I was late to Grace And Frankie. I decided to start a Netflix binge long after the initial hype surrounding its release had died down, and now all I can think is, why don’t more people talk about this?
After The Golden Girls, I can think of no other TV show that focuses solely on glorious women older women or any woman over 70. But Grace And Frankie is a show that’s a taboo-breaker in the best possible sense. Sure, from the outset it’s a glossy US sitcom – yes, characters are rich and white, but they are also women going through very real issues that society shuns away from once you’re over 50. The Netflix series is now on its third season, and the show can be summed up by the climatic speech from the season 2 finale: “We’re making things for people like us because we’re sick and tired of being dismissed by people like you.” Oh, in case you’re wondering the things they want to make are vibrators and other sexually liberating products tailored to women their age (that are dishwasher safe, an added bonus) – and it makes for ground-breaking viewing. It’s also painfully relevant because our culture has always dismissed the older woman, something the show (much like Apple Tree Yard) seeks to change.
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play Grace and Frankie, women in their 70s whose husbands, Robert and Sol, have left them to marry each other. Grace and Frankie start out as rivals, but both undergo personal reinvention, eventually becoming roommates, best friends and business partners. But it isn’t just that they are selling vibrators for older women in season three, it’s the fact that the entire series normalises conversations that are usually shunned when it comes to women at 70 and over. They both unashamedly talk freely about their ambitions, their sex lives, masturbation and their bodies with a matter-of-factness I’ve never seen until now. And it’s hilarious when it needs to be, smart and wonderfully acted.
It isn’t all about sex and men (though there’s plenty of both) of those; things like money, grandchildren, business, friendship, personal reinvention, palm oil, lube and arthritis are all brought up as freely as the other. They are talking about these issues as all women should, age be damned, because we all talk about them in our every day lives. Why should a number stop you from wanting to have an orgasm? Or why should you feel ashamed because you might prefer a cocktail over children? These are the kind of questions the series is built upon. I’m only in my thirties, but if this is older age, I feel more than fine about it.
The show feels liberating and fresh, regardless of the fact that I’m the age I am and that only adds to its appeal. It doesn’t present ageing as a stereotype; something to be feared and dreaded. It’s an enlightening moment in pop culture, and we need more of these moments.
“One of the things that Lily and I are proud of – and want to continue with – is showing that you may be old, you may be in your third act, but you can still be vital and sexual and funny,” said Fonda, on the show. “Life isn’t over.”
Life it seems, only gets better as you work your way through the acts.
Grace and Frankie (seasons 1-3) is available now on Netflix