Successful ageing and the spectre of the fourth age in the Netflix TV series Grace and Frankie

Katsura Sako, Maricel Oró-Piqueras

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With its potential to engage a large audience and mark emerging social tendencies and with the rich narrative space that the seriality can bring, TV series can be a valuable cultural site through which to explore ageing as an experience in time. The Netflix's longest-running TV series Grace and Frankie (2015–2022) exhibits such potential, bringing together ageing and friendship into the popular cultural domain. Set in the contemporary US, the show closely follows two over-70, newly divorced, female protagonists and friends, Grace (Jane Fonda) and Frankie (Lily Tomlin). Depicting the new opportunities and experiences they gain and drawing on the star persona of Fonda and Tomlin, the show presents an optimistic narrative of ageing into old age. This optimism, however, is more ambivalent about ageing than it appears, as it emerges from the context of the neoliberalization of ageing in the US and other Western societies. Considering friendship, entrepreneurship, the ageing woman's body and sexuality, and care in the show, we demonstrate how the show's optimism is premised on the construction of the neoliberal, successfully ageing subject in the two protagonists and on the othering of the fourth age, “‘black hole’ of ageing,” as a time and space marked by the failing of the body, vulnerability and dependency (Higgs & Gilleard, 2015, 16). While the show's explicit engagement with the bodily ageing in some ways makes it more relevant to older audience, its evocation of the fourth age reflects and reinforces the broader cultural anxiety around it. Ultimately, the show brings in the fourth age only to reiterate the two protagonists' credentials as successful agers.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101113
JournalJournal of Aging Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Jun


  • Ageing body
  • Friendship
  • Successful ageing
  • The fourth age
  • The third age
  • TV series

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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