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02nd May 2022

Grace and Frankie’s last-ever episodes are here – and why this show was so important

Trine Jensen-Burke

Grace and Frankie

Emotional support witches indeed.

This week saw the release of the last four (ever) episodes of Grace and Frankie, Netflix’s longest-ever running original series, with 94 episodes in total, spanning seven(!) years.

From the show premiered in 2015, it captured hearts across the world. Strange, maybe, considering pop culture’s – and the entertainment world’s – obsession with youth – and here was a show about a group of people in their 70s, navigating ageing, divorce, illness, retirement and what it is really like facing into your life’s winter.

If you have yet to watch – and fall in love with – the show, Grace and Frankie, played by no other than veteran actresses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, are the former wives of law firm partners Robert (Martin Sheen) and Sol (Sam Waterston), who come out to their wives and admit that not only are they gay, they have in fact been having an affair for 20 years. And now, they inform their wives, they want to finally be together for real – and get married.

By the end of the first episode, Grace and Frankie find themselves single for the first time in about 40 years. And not only that, but they also discover that following their husbands’ revelation, they both want to move out of their respective marital homes and lay claim to the San Diego beach house the two couples had bought together years ago.

The twist? The two women have never really liked each other much, with Grace being a prim and proper country club attending businesswoman, and Frankie a crystal-earing artist hippie.

However – suddenly they find themselves having been dealt the same card, and over the next episodes, Grace and Frankie end up becoming more than just reluctant roomies. They become best friends.

And, in turn, they forgive their ex-husbands and figure out how to move on with their lives. They learn how to be independent and self-sufficient – at almost 80. Oh, and let’s not forget – they also fight ageism, from their children and from society. They date. They have sex. They help each other through injuries and illness. They start a business. They adapt.

And maybe this, as it turns out, is the real lesson in Grace and Frankie – and why women – and men too – across the world – fell in love with the two leading ladies.

Why we need Grace and Frankie

Before she began shooting season two of the series, Fonda posted on her blog that she was surprised at the feedback she’d received from across generations — especially from younger women, who didn’t have the problem of divorce, or the worry of grown – but dependent – children.

“A lot of older women say to me and to Lily, ‘You know, you gave me hope. I can now see that there could be a future,’ ” Fonda told back when season two came out.

However, as someone who still is a fairly long way away from my 70s myself, maybe the real reason so many of us millennials (and Gen z’s too) loved Grace and Frankie so much is that at the heart of things, it was about friendship, family – and facing adversity and embracing – and thriving on – change.

Somehow, the show managed to put the right amount of comedy around some pretty serious topics – without ever trivialising them. And honestly, as my friends and I, all in our 30s and early 40s, agree, Grace and Frankie made us fear getting older much less.

It was a show that suddenly showed us that life doesn’t end after you get married and have babies – and your –supposed – happy ever after. This was a show that put female empowerment and friendship first – like Sex and the City, but for women in their 70s.

Speaking of friendship, in a Ted conversation last year, Fonda said she didn’t know where she would be without her women friends — including Tomlin, who has been her close friend since they filmed 9 to 5 together nearly 40 years ago.

“They make me stronger, they make me smarter, they make me braver. They tap me on the shoulder when I’m in need of course-correcting.”

Age positive

There is no denying that the vast majority of characters on TV – especially women – are of a certain age. And that age, as we all know, is not all that old at all.

Grace and Frankie did some big things for representation – suddenly we saw old women not just as grandmothers – although they were that too – but as vibrant, lively women, who dated, got drunk, did weed, worked, and refused to be cast aside and deemed invisible just because they were older.

They take road trips, they chase old lost-loved, they have sex, they dance on tables, they do business, they parent their adult children, they fall, they fail, they get back up – and all through it, they lean on each other – as the best friend soulmates they end up becoming.

“How do I explain to my children that their grandma makes sex toys for other grandmas?” Grace’s daughter Mallory asks her in one episode, after Grace and Frankie declare they are going into business to make vibrators for older women together.

“I’ll tell you what you can tell them, honey,” Grace responds. “We’re making things for people like us. Because we are sick and tired of being dismissed by people like you.”

A summary really, on the importance of a show like Grace and Frankie. A call for visibility – and space. Of refusing to be ignored just because you are not young anymore. And a promise to young people that life doesn’t end at 40. or 50. Or even 60 or 70. The only constant in our lives is change – everything changes and life keeps moving forward and all we can do is hang on, embrace change, have fun – and make sure we have some good people around us to do it all with.