Grace & Frankie has seldom shied away from the rough stuff and season 5 was no different.
This time around, we watched as Grace dealt with workplace discrimination, Frankie protested ableism in her neighborhood, and more every day struggles that the women faced on a daily basis. It’s these seemingly small moments that are especially important for younger people to see and understand.
These moments are funny (after all, it’s a comedy!), but their sentiment turns grossly somber when the viewer realizes how rooted in truth these topics are. Sure, it’s funny to lie about your age or to watch Frankie march across a street as slow as molasses.
But at some point, while Frankie was racing against the clock (and the crosswalk light) in pursuit of snow crab legs, I stopped laughing long enough to realize what the episode was telling me: We live in an ableist, ageist world.
The truth is that many younger people do not even think about these issues. Most of us, if we are able-bodied, do not struggle to cross a street before the light turns red. We don’t get patronized at our jobs for being “too old” or shamed for having ideas others in the room think we’re not hip to. Grace & Frankie sheds lights on the issues many people later-in-life face, issues that young people don’t even think twice about.
Below, a few more moments from season 5 that Grace & Frankie totally nailed when it came to ageism.
When Bud Forces Frankie to Get a Home Aid
In a nod to an earlier plot where Frankie gets lost while babysitting her granddaughter and finds herself near the Mexico border, Bud sort of blackmails Frankie in Season 5. He manipulates his mom into consenting to get a home aid. In exchange for getting an aid, Bud allows Frankie time with her granddaughter again.
The messaging is clear: Bud doesn’t trust his mother to watch the baby alone and he does what children so often do — use grandchildren as pawns.
When Grace Gets Patronized At Work Because of Her Age
In one episode, Briana outs her mom Grace as an 80-year-old woman. Grace had been shaving years off her age for decades, but upon finding her birth certificate, her daughter Brianna unveils her mother’s true age at the office birthday party.
As soon as the candles are blown out, the tone in Grace’s meetings change to patronizing. One client offers her a more comfortable chair in a condescending tone; another client throws in, “Do you need a pillow?” while one of her employees inadvertently calls her “this old girl” while trying to defend her.
The clients exclude her on the product packaging discussion and lean closer when they address her as if she can’t hear them. They don’t listen to the points Grace makes in the meeting, even though she’s sharp and on her game. They value what Brianna says even if Grace has already said it. Grace eventually tells her,
“Now that you’ve told everybody how old I am, nobody hears me!”
When Frankie Sticks it to the Man Over a Pedestrian Walk Sign
Another great moment for ageism comes when Frankie orchestrates a pedestrian walk sign protest. After struggling to get all the way across the pedestrian crosswalk before the light turns red, Frankie sets up a protest with the aim of securing longer crossing times. She gets a guard to perform a pedestrian traffic test to determine the average time it takes a walker to cross. She even enlists the help of her band of 70-something year-old friends to help even out the mean, which results in three seconds added to the timer.
When Grace Meets Nick’s Mother
Then there’s Grace’s relationship predicament. While the series has never shied away from relationship subject matter, it’s the first time the viewer sees Nick and Grace’s relationship from the perspective of one of Nick’s family members. Though it’s clear there’s a bit of an age difference between Nick and Grace, it’s never before been addressed. Until Season 5 when Grace runs into Nick while he’s out to lunch with his mother, who is also in her 80s. Nick’s mother immediately disapproves of their partnership, clearly believing Grace is too old for her son.
When Robert Loses His Acting Role to a Younger Man
While the men in Grace and Frankie are never coerced into selling their house and moving into a retirement home, Sol and Robert also have their fair share of problems in Season 5. One of the biggest issues is when Robert is pushed out of the lead role of a play by a younger actor. Throughout the rest of the season, he struggles with getting older and what it means for both his acting career and his passion.
Grace & Frankie season 5 is currently streaming on Netflix.
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Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.