‘Grace & Frankie’: Seniors Who Smoke
This Netflix show features Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as a pot-puffing pair, giving a nuanced look at cannabis consumption for seniors.
Netflix has announced that it will bring its award-winning show “Grace and Frankie” back for a fifth season, which means legendary actresses Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda will reprise their roles as Frankie Bergstein and Grace Hanson, two older women who frequently partake in some sinsemilla on-screen.
At the age of 78, Tomlin — who has long been renowned for her eccentric sense of humor — has emerged as a senior poster woman for pot. With the help of fabulous 80-year-old Fonda, “Grace and Frankie” depicts two seniors with realistic relationships to cannabis, a plant that they often find helps them navigate complicated — and comedic — emotional moments.
Fonda and Tomlin have blazed a cannabis trail on screen before. In the breakthrough 1980 film “9 to 5,” the pair played office co-workers who hatch a comical plot to improve their workplace conditions at “an old-fashioned ladies pot party.” Tomlin played Violet, the brains of the operation, while Fonda was the innocent secretary learning how to smoke marijuana and maneuver in a man’s world.
In their new pairing in “Grace and Frankie,” Fonda and Tomlin play an odd couple of sorts, who are forced to live together when their husbands announce they’re in love with each other. Fonda’s character is a high-powered business executive who likes her alcohol while Tomlin’s character is a free-spirited hippie artist who prefers pot.
“Grace and Frankie”starts strong in the first episode, when the women share a peyote experience on the beach. “Brace yourself for some light vomiting, followed by life-altering hallucinations,” Frankie tells Grace. In the second episode, Grace opens Frankie’s freezer and says, “Oh, a bag of pot. She’s going to be just fine.”
Weed is woven into the women’s lives without a fuss, while the power of pot to foster communication and transformation is explored. When Frankie is nervous about flirting with a man, he offers her a joint to help break the ice. When one of Grace’s daughters, Brianna (played by comedian June Diane Raphael), gets high with Frankie, they have a nice intergenerational moment. When Grace and Frankie find themselves stuck in an elevator with their exes after signing divorce papers, the four have an emotional breakthrough, aided by some marijuana-infused gummy bears.
The casual pot use continues throughout the show’s four seasons. In Season 3, when the two women get in a nearly friendship-shattering fight, Grace’s daughters raid Frankie’s stash and get their mother high, leading to hair braiding, laughter and ultimately, a reconciliation. A few episodes later, Grace finds Frankie reflectively smoking a joint on their porch after she learns that her boyfriend is moving away. “You gonna bogart that thing?” Grace asks, using the slang word for monopolizing a joint before she shares the news that her ex-husband has finally apologized to her for years of neglect and deceit. The scene is just another “old-fashioned ladies’ pot party” (this time with older ladies).
In Season 4, the show starts to take a more critical view of cannabis use. In one episode, Grace asks Brianna, “Why don’t you take after your mother and drink, instead of smoking doobies with your burned-out Aunt Frankie?” Scatterbrained Frankie is increasingly ridiculed and deemed too unreliable to babysit her granddaughter. Meanwhile, Grace pops pain pills to deal with a sore knee, while day-drinking martinis.
But the joy of cannabis soon returns. As the pair is breaking out of an old-folks home, they discover the “No-No Room” where Frankie’s bong has been hidden. “Take away a man’s bong, you take away his dignity,” she declares. At season’s end, Frankie and Grace are free and back on the beach together, ready for the next step of their odyssey.
Let’s hope the next season of “Grace and Frankie” features fewer digs at Frankie’s cannabis use and more celebrations of the plant.
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Originally published in Issue 32 of Cannabis Now. LEARN MORE