Who knew two septuagenarians could be so damn relatable? I’m referring, of course, to the titular protagonists of the Netflix original series, Grace and Frankie, about two divorced 70-something women who embark on the next act of their lives after their husbands leave them for each other. By season 4 (landing on Netflix January 19) Grace Hanson and Frankie Bergstein, played by inimitable eternal badasses Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, 80 and 78 IRL respectively, have figured out how to live again after their lives imploded spectacularly and, against all odds, their journey is one of the ones on television to which I relate most. Here’s why.
They smash age stereotypes
Repeat after me: age doesn’t matter. You know when your mom and dad make some casual comment alluding to their sex life and it feels like someone splashed ice cold water on your face? That’s Grace and Frankie kind of all the time but with less secondhand embarrassment and more “yas queen” admiration. They don’t give an everloving eff what society deems “appropriate” or “normal” behaviour for a divorced grandmother in her early 70s and they follow their desires. It took Grace a couple of seasons to free herself from the shackles of the “shoulds” we’re all prisoners of (you know the ones, “I should be married by 30,” “I should be further ahead in my career now,” etc. etc. etc.), but by season 3, she’s living by her own rules—and wearing fewer uptight skirt suits.
I love this show because, put super simply, it’s about women doing shit and thinking in ways that society, for the most part, doesn’t think they should—or already do. They have sex, masturbate, smoke weed, worry about their boyfriends, heal from broken hearts and harbour secret crushes. They deal with their own mortality, navigate complicated family issues and figure out how to cope with depression. Grace and Frankie’s “advanced” age doesn’t matter and it’s a soothing reminder that in most ways (aside from, you know, how our actual bodies age), neither does yours.
They’re a testament to the fact that friendship isn’t dependent on sameness
Grace and Frankie are complete opposites in pretty much every way—Grace is the preppy, prissy, polished socialite, while Frankie’s the artsy, freewheelin’, cosmic hippie. When the show starts, these two women are little more than distant acquaintances whose husbands are best friends. But smashed together through crisis, they become each other’s fiercest ally—and greatest critic. They challenge each other and support each other and the goal is never to turn the other into a carbon copy of themselves. They meet in the middle, often. Their friendship isn’t a result of what they have in common, in fact, the strength of their bond depends largely on their differences. And although, sure, it can be harder to make friends as you get older, doesn’t it make you excited to think that your greatest friend could be someone you haven’t even met yet?
They are proof that we just keep learning
Grace and Frankie decide to start a vibrator company because there’s nothing out there serving their needs as sexual, albeit arthritic, women. Frankie alone is a lifelong artist, forever working on her craft. As 70-somethings, they’re still trying to figure out their paths and could not have it less “together” and that’s what’s inspiring. The notion that we’re all marching towards the goal of having our lives figured out (partner, career, home, kids) is actually a really limiting and depressing one, if you think about it. Because if you tick those boxes, what’s next, death?! Our girls Grace and Frankie are a delightful reminder that there’s always life after life.
As the daughter of an 80-year-old widower figuring out how to live, and thrive, in this act of his life, this hits especially close to home. After you lose one parent, it takes a lot of time and screw-ups before you figure out how to support your other parent in all the ways they need. At least in my case, navigating the transition from just being a daughter to being a daughter, and a friend, and a caregiver, has been complicated and at times messy, but in really understanding that my father is, first and foremost, a person (like Grace and Frankie are), we’ve reached a kind, loving place where we’re both OK.
And as someone who switched careers at 31, I’m also keenly aware that age is a suggestion, a rough guide to life that you can edit to suit your own path. You can take a sharp turn and start over at 31, 61 or 91—if you have the invaluable privilege of health and some financial freedom, of course. Grace and Frankie might be two fictional characters but they’re an inspiring admonition of something I’ve come to deeply understand: it’s literally never too late to begin again.
I Interviewed My Mom About Our Grace and Frankie Obsession
“I’m OK With Asking for What I Deserve:” Ellen Pompeo Is a Total Boss in New Interview
“We Were About to Shoot!”: SJP Spills on What Really Happened to Sex and the City 3