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.