As fans no doubt already know, Netflix has canceled Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch’s GLOW ahead of its fourth season, which had already begun filming. In “hopes of transparency making things better for all,” actress Sunita Mani, who played wrestler Arthie Premkumar from the show’s inception, posted to Instagram a letter she and five co-stars, all women of color, sent to the show’s creators and executives producers during the show’s COVID-19 hiatus challenging GLOW to live up the promise of its premise.
“GLOW has been marketed as a diverse ensemble, but for all of us diverse cast members, it has never lived up to these ideals,” their letter reads. “Since Season 1, the show has planted racial stereotyping into our character’s existence, yet your storylines are relegated to the sidelines in dealing with this conflict or have left us feeling like checked-boxes on a list. Unfortunately, we feel that the promise of this show has not been fulfilled.”
For example, many of GLOW’s female wrestlers of color were, in the world of the series, saddled with racially offensive, era-appropriate in-ring personas. Mani’s Arthie, while Indian American, is cast as “Beirut the Mad Bomber.” Without actually exploring their characters’ journey navigating that racism, however, the cast’s letter explains, the show had effectively pigeonholed them in a way not dissimilar to how the actual Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling might have done in the past.
The letter’s six authors point to “zero persons of color in the writer’s room” for GLOW’s fourth season as a “huge oversight.” They ask that concrete steps be taken to improve representation on the show, including hiring an executive producer or consulting producer of color, narratively addressing how playing racial stereotypes would actually impact their characters’ lives, and increasing “our voices and our importance in the season narrative.” The letter is signed by Mani, Sydelle Noel, Britney Young, Kia Stevens, Ellen Wong, and Shakira Barrera.
According to Mani, while she was “so afraid to speak on these issues to my bosses,” the show’s creators and executive producers were receptive to the constructive criticism and were “in the process of making Season 4 reflect some of the systemic problems we outlined.” Unfortunately, Netflix’s decision to cancel the show quashed GLOW’s chance at giving its characters of color their due, an outcome Mani feels is a more modern aspect of the same ever-present problem in entertainment.
“I can’t help but think that a show that tried to tackle themes surrounded women in Hollywood and loaded racial stereotypes - the RELEVANT, precise moment we are in 30+ years later - that sought to imbue within each of us as a cast and hopefully as a viewer a sense of pride in who you are, COME AS YOU ARE, ultimately got quashed by … a Netflix corporate algorithm?”
Writes the actress, “I’ve included the letter because it encapsulates such a personal journey of GLOW and Season 4 would have been such a catharsis; posting this is acting as some personal closure for me.” You can read her full post, as well as the cast letter, below.