The Netflix comedy drama GLOW has proven to be highly addictive binge-watching material, and not just for anyone who loves the '80s, spandex, sparkles and Sylvester. Alison Brie, who plays Ruth "Zoya the Destroya" Wilder recently pointed out to Entertainment Weekly that Debbie and Ruth are the will-they-won’t-they central dynamic of GLOW. There really isn’t much romance to speak of for the two leads — especially if you’re considering Debbie's estranged husband Mark — so the audience pines for Debbie and Ruth to reconcile their friendship enough that they can work together as a team and make the wrestling show a success.
However, that realistically isn’t something that can happen overnight. Even after their first show goes well in the season finale, learning to trust one another again is a process. Debbie makes sure to keep Ruth at arm’s length by letting her know:
“We’re not there yet.”
Yet, as fellow wrestler Steel Horse explains to Debbie about working with his so-called heel, you don’t need to like the person you’re working with in order to be successful together. So, as long as they both know their role, even broken friendships can lead to rewarding partnerships. From an intense reality show to a constantly unraveling clone conspiracy, the following five TV series present conflicting female leads who need to work together to achieve a common goal, just like the gorgeous ladies of GLOW.
5. Dear White People — Sam And Coco
Dear White People chronicles the experiences of a small community of black students attending an Ivy League university. Sam (Logan Browning), the university’s outspoken activist and DJ, is ultimately the focal point of the series, though each episode focuses on a different character. Sam is headstrong and believes her role on campus is speaking the truth to the masses. She does not suffer fools, but her image is undercut as she begins the season at odds with her activist friends because she's dating a white boy.
Sam’s friendship with Coco (Antoinette Robertson) is a complicated one that began during their freshman year and has continued to the present, with Coco outing Sam for engaging in a mixed-race relationship. Coco is a dark-skinned African-American woman who has only ever wanted to fit in, while Sam expends most of her energy trying to stand out. After initially becoming roommates and friends, a disagreement between the two regarding their disparate places at the university leads to their estrangement.
As their feud continues, tensions are rising on campus, and an incident between Sam’s best friend Reggie and a university cop sheds light on the bigger picture, the girls come to somewhat of an understanding. Although they may not agree on presentation and philosophy, they are ultimately on the same side.
4. Orphan Black — Sarah/Alison/Cosima/Rachel/Helena
While technically all the clones on Orphan Black share the same DNA, they are unique, with wildly different personalities and goals. Sarah, Cosima, Alison and (to some extent) Helena form the core group of clones all working to save their sisters from being killed off. As Cosima works to find a cure, and Sarah does the heavy lifting, Helena tends to be on the periphery (but is always ready to kick ass), and Alison often wants to be left out of the conspiracy drama, though she usually gives in, albeit begrudgingly.
Unsurprisingly, there are clones that do not support their sisters’ existence. Neolutionist Rachel was created to be elitist, believing that she alone was destined for greatness. For five seasons Rachel has actively worked against Sarah and her sisters' interests. Yet, for all of Rachel’s posturing and backdoor scheming, sometimes she needs to work with her sisters in order to save herself. As the fifth and final season ramps up, the girls must work together to save their very existence.
3. Crazyhead — Amy And Raquel
Despite the two women’s shared ability to see demons in their true form, Crazyhead's Amy and Raquel form an initially uneasy partnership. Raquel is socially awkward in a way that comes across as unhinged to Amy, who has trouble believing that Raquel is telling the truth, especially when considering Raquel's court-mandated therapy. Once it becomes clear the demons are real and she can definitely see them, they decide to work together to fight the forces of darkness.
Yet, their friendship is not without its bumps in the road. Raquel performs an exorcism on Amy’s best friend Suzanne that goes terribly wrong, leading to a very complicated and stressful experience. They eventually move past it, but it still isn't without its consequences. Later, Raquel is upset when Amy has a portentous dream and tells her that she does not trust Raquel’s new boyfriend. Once Raquel realizes the truth, Amy does not hesitate to show up to help her friend. They work together to finally take down the forces of darkness trying to pull their world apart.
2. Unreal — Rachel And Quinn
Perhaps more than any series on this list, Unreal showcases the incredibly twisted partnership between Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer’s manipulative and ambitious producers Rachel and Quinn. Zimmer's Quinn is the creative force behind their dating competition reality show, but Rachel skillfully manipulates the cast behind the scenes in order for Quinn’s vision to come to life. When the two put their heads together to plot out their ideas, someone is likely to end up in tears, but they both always have each other’s backs.
Unreal creator Sarah Gertrude Shapiro told TV Guide:
“We always say [Quinn and Rachel are] the couple. They're each other's soul mates."
Yet, Quinn is still Rachel’s boss, and as a result they clearly have a very complicated partnership. Rachel tries to quit the show after Quinn destroys her relationship with bachelor Adam, but she eventually forgives her. Though they have a dysfunctional relationship, they are the main focus of the series, and no matter what happens between them, they always come back to each other.
1. Feud — Bette And Joan
Feud is based on the real-life saga of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s experience filming Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and the subsequent events, including their notorious experience at that year's Oscars. It also showcases two powerfully independent women at the nadir of their careers who needed to work together for success. Of course, that doesn’t mean they worked well together. In their case, the women were not friends to begin with, so they tried to sabotage each other along the way, even after filming was complete.
Neither Bette nor Joan wanted the other to succeed, but Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? turned out to be a success anyway. Davis was nominated for an Oscar for her role and Crawford was snubbed. But instead of make a fuss, she had a trick up her sleeve — she offered to accept the award on behalf of any of the other lead actress nominees should they win and be unable attend.
Anne Bancroft accepted Crawford’s offer, as she was acting on Broadway and could not attend the ceremony at the time. Bancroft won, so Crawford sauntered up to the stage to smugly accept the award on her behalf. That personal affront would be the last straw for Davis and the two would never work together again.
Many of these women were able to overcome personal betrayals or intentional sabotage, but not all friendships are destined to last. In GLOW, Debbie and Ruth began as best friends, but Ruth’s betrayal cost them that mutual trust and intimacy. It might be possible that they recover from it, but future reconciliation is left open at the end of the season.
We must continue to explore female friendship in popular culture. There are many series that depict two friends against the world, like Playing House or #BroadCity, but not all friendships are as easy as those. GLOW gives audiences the rare pleasure of watching conflicted female friendship explored through the traditionally male-dominated world of '80s wrestling.
Jenji Kohan continues to produce wonderful female-helmed projects, like Orange is the New Black. #OITNB focuses on the struggle of women in a stressful and often tortuous environment who ultimately need to get along if they are going to survive together. Really, we must all work together to achieve our collective goals and it would be incredible if it was reflected more on television.
What other series would you add to the list? Sound off in the comments below.