Netflix's 'Grace and Frankie' Leads Deserve Better

Maybe there should be an employment #metoo version for women who are paid less than men for the same job. 

Of course, the sheer volume of responses would break the internet. Permanently.

In Hollywood, that liberal bastion of sexual harassment and inequality, paying women less than men and shutting women out of roles after 40 isn’t new.

Which is why the Netflix hit “Grace and Frankie,” starring Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, both Emmy-nominated, is notable for two reasons: The focus is the humor and heartache of growing older. And its stars — specifically the female stars — are all over 70.

Plus, season four just debuted.

And it’s such a 21st-century premise: The women’s husbands (goofy Sam Waterston and smug Martin Sheen) are gay — eventually leaving their wives for each other, after a — wait for it — 20-year affair.

In season one, the women, stunned by the revelation, get the jointly owned beach house as compensation. They don’t like each other; they do love the beachfront property — enough to share the prized real estate. Over time, they become close. 



And their irreverent, quirky, loving friendship is the true joy for fans. It exemplifies Keats’ “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” But there are two key caveats to the show: money and story line.

Here’s one of the nasty bits: The title is “Grace and Frankie.” They have more screen time than the men, are far more interesting characters, and frankly, do all the heavy lifting.

Yet in 2015, it was revealed the producers paid the men, supporting players, the same as the female leads — until the two female stars and their fans weighed in. The show’s fans responded by creating a petition asking Netflix to fix the gender pay disparity. (Waterston and Sheen agreed, voicing their support on “Today.”)

For those who got hooked early, the sassy repartee between Tomlin and Fonda is easily the best part of the show. Particularly, since the story line over the past few seasons tilts heavily in favor of the men’s happiness. Sure, they devastated their wives and children after 40 years of marriage. But so what!

They are happy — and insisted everyone be happy for them. Their narcissism and myopia rivals Trump. Then, a lovely thing happened. The women started rebuilding their lives. (Even in misery they are more compelling than the Sheen/Waterston saccharine fest.) 

But for reasons known only to the writers, this glorious show about female friendship and elder empowerment gives the guys all the breaks and the women all the heartache.

Name your topic — they get shortchanged. For example, illness is inevitable as we age, but one serious heart attack and Sheen’s character — an uptight, self-righteous lawyer turned amateur actor — rebounds. He gets a sleek new house. And in the current story line, which strains credulity to infinity and beyond, his husband, who apparently buys his wacky ensembles from thrift stores, attracts a young stud. 

Conversely, the women, despite seriously impressive moves, get tsoris on almost every front. But they fight back. They endure.

When will Hollywood decide women don’t have to be punished for aging?

After all, what makes “Grace and Frankie” a hit is Fonda and Tomlin. Who can resist their witty asides, sparkling chemistry or the Pacific Ocean views? But fair’s fair.

Memo to Netflix and producer Skydance Television: Let’s end the sexist undertow that weighs down the show, especially this season! If you really support gender equality, or just pay lip service at Hollywood cocktail parties, give the men some agita. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

As for the title roles, give the women what they deserve: equal pay and a better story line.


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