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Grace & Frankie – Ageism A+ Misogyny F-

Jacks Smack Pics 4

The binge-worthy, Netflix tv show Grace and Frankie, applauded by both young and old for delivering life affirming anti-ageism misses a huge mark in the realm of misogyny.

Do I dare critique or find fault in the first sitcom in 30 years to focus on older women? (Remember The Golden Girls?) I do. I do dare. 

A Quick Synopsis:

For anyone who is unfamiliar with Friend’s creator Kauffman’s recent runaway hit, Grace and Frankie, here’s a quick synopsis.

Grace, a retired business executive with an extensive cashmere sweater collection, and Frankie, replete with joint and dreadlocks, are the “new” Odd Couple. The show focuses on the unlikely friendship that blossoms and unfolds as they are forced into a relationship. Forced by the very nature of an all too familiar circumstance, a grey divorce. The two women find themselves unexpectedly “alone” after 40 years of marriage. The show is about refusing to accept a reductive view of aging. And in that category, I award them a gold star. 

Do I Expect Too Much?

Grace and Frankie are given carte blanche to be as “human” in their 70s as we are in our 20s”

Maybe I should just be “happy” that finally there is popular media, reaching both our young and old, that portrays actual “life-living” in our twilight-years. Grace and Frankie are given carte blanche to be as “human” in their 70s as we are in our 20s, 30s, et al. To some of our younger selves  that can be disappointing, potentially even scary. What? We don’t “figure it all out” by 70? I’m here to let our younger sisters know… “Nope, we don’t.”

But, here’s where my major disappointment lies. 

First, let’s suspend disbelief that neither wife was clever enough or “tuned in” enough to notice their husband’s long-term infidelity. As if. But, ok I can get past the representation of women being naive or gullible or unsuspecting. Done.

What Can I Not Get Past?

Gender equality gets a lot of lip service and the #MeToo-powered push makes us believe we are getting closer to parity. I believe there was a missed opportunity in setting up the original premise of the show. In my opinion, Kauffman fails us in the very first episode. In order for us to get to the “Grace and Frankie” part quickly we need to be rid of the husbands. I get that.

The creators want us to quickly see that the human condition of delights and disappointment is our birthright. No amount of aging or wisdom gathering can save us from ….well, being human.

I appreciate that insight. I applaud the show for taking us there. But what I don’t appreciate, nor applaud… is the REASON we get to voyeuristically participate in these two women’s thriving, yet odd, friendship, and “Lucy and Ethyl” type shenanigans.

The Men Decide.

This show could have tackled both ageism and sexism.”

Both women are “forced” into this scenario because the men decided to end the original relationship/lifestyle contract with each of them. Not once do we feel this is something either of these women would select for themselves. Their new fate is dictated by men. 

Maybe to some this is insignificant. Not worthy of much thought. It’s a simple, effective way to set the stage, to get us to the crux of the matter. The show, after all, is titled with the two women’s names. But, it sticks in my craw. This show could have tackled both ageism and sexism. But, it didn’t.

All that being said, I do love the show and appreciate the ageism busting predicaments and capers in which the two women find themselves. I even enjoy the color the gay ex-husbands provide. 

Nothing is perfect. There’s always room for improvement as we are reminded by watching life’s trials and tribulations continue for these new fangled “golden girls”. 

However, if Kauffman is looking for another hit, I have a suggestion. What about leading with choice? The woman’s choice. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I don’t have to patiently wait another 30 years to binge-watch that one. And there’s nothing wrong with getting straight As.


13 thoughts on “Grace & Frankie – Ageism A+ Misogyny F-

  1. Kim Cook says:

    I love all the messages that are entwined in this show. Life is messy and you never know where that mess may come from. I think Grace and Frankie did what was best for them given the circumstances they found themselves in.

    The show made me laugh and think. My husband and I watched it together, and had many discussions about it. I think that the show got people talking and that’s a plus!


  2. Melanie says:

    I never gave the show a chance. I only watched a couple episodes. This is making me reconsider and pick it back up. Thanks Jack!😘

  3. Michele says:

    I loved this show and watched it purely for entertainment purposes. However, I did enjoy seeing the women as they took their life situation in hand and made a new, wonderful life for themselves!

  4. Karen Diegelmann says:

    Jack, while I see your point of being disappointed and somewhat perturbed by the story line of Grace and Frankie being at the mercy of their ex-husbands’ decisions, immediate and long-term betrayal; I do cheer on these women as they take a hold of their lives and their choices of moving on with their lives in such a strong way. So many women in similar break-up situations crumble and turn the hatred and anger on themselves, “I should have seen this coming”, “I should have been more available”. You see this all the time.
    I was proud of Grace and Frankie as they stepped back into the business world, found new relationships, and knew they clearly were not the blame for their ex-husbands love affair. That, in itself, is a message to other women.
    Yes, we might have asked for more. I could envision an opening scene of these women finding out about the affair and immediately kicking the ex-husbands out of the beach house and claiming it as their own. I would have been proud of them and felt the strength behind their decision. It would have spoken to female viewers with a sense of power and ownership of themselves. Something we need to see more of these days.
    For now, I’m ready to binge Grace and Frankie for a second time to watch these women set sails and still be vibrant and leading very meaningful lives well into their seventies. I’m not quite there yet but watching the show has given me a new perspective of what my older life can entail, if I claim it and go after what I want.

    • Kuel Membership logo large
      Kuel Life says:

      Karen, so good to hear from you… I completely agree with your assessment on the show. I loved the show and watched the whole thing… so many great messages for all about leading a long, vibrant life. I chose a “chink in the armor” to write about…. well, because I thought it might be interesting and fun to take a different perspective. It was a good exercise for me… it made me “think” a bit… and, I do enjoy doing that…. every now and again.

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