Grace and Frankie Acted Gayer Than Their Gay Ex-Husbands In Season 3, Am I Right Ladies

WARNING: This post contains a million spoilers for Season Three of “Grace and Frankie”

Riese: Look, I know how television works. I know the rules, I know the caps. I know that a show about two gay men who come out to their wives later in life and then get married and buy expensive in-home stereo systems is not going to make its titular female characters also a gay couple. I know that the hit Netflix television series Grace and Frankie has presented itself as a rare glimpse at the fulfillment and companionship two women in their golden years can access through platonic female friendship. I mean, I can’t complain about a program that makes the argument that even for heterosexual women, men can be made entirely unnecessary. But also…

Erin: Grace and Frankie are a couple.

Riese: This definitely wasn’t the case in earlier seasons. Sure, there was innuendo, sure, it was shippable. Sure, Grace has consistently expressed a relatively aggressive rejection of men in general. Sure, they’ve got this “odd couple” vibe down pat. But when I invited Erin to watch Season Three with me, I did not know I was inviting her to the viewing of a lesbian mini-series. (Oh and just for the record, Erin and I are platonic roommates who have been living together since both of us had breakups of long-term relationships around the same time. You know how it is.)

Erin: I agreed to the marathon viewing even though I’ve never seen season one or two, and it’s really nobody’s business but mine as to why I’d do something like that. I’m just one woman with one life to live.

Until this past weekend, the only thing I knew about Grace and Frankie was that it used special camera filters in order to accommodate women of a certain age. I never knew what to do with this information. I’m not necessarily upset that I have it, because it is sort of fascinating to know what goes into filmmaking, but also I don’t want to know the details behind it, like how that kind of decision gets made, and so I tell a lot of people about it to disperse some of the burden that goes along with keeping it.

Riese: Erin told me about the special filters in January, and now every time an older woman is on screen and somehow has more youthful skin than I do (read: all the time), I have to ask Erin about the special filters. It’s all I can think about. Look, now we’re all sharing this burden together.

Erin: I’m glad we watched Season Three of Grace and Frankie because if we hadn’t watched Season Three of Grace and Frankie, we’d never know just how much the writers of the show are daring the audience to assume a romantic relationship between the main characters.

Riese: There is no way this isn’t even slightly intentional at this point. These two women are in love! It’s obvious! Is this queerbaiting and if so, why am I not more upset about it? I hate queerbaiting!

Erin: Look, if I’m speaking personally, and I am (Erin), I hate to be a person that takes seemingly straightforward pieces of pop culture and salad shake in some gay dressing, one, because I hate a reach, and two, because it’s a little sad to get so invested in something that was purposefully pivoted away from bringing gay people joy, but on the other hand I absolutely love being that person. And while it’s true that friendship can often be as complex as romantic relationships and can even involve the same kinds of displays of affection as romantic relationships, season 3 of Grace and Frankie took that concept, ran with it, kept running with it, jumped a fence, and then punted it into moving traffic.

Riese: As Erin and I died and had to bring ourselves back to life every 45 seconds throughout the season’s run, I felt that voice in my head, not everything is gay you guys. why do you have to act like everyone is gay. some people are just friends. not all characters have to be gay. can’t women just be best friends without being gay? can’t women live together and support each other without being gay? why are you projecting all this gayness onto everybody?!!! But! Here’s the thing — everyone IS a little gay. I honestly believe this. The time has come for us to get real with each other about this brave new world we’re in where for many women, at least, sexuality is accepted as more fluid than ever before, and only 48% of teens ages 13-20 identify as exclusively heterosexual and only 65% of millennials identify as exclusively heterosexual. The human capacity for being a little gay is, quite frankly, tremendous. I see no legitimate reason why Grace and Frankie could not be bisexual women in love with each other on a show that already has a gay couple on it. It could be like the last season of Glee, when nobody was paying attention anymore and therefore they were able to sneak in a double-gay wedding episode featuring a gay couple AND a lesbian couple. Look this show queerbaited me for an entire season and I’m not even mad at it, is this what life is like in the Age of Trump.

Erin: The notes on every script must have looked like this: “Hey, love this. Any way we could make it more like these two are in a relationship and it’s supposed to be an unspoken agreement between us and audience, or at the very least that they’re in love with each other and it’s an unspoken relationship between them?” Did the writers ever deliver.

Take a look at the evidence below and tell me these women aren’t on their way to a bead shop in Provincetown as we speak. (spoilers)

To start, they are two unmarried older women who live together and tell people they’re roommates, which is the basis for every lesbian joke for the past several decades.

They argue with each other about whether or not they’re starting a chicken coop together:

Grace has a not so subtle disdain for Frankie’s boyfriend, Jacob, and men in general:

They’re making vibrators together, which significant because it echoes/resembles two other lesbian traditions — going into business together and mutual masturbation.

There’s a scene where you could replace them talking about their vibrator business and women’s aversion to talking about masturbation with “same sex attraction” and it would make the same exact sense:

They spend all their time together:

They speak as “we”:

The constant vibes of this show feel like:

Classic friend stuff:

Then there are these kinds of statements:

Or the kind of banter between two people who are two glasses of wine away from a making out:

Dealing with the love triangle like:

When Frankie tells Grace she might be moving to Santa Fe, everything gets much gayer very quickly. Everything gays right out of control. Every word spoken is a word unspoken, and also a word that could easily precede the words “you have to stay because I am in love with you.”

Frankie: It was one bad day at the office. We’ll fix it.
Grace: We’ll? There’s no more we’ll!
Frankie: That’s not true!
Grace: Oh, yes it is. Because half of WE’LL is abandoning me.
Frankie: And why wouldn’t I? You’re acting like I’ve already left. You wrote this letter without me, you were going to this meeting without me. I don’t even know if I’m going yet.
Grace: Of course you’re going. Santa Fe is the place you’ve been dressing for your entire life.
Frankie: Don’t you understand that this is an impossible choice? I don’t wanna lose Jacob, I don’t wanna lose you. What am I supposed to do?
Grace: Oh I told you. I can’t tell you what to do.
Frankie: Well you can say something.
Grace: Like what?
Frankie: I don’t know like “don’t go, I’ll miss you,” or something else a human being might think or feel.
Grace: You think I don’t feel anything about this?
Frankie: I don’t know what you feel, you won’t talk to me.
Grace: There’s nothing to talk about until you decide whether you’re gonna run off with your boyfriend.
Frankie: What would you have done if things had worked out with Phil? Would we all be living together at the beach house because I don’t think so.
Grace: Why the hell would you bring up Phil?

Wish I had “why the hell would you bring up Phil” on a needlepoint, because that question is always valid. Like these questions:

It’s totally normal for best friends to not know how to talk about their intense and co-dependent feelings of friendship towards each other. It can be hard to find the words!

Dancing around those three words:

And finally the symbolism of the completion of this arc:

this is the part where Grace ends her date with a man only 15 minutes in to turn it into a date with Frankie

Well, I’ve got a guess!

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Los Angeles based writer. Let's keep it clean out there!

Erin has written 208 articles for us.


Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3184 articles for us.


  1. This is the best Grace and Frankie take thank you.

    Is this a good place for me to say that this show only makes any sense at all if Saul is bisexual and the show expends so much effort refusing to call him bi and it makes me want to scream?

    • Yes! How he felt about Frankie was clearly v different to how Robert felt about Grace. Would be so amazing if they were game enough to explore it instead of brushing it under the rug.

    • Why can’t women have a close relationship without people screaming “gay”
      Not that I care but really.,,,,
      Get real people I am an older woman with close friends for 30+ years
      Quit the labels

          • Keep it light, keep it bright, keep it GAY!
            Whether it’s murder, mayhem or rage
            Don’t complain, it’s a pain
            Keep it GAY!

      • Question, Cynthia Eells, if you watched a show where a man hovered over a woman on the floor and told her she was “striking”, what would you assume?

        Now quit assuming everyone is straight, and get off our lawn. Thanks

      • Why can’t old women have a nice big gay relationship without people cooing “besties” at them?

        Hell not even young ones get to escape being pegged as platonic pals.

        • Yup. People like to ask me if the woman I’m with is my sister but they always assume best guy friend is my partner.

        • OMG here goes my coffee. Best comment ever, I can’t stop laughing.
          Yes, dear Cynthia Eells do answer, what are we supposed to think?
          Thank you Riese for making me spill my coffee and for the laughter!

    • I think this would be a great opportunity for a tv show to present the concept that bisexuality doesn’t always have to be 100% equal attraction to men/women. like, maybe he’s mostly attracted to men, but a little into women? or maybe he’s bi-romantic but mostly gay sexually? idk there are so many possible permutations, and they don’t have to spell it out in those terms, but i’d love to see them explore this more…

    • a) YES. I wish they would allow men to be bi on this show; it would make so much more sense and be so much more meaningful. Or at the very least, even having Saul explore that possibility and question whether his emotional connection to Frankie is sexual too, making this cheating even more severe because it wasn’t him just escaping a marriage to the wrong sex, would be really good TV material. It’s nonsensical that he doesn’t at least question his sexuality.

      b) also, this show partly doesn’t make sense even so because Saul and Robert have some of the worst chemistry I’ve ever seen between an TV couple; even at their straightest moments in the earlier seasons Grace and Frankie had more chemistry than they did.

  2. I love all of this! You are absolutely right that they got way gayer this season, the conversation post-church ladies brunch about feeling shame was what really sold it for me. And I used to like Jacob a lot, but in this season I just felt myself getting mad at him for getting between Grace and Frankie. Like, just let them be together!

    But ALSO

    and I know this is a little off topic


    CAN WE TALK ABOUT THE LACK OF BRIANNA IN THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON!? I love Grace and Frankie and Jane and Lily, but tbh, Brianna and June Diane Raphael are the best things about this show, and her arc in the first half of this season was SO GOOD, and I really liked her with Barry, and then they just sent her off to Baltimore and I was so excited for the conclusion of that storyline and then they just ABANDONED HER and Brianna was in exactly ONE SCENE after episode 9 and I finished the season on Saturday and I’m STILL ANGRY ABOUT THIS.

      • That would be the only thing that make sense to me – but don’t Netflix shows film really quickly? It’s not like they were filming over the course of a year the way a standard, network, 24-episode season films. And I just read an interview with her where she didn’t mention anything about that, so I don’t know. As long as she’s back for season 4 I guess.

        • In an interview with Jane and Lily, they said they film for 5 months, 5 days a week. So it’s possible that her pregnancy was a factor.

          Also, I was confused when I looked at the imdb page for the show because she is listed as having been in 40 episodes (same as all 4 parents), whereas the other 3 kids are all at 39 episodes. And I could have sworn she was in less this season, but then thought I must not have paid attention and missed her or something. So thanks for revalidating my memory lol

    • Brianna was pregnant in real life that’s why we saw her with a lot of gray and black on and a few scenes where she was sitting down covering her stomach.

  3. Thank you for this post! I watched it over the weekend and a couple times I had to hit rewind because surely I heard or saw wrong lol. I thought maybe it was me watching with my gay goggles on like I usually do. I fully expected them to kiss in the balloon at the end of the season. Or in that scene in the episode “The Floor” where Grace had to roll over Frankie to get to the phone

  4. Thanks for this piece! I was thinking this on and off throughout the season but I figured it was just me. But as usual, Autostraddle validates me :)

  5. I really liked this season. I agree completely that they leaned heavy into the subtext. It can’t have been an accident, I mean… pretty sure Lily Tomlin knows what comes across as gay.

  6. I binged on this yesterday and had the same thoughts!!! I was also thinking about how unconvinced I am with the husbands as gay, but hey the show isn’t so much about them I guess.

    • Really? I think their affection for each other comes through very well. The acting is superb.

  7. Till the romantic relationship is shown and not implied, I give no love to this show. If a show has lesbian characters then present them as lesbian. Why is the show forcing lesbians live vicariously through 2 heterosexual characters?

    Why do we lesbians still put up with this ‘hinting’ tactics from our entertainment? This is 2017 not 1976 or 1986.

    • normally i’d agree with you, but i think this is different and the reason is that i would’ve watched season three of this show anyway. i actually like the relationship between grace and frankie even if it is heterosexual, i have always liked this show (besides the agonizing cheating storyline in season two) and it’s overall very queer-friendly and certainly unafraid of gay storylines.

      if i was being lured in to watch this show because of a queerbaited relationship unable to flourish because the writers refuse to write gay characters, i wouldn’t grant it space here. but that’s not the case. instead it was a show i was watching anyhow and was like WAIT A DAMN MINUTE, YOU TWO.

      • Also I think it is very important that this show is about older people who clearly grew up with very different ideas of sexuality than the millennial or even gen-x generations and also spent 40+ years in a heterosexual marriage. It is very realistic that even if they are somewhere on the queer end of the spectrum, they would conceive themselves as straight.

        I find it super interesting that if Grace and/or Frankie are queer, the men were the ones liberated by the current political climate on same-sex marriage before they were.

    • I assume you haven’t seen the show? They’ve done nothing but portray them as hetero, older women who are best friends. Until they show us otherwise, there’s no reason to think of them as lesbians. They’re either doing one of two things here: showing us a slow-burn romance, or forcing us to question what love and companionship can look like when it doesn’t look or act normal, especially when you get older. Either way, it’s a beautiful show about friendship and love and doesn’t deserve any hostility imo.

    • 100% agreed. no show ever has “hidden” or “implied” hetero characters. they’re either hetero or they’re not.

      this show is about two extremely close and loving hetero women. period

  8. Ahhh… I was thinking it was me just making things gay in my head, and then there was the promise kiss on the forehead, and then ‘you are a striking woman’ when Grace was on top of her on the floor and I thought ‘seriously?!?!?!?!!?’ They have way more chemistry than Robert and Saul.
    This article is giving me all the validation feels!

  9. I didn’t notice the subtext until I finished this article but then again I was pretty drunk for the first 9 episodes.I did notice that it seemed like Saul became more like a stereotypical gay male as the season progressed.

  10. The filter is weirding me out pretty bad. I’m guess before I heard about it my brain was refiltering a level of texture and color variation that goes with perceived age & hair color onto images of women over 25. Now I see the barbie skin and it is not normal, not normal at all.

    • I swear I almost clicked “Report User”. But..but, hopefully this delightful article has convinced you to watch the show!
      If you decide not to watch it I can email you the location of where you should turn in your credentials

  11. Grace and Frankie are 100% gayer together than their gay married ex- husbands. Honestly the men’s relationship seems so contrived and they have no chemistry. This should have been a show about 2 women who fall in love and leave their husbands for each other.

    • I’ve seen several people say this, and I just don’t see it. There are so many sweet scenes with Sol and Robert and the acting in those is great!

      • Yeah. Maybe some of us just aren’t coded to see gay male romance (particularly from a generally less demonstrative, less “out” generation)? Which is legit. Just a theory. Because I think they’re sweet as well.

  12. Would it work all right to jump in to season 3, or is this a show one should watch from the beginning?

    • watch from the beginning, definitely. but it’s easy to binge an entire season in one day so it won’t take you too long

    • I feel like you should watch the first episode and then see if there are any youtube videos of a ‘catch the frak up’ nature. You can probably pick up the plot pretty well, but there are some nuances and the beautiful relationship buildup that you’ll miss if you don’t watch S1 and S2 first.

  13. “I’m knocking on your walls, Grace. I’m gonna find a way in” is easily the gayest line of all

  14. Without reading any comments or even reading this article I need everyone to know that I’m on Ep 7 and HOLY SHIT THEY ARE SO GAY FOR EACH OTHER.

  15. YAAAASSSSS IT’S SO GAY! EVERYONE IS GAY! Apart from Sol, Sol is clearly bi, and hasn’t got the vocabulary to express that.

    Also, is there going to be a season 4? Because much as I love the show I’d be happy to just let them float off into the sunset. On the other hand – I need Coyote and Mallory to get together. I ship it.

    All I kept muttering was ‘omg u guys r gay af’.

    Sol + Robert have precisely ZERO chemistry, which makes Grace + Frankie’s clear, undying love and passion for each other stand out even more.

    Remake of Grace + Frankie, in which they leave their husbands for each other and there are even more gay jokes pls!

    Also! B r i a n n a is amazing??? I literally never have any strong feelings at all about blonde, heterosexual women on TV, but somehow I am totally invested in Brianna and I love everything about her.

    • What type of chemistry are you looking for between Sol and Robert? Because their mutual affection is quite clear, I think. Is it sexual tension that’s lacking? Because they’ve been together for a heck of a long time, so to me it would make sense if they’re comfortable and sort of lived-in together.

      • i feel like it’s lacking too but i can’t put my finger on it. i mean i think generally speaking martin sheen never really radiates sexuality — it’s not like i could feel the physical chemistry between him and stockard channing in the west wing, either.

        but there’s just something that feels a little stiff between them? i think it’s totally possible to contextualize that as being the result of their age and a lifetime of being closeted, but maybe more of that context should be spoken?

    • May I direct your attention to a remake currently in progress (thru screencap adventure) over at AO3? Telanu’s Grace & Frankie: The Remix


      I don’t know if websites post normally in comments, so that may or may not work. If not, you can just search the AO3 website

  17. Omg these were my exact feelings on this season and why I came into the chat yesterday! Also the last time I had a platonic relationship like that we ended up dating. Just saying.

  18. well damn. i guess i’ll go watch this now. lily tomlin and jane fonda do make a hot ass couple.

  19. also riese and erin thank you for the phrase “Everything gays right out of control.” i am going to start using it in my daily life.

  20. You expressed all my feelings through this, thank you. They are gay as heck, and should just get married already

  21. As an older gay woman (not that far behind Grace and Frankie in age) I have been fortunate to have a couple of friendships similar to this. I found their relationship to be very truthful about friendship between mature women. Yes, the powers that be could easily flip it into a Lesbian relationship and it would be fun to see that. But as a deep, loving, platonic relationship between two women it does hold true. Two women can complement each other and appreciate each others beauty without wanting to jump into bed with each other. I think both of the women are stunning but I would only want to jump into bed with Frankie. The whole thing is it’s about two women who have come together after being hurt and they have had to rely and trust each other to start a whole new life. And now their is possibility that they may part it’s difficult for one to deal with that because, yet again she is going to start her life again in a new way and this time without the support and companionship of a real friend. And being of a certain age is scary, you realise how near the end of your life you are and how little time there is to get it sorted out and to be really happy. I see it as a great example of the support women can be together. And I so do want that vibrator, know exactly what they mean.

  22. I thought it was just me! But I think what complicates it is that both Frankie and her ex husband are bisexual. Frankie has consistently shown (casual) interest in doing sexy things with Grace throughout all 3 seasons. It’s implied she has hooked up with women before. And Grace, IMO, is one of those “straight” women who are discovering they’re maybe not 100% straight because NO ONE IS.

    But yeah. Major bi erasure going on with this show. I love bi girls and y’all are way too amazing to be erased!

    PS I was upset that JDR disappeared halfway through except for the “phone call” scene toward the end which was clearly shot off site with no other actors around. Probably bc of her pregnancy. I live for her on this show, and the How Did This Get Made? podcast.

  23. Love Grace and Frankie for so many reasons. One is that the question of “are they gay as in sex?” doesn’t really matter to me. They’re clearly in love, and I think that kind of love is just as legit as if they were fucking. It’s not the same as queerbaiting, to me, because it’s not an on-off trick the show’s creators seem to be playing; they are clear and consistent in their portrayal of Grace and Frankie’s relationship, and they don’t shy away from showing how much that relationship means to the both characters. Queer, platonic relationships for the WIN.

    Also, love it because Lily Tomlin is my hero forever and for life.

  24. It really bothers me how unconvincing of a gay couple Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are, probably because they aren’t gay men in real life. Their relationship feels very contrived and this theory that the show is actually about Grace & Frankie being the “real” gay ones here makes a lot more sense to me.

  25. Did anyone also notice the way Grace kept looking at Frankie’s hand – like she wanted to grab it – while they were on that balloon basket? She totally seemed like she was struggling hard to stop herself from doing it. OMG.

  26. I just finished watching Season 3 and immediately googled “Grace and Frankie subtext” because I knew there had to be an article like this. The actual gay couple on the show has zero chemistry. Meanwhile the platonic friends seem off-the-charts gay for each other. I know the subtext is done for humor and nothing will come of it, but there was A LOT of it!

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