In GLOW‘s campy wrestling world of heroes and villains, Debbie plays headliner Liberty Belle, a woman who fights for good old-fashioned American values and looks fabulous doing it. She particularly enjoys serving up a slice of humble pie to her biggest foe, the maniacal Russian, Zoya the Destroya.
But while Liberty Belle may be the noblest hero of all, when Debbie steps out of the ring and wipes off her red, white, and blue eyeshadow, she can be a major villain. Life imitates art as Debbie feuds with the real-life Zoya, played by Ruth Wilder. Debbie and Ruth used to be BFFs until Ruth sleeps with Debbie’s husband. That’s a mighty fine reason to be ticked off, but Debbie’s revenge efforts often go too far.
This is what makes GLOW such a fantastic show. Inside the ring, roles are black-and-white. But in the real world, determining who’s a hero and who’s a villain is never that simple. So, where does Debbie land? Here is GLOW: 5 Reasons Debbie Is The Show’s Hero (And 5 Why She’s The Villain).
10 Villain: Thinks Wrestling Is Beneath Her
Unlike the other GLOW girls who auditioned for the show, Debbie gets in by happenstance. She tracks Ruth down to confront her about sleeping with Mark, and the two former friends square off. Director Sam Silvia is so titillated he invites Debbie onto the show. Sensing the perfect opportunity to spite Ruth, Debbie stays.
What follows for the first half of Season 1 is Debbie’s cloyingly dismissive attitude of wrestling. It makes sense to want to settle the score with Ruth, but Debbie’s attitude is also wildly inconsiderate of the other girls. They have to live with second billing to a diva who prances around with her nose in the air. Eventually, Carmen takes Debbie to a real match, and, when Debbie sees the parallels between wrestling and soap operas, she begins to respect the sport more. But since Debbie made a commitment to GLOW, it shouldn’t have taken that much convincing.
9 Hero: She Divorces Her Cheating Husband
While Debbie comes around on wrestling, it takes Mark much longer. Given the hurtfulness of his actions, one would think he’d be totally supportive of Debbie finding a creative outlet to take her mind off her problems. But he’s completely disparaging.
On Paradise Cove, Debbie was expected to be the demure, obedient actress. At home, Mark expects her to be content with being a wife and mother. But GLOW provides Debbie with the most rewarding experience of her life. She realizes her worth both personally and professionally. This is Debbie’s primary reason for leaving Mark, even above his philandering. Mark may have tried to lock Debbie in a cage, but she’s much more at home behind the pink ropes of the ring.
8 Villain: Steals Liberty Belle…
When you’re the star, you don’t have to do your homework—you get the underlings to do it for you. Producer Bash Howard instructs the girls to audition their wrestling personas, and Olympic medalist Reggie Walsh presents Liberty Belle, an All-American athlete. When Bash and Sam are unconvinced by Reggie’s flat delivery, Debbie sees a golden opportunity, whispering to Bash that she would like to play Liberty Belle.
Seconds later, Debbie’s camera-ready, complete with Reggie’s medals. She wins the part of Liberty Belle, while a Viking hat is slapped on Reggie, aka Vicky the Viking. While Liberty Belle may believe hard work is the only way to achieve the American Dream, Debbie the heel finds that stealing works even better.
7 Hero: …And Becomes A Star
So Debbie may not be the most honorable when it comes to getting what she wants, but you can’t deny that the woman gets results. She makes Liberty Belle come alive in a way that the deadpanning Reggie never could. Debbie’s performance, complete with a Southern accent that sounds like a parody of Gone with the Wind, is the perfect blend of endearing and pure cornball.
True, Debbie had the lead role handed to her, but, had she sucked, she never would have been able to keep it. Debbie proves her merit as GLOW‘s leading lady. And, as Liberty Belle would tell you, the best stars go with stripes.
6 Villain: Sabotages Ruth’s Date
After their public scuffle, Debbie takes a decidedly frosty attitude towards Ruth. Who can blame her? But, when divorce proceedings begin in Season 2, Debbie becomes much more hostile. She dangles potential friendship like a string in front of a cat, knowing Ruth will pounce on it.
In Debbie’s eyes, Ruth doesn’t deserve happiness ever again. When it looks like she might find it with sweetheart camera guy Russell, Debbie throws herself in the path of this potential romance. Knowing that Ruth and Russell have a date lined up, Debbie deliberately makes Ruth stay behind at work after hours. We can sympathize with Debbie wanting to punish Ruth, but there should be a statute of limitations on this kind of petty behavior.
5 Hero: Makes Herself A Producer
Unlike her other ventures, Debbie doesn’t become a producer solely to one-up Ruth—though that’s definitely a perk. Instead, Debbie thinks she deserves better than the terms of her new contract and sets out to achieve just that. While Mark may have been a lousy husband, he’s a decent businessman, and Debbie uses him to land a dinner with network executive Glen Klitnick and his wife Jodi.
Over wine and candlelight, Debbie turns on the charm, especially toward Jodi. Her effort pays off, and, in Debbie’s most badass moment of the series, she triumphantly tells cranky Sam that she doesn’t want to be a producer—she is a producer.
GLOW is chock full of strong, tough women, making it a paradox that they work for a bunch of men. With Debbie’s persistence, she helps tip the scale.
4 Villain: Blames Ruth For Not “Taking One For The Team”
Debbie is under no obligation to rekindle her friendship with Ruth. If she wants, Debbie can choose to hate Ruth for the rest of her life. But, when Ruth shares an extremely traumatic experience, Debbie’s reaction is beyond abhorrent.
When GLOW is rescheduled to the 2:00 AM kiss-of-death time slot, the girls are left reeling. Ruth explains to Debbie this is the result of her refusal to sleep with network president Tom Grant after he came onto her. Even with her past grievances, Debbie should be sympathetic to Ruth. Instead, Debbie rips into her for not going through with the proposition in order to save the show.
From Debbie’s perspective, Ruth has no sexual morals. If she can wreck a marriage, why not have sex for a worthy cause? But what Debbie’s not sensitive enough to realize is that, as destructive as it was, the sex between Ruth and Mark was mutually consensual. On the other hand, Tom attempted to wield his power over Ruth, an employee, making it sexual harassment. It shouldn’t take a hero to figure that out.
3 Hero: Excels At Being A Producer
Just because Debbie is able to negotiate her way into becoming a producer doesn’t guarantee that she’ll be a good one. But not only does she prove herself in her own right, but she’s also better than Bash. While trying to save GLOW, Bash tries to explain a convoluted scheme inspired by Muppets Take Manhattan. Debbie quickly deduces that Bash is referring to a whisper campaign, and they put their plan into action at a local TV convention.
Overall, Debbie has excellent business sense and public relations abilities. When Carmen steals her brothers’ signature moves for the show, they kick up a fuss on finale night. But producer Debbie smoothly sweet-talks them into a compromise. GLOW may be perpetually on the verge of extinction, but, with Debbie in its corner, it always has a fighting chance.
2 Villain: Breaks Ruth’s Ankle
Debbie’s reign of terror over Ruth climaxes in a bone-breaking crescendo. After discovering that Mark has a new girlfriend, Debbie has a meltdown. Minutes before a big match against Ruth, Debbie decides to take the edge off by helping herself to Sam’s cocaine stash.
This does not take the edge off. Quite the opposite. In the ring, Debbie is a coked-up rage machine, and Ruth is a perfect outlet for her anger. With Ruth immobilized, Debbie gets ultimate vengeance, snapping her enemy’s ankle.
With this despicable stunt, Debbie kisses any audience sympathy goodbye. This isn’t a heat of the moment slap; the injury almost torpedoes Ruth’s career. Rather than tripping over herself to apologize, Debbie takes her sweet time joining the others in the hospital. When alone with Ruth, the two square off in a verbal smackdown even more intense than their fight in the ring. It takes a special kind of villain to be both aggressor and victim, but Debbie manages to pull it off.
1 Heroa: Forgives Ruth
Eventually, Debbie is able to snap out of her sociopathic fever dream and realize she crossed a serious line. She goes back to the hospital and apologizes to Ruth via signing her cast. The ex-besties are able to bury the hatchet and work together in filming the show’s final episodes. Behind the scenes, Debbie is even graceful enough to express her happiness that Ruth has resumed her relationship with Russell.
Debbie has suffered some tough breaks and brutal betrayals, but, by staying down in the dumps, she’s her worst self because she wants to drag others down with her. However, when she’s able to toss her woes aside and keep her chin up, Debbie is able to achieve anything she wants, and that makes her even more of a hero than Liberty Belle.
NEXT: GLOW: 5 Best (& 5 Worst) Relationships