Grace and Frankie
I’d read numerous articles on the upcoming Netflix series. I watched several interviews with Jane Fonda before the series aired. I watched the trailer a dozen times before I wrote an article shortly before the premiere. As with every movie or television show about gays and lesbians coming out, I had mixed feelings. I also had great hopes. Would there finally be a fair representation of the Straight Spouse experience?
It was with some trepidation that I finally held the remote control and pointed to Netflix. The intro was clever; a wedding cake and small figurines of the two couples. The poses change, re-group and the cake falls apart. Fair representation, I thought. The first scene, where the business-partner husbands tell their straight wives they are gay and in love and getting married was not exactly realistic; but then, it’s Hollywood, after all. Their revelation takes place in an upscale restaurant. The husbands chose that venue because they didn’t think their wives would make a scene. But, as may very well happen in the real world, they did. It was slightly disastrous. Food was flying. Bravo.
The reactions, emotions and confusion of Grace and Frankie were pretty spot-on. Both wives names are quite fitting. Jane Fonda plays Grace; her character is quite graceful in her acceptance. Frankie, Lily Tomlin’s character, is just that; extremely frank about her indignity and shock. Both wives retreat to their co-owned beach house to gather their wits. If only we all had that kind of option. If only we had another person going through the same shared experience at the moment of disclosure. But still, it worked.
At one point they all have to go to a mutual friend’s funeral. Frankie is approached by a couple who make light of her situation and she says, “There is nothing funny about it!”. I’ve been in that same type of situation and said those exact words. But now that it’s been over eight years, I do sometimes see how comical it all can seem in retrospect.
I was in the middle of the fifth episode when Netflix decided to get choppy. I had to exit and picked it up a few days later. After the fifth episode the story line began to focus on the husbands a bit too heavily. I thought, “Oh no, they’re doing it again; they’re making it about how cool and brave it is to come out”. But the pace picked up again, and continued to focus on the wives.
Both wives go through the trauma of moving out of their homes and make the beach house their permanent residence together. Previously, they had never been close, nor did their personalities ever really match. Frankie is key in forcing recognition of the raw emotions they both have to deal with. One of the most liberating scenes takes place late at night on the beach, where both women do some bonfire bonding with the help of some mind-expanding substances. It’s a liberating moment for both of them.
So, Grace and Frankie grow to accept each other, just as they had to accept their husbands preferences and the demise of their marriages. Lacking are the financial hardships most straight spouses ultimately have to deal with. But still, the issue of becoming single in later years, the fears and challenges of dating, the prospect of being alone in the future, the dynamics of maintaining a civil relationships with their ex-husbands are all in play and done quite well. But then it was back to the husbands.
Both couples have grown kids. Grace has two daughters and Frankie has two adopted sons. All of their adult kids are extremely accepting. They go on to help their fathers plan their bachelor party and even help one of them write their wedding vows. My son watched that episode with me. “No way in real life would we do that!” he exclaimed.
With that focus on the gay couple’s upcoming nuptials, I was starting to lose faith in the story line but the last episode left me looking forward to more. Although Grace and Frankie’s living circumstances verge on fairy-tale, the basic message is still quite strong. In the final scene they literally lean on each other as they walk down the beach away from the camera. To be continued. Season two begins filming this summer and will air in 2016.
If you haven’t watched Grace and Frankie yet, I hope this article will convince you that it is well worth the time. The production value is top-notch. The script is smart and succinct. The cast, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are brilliant. Every Straight Spouse will find something in this show they can identify with. I plan to binge-watch it again.
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Staff Member, Straight Spouse Network