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Was ‘Grace And Frankie’ Weed Positive Or Weed Shaming?

Sometimes when a new show comes out where cannabis is used loud and proud, we get too excited about the content to judge the message that it’s sending. Hulu and Netflix in particular have been allowing more weed on the screen, and it’s thrilling in some regards. But when portraying cannabis use, network love to show marijuana’s faults more than anything else.

Programs like Grace and Frankie have been breaking the typical TV mold as of late. Not only do they highlight atypical themes and subject matter, they showcase demographics that never seem to get their due anymore. 

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When you watch them, you’re able to feel emotions and joy, humanizing your Netflix experience. It was cool and funny to see Frankie’s character, played by Lily Tomlin, always using cannabis and encouraging others to do so. Her and Grace, Jane Fonda’s executive badass portrayal, frequently butt heads about various types of drugs, but her daughters are Frankie’s go-to cannabis buds.

Watching women, especially older women, partake so openly in cannabis is thrilling, but there’s a bit too much leaning on the stoner stereotypes. Put simply, Frankie’s ‘bohemian’ character is a little bit intense sometimes. When she shares a potent edible with the typically uptight Robert, he loses their rescue dog. Sure, it’s meant as a set up to turn the tables and demonstrate how ‘odd couple’ types can learn from each other.

On the first watch, this seems like a harmless mischief device, but when you consider it a little deeper, this is yet another crack on ‘stoners’ and forgetfulness. Though it’s completely true that getting too medicated can cause you to be forgetful, and even to hallucinate, it doesn’t always have to be what happens to the person trying cannabis in the hands of the seasoned user.

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None of the various ways that cannabis came up in the show were patently offensive, but if you’re seeing a bunch of white people use weed on TV, the responsibility to treat the portrayal with a bit more reverence should be there. Constantly showing people who use cannabis with either intentional or accidental excess on screen really needs to shift if we’re going to make any real progress on the stigma that sticks up legalization.

Writers and producers need to care more about how weed is shown to larger audiences. Not every flash of a beer or wine bottle is foreboding, and the same should be true of cannabis. Even on a show like Gracie and Frankie, which appears weed positive on the surface, cannabis being on a laugh track or a panic scene is really getting old.

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