It is no great secret that aging is looked upon with disdain. People pay a lot of money to hide their age, undergoing elective surgeries, spending a fortune on serums and creams to try and reverse the physical toll that being alive takes on our bodies. I’m fairly young, so my perspective is admittedly skewed as to the actual effects aging has on the body and the mind, but from where I am standing at a fresh 32-years-old, aging is essentially what all of us aim for, right?
Wrong. Were that the case, the ‘anti-aging’ phenomenon wouldn’t be such a booming industry. We want to live long lives, sure, but we don’t want the evidence of those lives to show on our faces. Characters the age of 60 and up are portrayed on screen as slow drains on society, and NEVER are they showcased as innovative, sexual humans with the same human needs and desires as everyone else. Well, until ‘Grace and Frankie’, that is.
In case you have committed a heinous pop culture crime and are not yet familiar with Netflix’s original series starring Jane Fonda (Grace), Lily Tomlin (Frankie), Sam Waterston (Sol), Martin Sheen (Robert), Ethan Embry (Coyote), Baron Vaughn (Bud), Brooklyn Decker (Mallory), and June Diane Raphael (Brianna), let me give you a quick rundown:
Sol and Frankie, and Robert and Grace, have been married for 40 years. For the entirety of those 40 years, Sol and Robert have been partners at their law firm where they practice divorce law. 20 years into that working relationship, Sol and Robert realized that they were in love, and started a sordid extramarital affair. After spending their entire lives in the closet, and wasting away their lives in sham marriages while looking 70 straight in the eyes, Robert and Sol told their wives about the affair, divorced said wives, moved in with each other and got married. Despite not being terribly close friends, seeing as Grace is the upstanding WASP to Frankie’s pot-smoking, free-spirited hippie, the “exes” move into the beach house they own together and forge an unlikely, but treasured alliance and friendship.
Let’s start with the most obvious of the groundbreaking themes within that short synopsis: Sol and Robert. While it is terribly sad that they spent probably more than a third of their lives hiding who they really were because they were ashamed, when have you ever seen a couple of men aged 70+ being portrayed as anything other than “grandpa”? Robert and Sol are very much in love. They fight, they kiss, they cuddle, they joke, they make love, they play and are genuinely adorable together. The chemistry between Sheen and Waterston is astounding.
Then we move on to the real stars of the show: Grace and Frankie. These women had to come to terms with the fact that their husbands were not only leaving them, but had been lying to them for their entire marriages. Those first few weeks of cohabitation in the beach house were rough on both of them, and they certainly did not start out as friends. But, eventually, they accepted that their situations and lives were too similar not to have at least a little bit of common ground. Pretty soon, that common ground blossomed into a deep friendship and a mutual love and respect for one another.
Grace and Frankie are also innately sexual. Grace dates a guy played by Craig T. Nielson for a while, and even reunites with a past love, perhaps her one-true-love, before walking away because he actually happened to be married to a woman that was terminally ill. Frankie puttered around for a while before finally opening her eyes and seeing just how absolutely smoking hot Ernie Hudson (Jacob) still is. She opens herself up to the possibility of love again, and finds it with Jacob at 72-years-old.
To make them even more badass, Grace and Frankie recognize a terrible lack of sex toys for the arthritically impaired, and engineer a vibrator tailored specifically for older women. It is a nearly perfect product, and Grace and Frankie are a nearly perfect pair.
‘Grace and Frankie’ is changing the way we all look at aging. Crossing the threshold of 60 does not mean one is doomed to a life without sex, passion, excitement, or adventure. And, to be honest, we can all learn from the bravery of Grace and Frankie. Young or old, we could all stand to be a little bit braver. It doesn’t hurt that Fonda and Tomlin are two of the most extraordinary artists to ever grace the screen, but they bring these characters to life in such a rich and beautiful way that it is impossible to look away.
The show itself is sharp and hysterically funny, while also remaining endearing and impossibly relatable. “Grace and Frankie” is a fantastic show on its own, even without its masterful interpretation of a notoriously trite subject matter– their perfect portrayal of life after youth is just the icing on top of an already sinfully decadent cake.