“Grace And Frankie” Ethics

“Grace And Frankie”Grace_and_Frankie_Season_1_poster_9 is a mostly fun Netflix series featuring Jane Fonda (as creepily “Death Becomes Her”- like,  70-going on 40-looking Grace Hanson) and Lilly Tomlin (Frankie Bergstein, an old, adorable hippie) as an odd couple of septuagenarians  brought together when their respective lawyer husbands, Robert ( Martin Sheen, looking very old) and Sol (Sam Waterson) declare that they have been carrying on a 20 year gay love affair. It’s now Season Two, both couples are divorced but friendly, and Robert and Sol are preparing an elaborate wedding.

Ah, but at the end of last season, cleaning out their old house and being soaked in photos, regrets and fond memories, Sol and Frankie had one last sexual fling (they had a kid: this was not unprecedented). The final episode saw Sol in anguish, feeling like he had betrayed the love of his life (that is, Robert) and not knowing how or whether to confess that he cheated with his former wife.

As Season Two gets underway, Robert has a heart attack, so the wedding is much reduced in grandeur with him still recuperating. Frankie officiates, having received her legal authority to do so over the internet. All is romantic bliss until Sol, after Robert, now recovered has prepared a romantic dinner and they have belatedly exchanged rings, can’t hold his terrible secret back any longer. He tells Robert about his one-night stand. [As he should. Everyone else in the extended family knows about his dilemma, and Robert and Grace’s children urge him to never reveal a secret that can only cause unhappiness. Sol, correctly, asserts that he can’t begin a marriage with secrets and lies. For better or worse, he has to come clean.]

And Robert throws him out!

Maybe there is some nuance of gay relationship ethics that I haven’t grasped yet, but this makes no sense to me whatsoever. Robert, like Sol, cheated on his own wife for twenty years while having an intimate relationship with his now husband. How can he not empathize with the forces that led to this single, almost valedictory farewell act of love-past between Sol and Frankie? What standing does he have, as a 20 year secret adulterer, to take an absolute position regarding a one-night stand that took place before Sol and Robert had even taken their vows? Sol is so remorseful and contrite that it is painful to watch. He says that the one-night-stand meant nothing but nostalgia and support for a woman he knows he wronged and still loves in many ways. I believe him, and I don’t even know the guy!

I think Robert’s a hypocritical, emotionally abusive jerk.



16 thoughts on ““Grace And Frankie” Ethics

  1. Come on, Jack, you’re a theatrical director. Story lines trump ethical considerations. The writers obviously thought they could make more of this with a separation than they could with a reconciliation. It’s a TV show.

  2. I really wasn’t clear with this post, I guess. A TV show is free to make no sense at all, dramatically or ethically, and yes, individuals do absurd things. But this is a star-driven, supposedly sophisticated production that is increasingly unfair to its own characters and plot. In other words, it’s incompetent.

    The next couple episodes after the one I wrote about here shows outright sloppiness. Frankie and Grace were shown playing chess and the board was set up wrong, with the black corner squares on the right. Nobody on the set, and apparently neither actress, caught it, which means nobody there has ever played chess. Then Fonda’s character, a lapsed Catholic facing a romantic crisis, actually goes to a church and has a long, audible conversation with God, one of the hoariest devices there is, and completely out of character.

    Eventually this stuff insults the audience. I felt insulted by Sheen’s reaction to his partner’s indiscretion, and the rest of this: it was as if all the clever dialogue and cultural references and in-jokes were designed for a bait and switch. It pretended to be a sophisticated comedy, but is really a careless hack job.

  3. Jack, I can’t believe you are asking rational questions about a plot line in a tv sitcom.

    p.s. Every dog park I’ve ever been to is a hook-up venue, regardless of owners’ genders. I’m still a frequent step-parent myself (“step”ping out with friends’ fidos – mine, back in the Colorado days were free-range pooches, never parked. Come to think of it they hooked up themselves.

    • Hook up venue–of course. Hook up venue where the dogs aren’t allowed to run or get off leashes? Impossible. The issue is incompetence. At a certain point, a script loses any credibility at all and takes the audience out of the show. That’s betrayal of trust. My time was wasted. It’s the same objection as my complaint about “The Walking Dead.” Don’t entice me to waste my time and then treat me like an idiot.

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