Before Netflix’s new wrestling series Glow involves any spandex leotards, we meet protagonist and struggling actress Ruth Wilder at a humiliating audition. She’s seemingly killing it — all hammy rage and bravado — before a producer casually tells her she’s reading the man’s part. Embarrassed, she finds the correct part and nails that too: “Sorry to interrupt, your wife is on line two.”
Even though Glow is set in the ’80s, that scene captures the kind of sexism that we still see too often in today’s Hollywood. Despite shows like this one and Orange is the New Black creating difficult, complex roles for women, there are still mainstream movies like Transformers: The Last Knight that are casually dismissive of their female characters, and others, like Suicide Squad, that engage in pretty blatant misogyny.
Betty Gilpin, who plays Glow’s Liberty Belle, is all too familiar with these disparities. The actress spoke to Mic recently about sexism in Hollywood, and honed in on what exactly needs to change, saying:
I think it’s two steps forward, one step back. My agent will send me a script and I’ll be so excited about it and it’s like, ‘We broke through and now there’s only female roles that are three dimensional and complicated and represent what I see in my daily life!’ And then I’ll get a script for a movie that’s like, [Gilpin adopts Valley Girl voice], ‘She’s a stripper ... And even though she’s addicted to crack, her gorgeousness shines through.’
Gilpin also pointed out the insanity of sexualizing even maternal figures.
I read a script once where the character of Paul Giamatti’s mother — Paul Giamatti’s mother — was described as like, ‘There’s still something about her.’ There’s always that little thing in the character description of like, ‘She’s old, but don’t worry, you still wanna have sex with her.’
Gilpin, who recently penned an essay for Glamour about how Glow helped her achieve confidence in her body and career, told Mic she has a new outlook on her life and career now.
Glow has completely changed the way that I exercise and think about my body. You know, I work with a trainer, Cadence Dubus at Brooklyn Strength, and we talk more about the weird clicking sound in my knee and how I just need to be aligned and how I want to be able to jump higher. And kick higher. Like, we never talk about my waistline ... I used to think of my body as a resume, a ‘special skill’ that I was sort of ashamed of, and tried not to think about, and now I think of my body in a way more powerful way. And I just stand taller.
Gilpin’s next role is opposite Rebel Wilson in Isn’t it Romantic, in which her shy character becomes trapped in a romantic comedy and, according to Gilpin, becomes a mix of “Maleficent and Kourtney Kardashian.”
You’ll notice she didn’t add “but there’s still something about her.”
Mic has ongoing coverage of GLOW. Check out our main GLOW hub here.