figures of women through a wide range of media such as books, movies, TV shows, advertisement and more recently, the Internet. I would argue that our society is a “society of images” where we are constantly confronted with a myriad of representations of women. It seems like Platon’s famous cavern could easily be applied today as we are heavily influenced by what we see – and it can be either bad either good. Therefore, I feel little girls need to find a role model. Most of the time, they are attracted to fictional characters as heroines take part in extraordinary adventures. Let’s not forget the « marketing » approach of them: Disney, for instance, developed the “Disney Princesses” brand in order to sell many types of products such as dresses, toys and dolls with different colors for each princess. This crystalizes the idea of “role model” or “favourite heroine” that nurtures the creativity of young girls. It is also important to mention that heroines evolved through years and have become stronger than before. Again, this is demonstrated in Disney’s movies. There is a significant change in the way we see women nowadays. Moana, for instance, appears as a feminist heroine who does not need a man to travel around the ocean and defeats a massive monster all by herself – which is way better than “whistling while you work” like Snow White, isn’t it ?

         And I suppose you are all curious to know who is my favorite heroine. Although I love Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and have dedicated one full year to studying this fairytle for my Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature, she is not who I consider to be my favourite heroine. Indeed, my favourite heroine is not a fictional character, but someone who existed and who was a member of my family: my great grand-mother, Marie-Jeanne. I have never had the chance to know her as she died before I was born. However, my grand-mother enjoyed talking about her mother’s adventures during World War II when I was little. Consequently, Marie-Jeanne was like a super-heroine from a novel or a movie to me. I must point out that she looked like a Hollywood actress – and that is why it is almost difficult to imagine that she was like you or me: red lips, subtle eye-liner, lovely short brown hair and these incredible brows that you’ll never get even if you make an appointement each day at Benefit’s Brow Bar. Marie-Jeanne was a mix of Greta Garbo’s mystery look and Marlene Dietrich’s strong features. She was also a “fashion addict” who created her own dresses and was particularly keen on hand bags. Not only was she extremely beautiful, but she was enough brave to defy German soldiers.

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         Yes. Marie-Jeanne was not your average French beauty that you could watch in a black and white Jean Cocteau movie. Conversely, you could maybe see her in a little house in the middle of the scary “provencal” forests near Aix-en-Provence, staying silent because she was regurlarly threatened by the curfew or encountering Nazis. And I want to emphasize this dominant feature of her personality because it is what characterizes her the most. When the Germans soldiers started to invade the South of France during World War II, Marie-Jeanne was married to a Spanish immigrant, my great grand-father, Marcel, who is also a war hero. She had four children and worked for British and American soldiers by designing their army outfits. Marie-Jeanne had so much work to do that she used to sew until late at night – Marcel would stay by her side, reading her books so she would not fall asleep. I am sure she looked unflappable albeit slightly anxious. Marie-Jeanne knew her family was in danger and remained conscious of France’s desperate situation. Nevertheless, her children and her husband were more important to her than her own fears.

         When Marcel was made prisoner by the Germans for being part of the Resistance, Marie-Jeanne realized she had to fight alone for her family and her freedom. Each night, she resisted the curfew and ran through le Montaiguet (a huge hill between Aix-en-Provence and Gardanne, a little town in the South of France) in order to exchange some cigarettes for meat to feed her family. This particular passage of my great grand-mother’s life greatly inspired me. I can just imagine this little woman, lost in the darkness of the night, struggling through the scary forests where the tree branches looked like human arms trying to grab at her legs. She would fall on the ground, tearing up her tights and classy skirt. Yet, she would stand up, pushing the branches away, looking straight ahead and everything around her would disappear. They could attack her. They could say she was just a weak “ little French woman”, but Marie-Jeanne would still run, face the rain, the coldness, the terryfing noises you could hear in the moutains and any other unforeseen threat. For instance, one day, she got caught by Marcel’s best friend who threatened that he would tell everything to the Germans if she did not give him meat. To the seven-year old me, Marie-Jeanne would always defeat the wicked trees and the “villains” because she was strong and fearless.

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         As I grew older and started to understand my role in society as a woman, I further realized why Marie-Jeanne embodied the perfect super-heroine figure. She is an inspiring “character” because she is not a “character” at all. Marie-Jeanne was a real person who lived through a difficult time period. She had many issues and her situation was certainly not the easiest. I admire her because every woman could relate to her – even if we don’t live in the fifties anymore. Marie-Jeanne never claimed to be an extraordinary super-heroine. She had no powers and did not fly in the sky like a French Wonder Woman. She also cannot be compared to Hollywood stars either as she was not a famous actress that we could still watch on TV today. Her entire life is based on unfortunate but true events – they are not a part of a drama. So, who remembers Marie-Jeanne’s bravery today ? Who knows her name ? Most of my cousins don’t even care about her. I have only been able to keep her ring and some photos thanks to my grand-mother. The sad reality is that Marie-Jeanne’s stories seem to have faded for some members of my family. They simply dismiss the fact that Marie-Jeanne was a feminist who contributed to what we know today as the “girl power”. She dismantled every cliché people had about women in the fifties. Certainly, you would not find my great grand-mother in an advertisement for household appliances with a big fake smile on her face and a man giving her orders. If Marie-Jeanne was capable of slaying the game in a sexist society, I am pretty sure that women today could follow her path. There are many wonderful women that we don’t know about whom surround us. Devoted mothers, amazing wives, brave labourers, intelligent businesswomen, inspiring artists… I thus realized how much Marie-Jeanne influenced me in my childhood, in my teenage years and even today as a young woman. She played a key-role in introducing me to feminism. It has always been clear in my mind that I am a woman and society will always try to shape my body, my ideas and my mind to preconceived disgraceful standards.

         There is a lot of « maybe » in Marie-Jeanne’s story. My grand-mother does not remember every detail about her – she even told me that Marie-Jeanne was rather mysterious. Although I never had the chance to share a cup of coffee with her (a cup of coffee without sugar as she apparently hated it!), I am under the impression I have always known her, that she never left this world. It’s like I was in front of a movie watching this woman running in this horrid forest, falling on the ground, her knee bleeding through her black tights. And she would stand up. And she would face German soldiers, loneliness, and life. And I would be there. In the same setting. She would look at me, smiling and would take my hand. I would follow her into the dense dark fields of Provence, fearing the wicked trees, crying a little bit when I would hear a noise. And then, I would understand that I had a duty, a goal. I needed to get out of this hell – no matter what. And I would walk by her side until she would let me go. I think this is what she would like. An independent young woman, walking alone in this declining society and still finding a way to be in the spotlight.

         Marie-Jeanne never died. She still lives on my heart and in my story – like an eternal figure of heroism.