'Grace And Frankie' Is Changing The Way We Look At Older Women's Sexual Desires
Grace and Frankie Season 3 premiered on Netflix on March 24 with legendary actors Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) together once again on-screen. The titular characters have been through a lot on the show — divorce, dating, making Yam lube — and Grace and Frankie Season 3 unapologetically portrays women's sexuality. The new season of the comedy series shows the two women in their 70s having active sex lives, embracing masturbation, and starting a business making sex toys aimed at older women. And it's so great to see Grace and Frankie's sex lives take center stage as a major storyline, rather than being played for laughs. SPOILERS ahead.
The opening shot of Grace & Frankie Season 3 is Frankie frolicking on the beach with animated dildos and vibrators in a dream sequence, setting the tone and letting the audience know that sex will be a big topic in subsequent episodes. Then, in the second episode of Season 3, Frankie pitches an easy-to-open condom for the sexually active older adult, because she and Jacob had struggled with their own. "Condoms are hell to open and having scissors on the bedside table just doesn't set the right tone," Frankie tells Grace.
In the following episode, Grace and Frankie express their excitement while opening a box filled with the Ménage à Mois, the vibrators they designed, and they openly discuss testing them out. Unfortunately, Grace and Frankie's attempt to introduce the vibrator to the Daytimers women's group doesn't go well. The women's group storms out of the get-together, clearly uncomfortable — echoing the reaction much of society has to the discussion of sex and masturbation for women, and older women even more so.
Grace and Frankie's open and honest portrayal of the topic is so great to see, because sex between older adults on television has been often been treated as either a joke or met with unwarranted disgust. Betty White has had many sexualized one-liners on the TV Land comedy Hot in Cleveland and on various other TV shows as a guest star. On NBC's Parks and Recreation, the 2012 episode "Sex Education" shows Andy (played by Chris Pratt) grossed out about the fact that the city's senior citizens are having sex while Leslie (Amy Poehler) lectures them about STDs and condoms (video below). The 2008 HBO drama Tell Me You Love Me received some criticism from the media about the series' portrayal of sex between an older couple (played by Jane Alexander and David Selby). In a New York Times review of the short-lived show, Alessandra Stanley wrote, "...When it comes to a white-haired, elderly couple, the camera looks away, sparing viewers the shock of seeing sagging bellies and wrinkled limbs in the throes of carnal bliss." Ouch.
Fast-forward to 2017: Grace and Frankie's characters have addressed the sex issues of older women without flinching or judgment — and that is so refreshing. In previous episodes, the series has tackled vaginal dryness, lubrication, and difficulty masturbating due to arthritis — which is the very issue that inspired the duo to start the sex toy company. It's so huge that Grace and Frankie is one of the few TV series that has two legendary women actors above 60 years of age who are able to about their sexuality openly, unapologetically — and without it being the butt of a joke.