May 25, 2022

Netflix’s Grace and Frankie has been delighting viewers for seven wonderful seasons. Starring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin in the titular roles, the show is ostensibly about two very different senior citizens learning to navigate life together as newly single women after their husbands suddenly announce that they’ve secretly been in a gay relationship for the past 20 years and are now looking to make it official.

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Yet Grace and Frankie penetrates the cultural psyche by pushing the boundaries of the jilted woman television trope and diving deep into rich and powerful female friendship. The show transcends age and ensures Grace and Frankie are empowered and vital. Thanks to a talented cast, we watch Grace and Frankie continue to grow and learn even late in life. They are sexual, entrepreneurial, complex human beings, but perhaps most of all, they are bitingly funny, as evidenced by episodes jam-packed with funny quotes impossible to forget.

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“Would you mind taking me back home…or setting me on fire?” – Grace

Despite years as a successful businesswoman and a haughty, WASPy wife, Grace is still a reluctant social animal at best. Her purse vodka helps her cope, but when she’s stuck in a sticky situation, she’s at her most relatable.

Some social situations are so awkward, escape or bursting into flames seem like equally viable options. Grace is by no means the only person to feel this way, but she may be the only one to say so out loud, to her host.

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“I gained another pound today. But I think it’s a pound of knowledge.” – Frankie

Though Grace formerly ran a beauty empire (and her daughters still do), the show has never shied away from confronting impossible beauty standards with its trademark humorous sneer.

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Frankie, once a hippie, still a hippie, is especially good at skewering social beauty standards. Though astute viewers might be inclined to attribute any weight gain to her devoted inhalation of Doritos, it’s refreshing to see it embraced as a positive, as a symbol of experience accrued.


“I like you, you like my dog, we both hate Sharon. Why isn’t that enough?” – Brianna

Why not indeed. Grace’s eldest daughter, Brianna (June Diane Raphael), is acerbic, scathing, and a deeply avowed non-people-person. Cutting and to the point, Brianna has perhaps the sharpest barbs in the whole clan.

While couched in her normal flippancy, this quote belies some surprising emotional vulnerability from Brianna. Making connections is hard for her, and though her tone runs sarcastic, the meaning behind it is sincere. Brianna’s heart is surrounded by some extremely tall, solid walls, and ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is possibly the best she can do. Learning that it isn’t good enough gives viewers a brief view of a tiny crack in her designer armor.


“You can’t go crazy every time an old person doesn’t answer their phone. Either we don’t want to or we don’t know how.” – Robert

No one under 40 has made or answered a phone call in a decade, but thanks to Robert (Martin Sheen), fans now know that even old people let a call go to voice mail once in a while.

Turns out, the existential dread induced by audacious unknown numbers is universal across all age groups. However, due to constant access and availability, so is the expectation that if someone is not immediately reachable, they must be dead in a ditch.

“If anyone’s going to sit on Ryan Gosling’s face, it’s gonna be me!” – Grace

Give her credit for calling dibs. Grace and Frankie may not be spring chickens, but their libidos are enjoying a second summer. These are, after all, the women who invented orthopedic vibrators so those with arthritic hands could still masturbate.

Keep in mind that Grace and Frankie have spent decades married to and sleeping with gay husbands. It’s likely safe to assume their sex lives were neither passionate nor satisfying; both were due for a sexual renaissance. It’s beautiful to see them embrace it, even as they confront aging and faltering bodies.

“I’m not without cheer. I’m a little down. It’s an honest down, and since you are so up, there’s a homeostatic balance.” – Frankie

This is a sneakily thoughtful and reassuring quote. Frankie is usually a sarcastic ray of sunshine, but in this case, she’s not only down, but she’s also okay with it.

Grace is trying to cheer her up, but Frankie lets her know that it’s okay to be sad sometimes. The show subtly plays a part in normalizing mood fluctuations and dismantles toxic positivity. It’s okay to not be okay.


“Have you ever wondered if Ben and Jerry make more than ice cream together?” – Frankie

This flight of fancy is more in line with Frankie’s usual musings. Ben and Jerry are notorious hippie ice cream makers and if there’s anything Frankie likes better than a fellow disruptor of conventional values, it’s junk food.

The quote is particularly funny, however, because Grace and Frankie have of course spent some 40 years married to men they never suspected of being gay despite some pretty convincing evidence. With that life experience behind them, they’re reevaluating all sorts of preconceived notions. Just wait until someone tells them about Bert and Ernie.

In response to Frankie’s accusation that she loves not being nice to people: “I don’t love it. I’m just really good at it.” – Grace

One of the great things about Grace and Frankie is that it’s a show about being true to yourself. When Sol (Sam Waterston) and Robert leave their wives and come out of the closet in their 70s, they are, for the first time, allowed to show their authentic selves.

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This applies to the other characters in the show as well. Grace is allowed to not only own her flaws but be celebrated for them if they’re what make her special. Grace and Frankie is a rejection of conventional moral judgments and gender norms. These ladies learn to embrace their true selves while refusing the shame of non-conformity.

On being told to take it down a notch: “You take it down a notch. You’re not the boss of my notches.” – Frankie

Grace and Frankie has crafted the perfect rejoinder to the sexist notion of women being too emotional or hysterical. Most people only think of the perfect comeback hours after an altercation, but fans live vicariously through Frankie as she snaps this one right back.

This is a solution to a real-world problem; the quote deserves to be cross-stitched on pillows, made into bumper stickers, and printed on coffee mugs. Frankie has officially lived long enough to realize that no man should get to dictate her moods.

“All those years I thought you were stuck up and boring as shit. It turns out you were stuck up and interesting as shit.” – Frankie

At the beginning of this series, Grace and Frankie had spent decades in each other’s company but had never gotten along. Only the dissolution of both their marriages and a lack of housing alternatives brought them together, but the blossoming of a genuine friendship has kept them together.

The show may have been built upon the premise of their husbands wanting to be together, but in the end, Grace and Frankie have built an equally close and compelling relationship. Husbands come and go; it’s female friendships that endure. Grace and Frankie pays a seven season tribute to them.

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