Dear Grace & Frankie,
I hit the Big 5-0 three years ago and was noticing a lack of representation in my media, believing I had found media’s blind spot and, hence, finding few roles where I felt a sense of kinship and sisterhood. Although there were a few standout actresses such as Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, and Emma Thompson, where were all of the fifty-something women portraying fifty-something characters? Then, I thought about women in their 60s and 70s, and the future was not looking all that bright as I headed towards my twilight years. But, then along came a little Netflix series in 2015.
The Netflix series, Grace and Frankie (starring real life friends Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin), follows your journey through divorce from your husbands, who want to marry one another after having been secretly in love for decades. Through the first four seasons, you have both been through heartache, illness, sadness, loss, but also found love and created business opportunities and, most importantly, friendship. Through your journey of personal growth, you both broke down a number of ageism myths. For example, both of you found love and sex, shattering the illusion that libidos become silent as we age. Another myth is that aging brings with it loneliness and depression; however, you each found a friend in each other even though you are both very different people with different points of view. (Perhaps proving that opposites do attract?)
It is also a myth that with age, one becomes less creative and less productive; however, Grace, you invented an older woman’s vibrator, and, Frankie, painting has continued to be a creative outlet for you, proving that one is never too old to engage in creative expressions and have an art show! Perhaps the only myth that may persist on the show is the ongoing challenge of getting older dulling one’s mental capabilities. For example, Frankie, you have issues with getting lost while driving and, when it comes to Grace, a contractor takes advantage of your past relationship with a lover who died. I think this myth endures for its narrative and comedic gold that results from playing with this stereotype. In spite of this aspect, even though you are both about two decades ahead of me, you are paving the way for me and the rest of us in Generation X. So, thank you for not being afraid to show not only frailty, but also strength. Instead of succumbing longstanding ageism myths and going silently into the night, you are crushing the stereotypes and seeking to be seen and heard!
In solidarity and sisterhood,