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Murlie Joseph / Gavel Media

The New Age of Reality TV: Introducing The Golden Bachelor

The Bachelor has always had a specific formula, one that spans across the franchise and through decades of television. The twenty-something, conventionally attractive male lead, one who is usually white and always skinny, dates a group of twenty-something, conventionally attractive women, who are also usually white and always skinny. After a path marred by manufactured drama and needless indecision, the lead then chooses a contestant to remain in a relationship with. Unsurprisingly, after twenty-eight seasons of The Bachelor, twenty seasons of The Bachelorette, and nine seasons of Bachelor in Paradise, successful relationships are few and far between, falling at nineteen couples over fifty-seven total seasons. Seemingly, a conclusion was reached: the franchise needed a change, and it is one that comes in the form of its newest season, The Golden Bachelor.

 

Gerry Turner, the new seventy-four-year-old bachelor, is incredibly different from those of the past. Not only is he obviously older, having wrinkles, and a granddaughter, but he is also a widower. He openly admits to having had his great love and suddenly losing her to a bacterial infection, making his priorities incredibly different from those of an average season. He knows exactly what he values in a partner, asking for a woman who loves adventure, makes him laugh, and will love his family just as he does. Unlike the usual leads of the show, Gerry has lived a full life and knows precisely who he is and, therefore, who he wants, which leads me to expect a lot of the expected Bachelor-style drama may become obsolete. 

 

The women in the show also fall into the same age demographic, with Gerry specifically asking for women of ages sixty to seventy-five. Throughout the first episode, the women were constantly gushing about how kind and beautiful everyone was, rather than the constant jealousy, criticism, and borderline bullying that plague regular seasons’ contestants. The original formula hinges on the miscommunication, intra-group tension, and blurry wants that usually come with the contestant’s lower age. With this new cast, the formula is forced to change from an emphasis on drama to an emphasis on openness to connection and growth after hardship.

 

To me, the most monumental change comes in this season’s new ideas on beauty. While in normal seasons the contestants are young and conventionally beautiful, in The Golden Bachelor, the contestants are, for the most part, visibly older. They all have wrinkles, most have gray hair, and all acknowledge and are proud of their aging. Many also have more evident and feared symptoms of aging, such as Gerry’s hearing aids and many of the women’s sagging skin in the arms and legs. Yet, this is all lovingly and carefully acknowledged rather than demonized like society usually does. The season opens with Gerry putting on his hearing aids, many of the women wear shorter or sheer dresses, and, for the first time, a few of the contestants would be considered curvy or mid-sized. To me, this is beyond incredible; for the first time, this demographic is being shown as worthy of love and, more importantly to me, beautiful. As a mid-sized woman, I believe this representation on mainstream television is absolutely monumental to the average woman. Simply as a woman, seeing visibly older women fall in love and being seen as beautiful on national television is something I never thought I would see from The Bachelor franchise and never knew I needed.

 

So, the big question is left: who cares? Specifically, why should you care and watch the new season on ABC on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. EST or on Hulu on Fridays? For me, I am watching because this season reminds me that each and every one of us is deserving of love at every stage of our lives. Aging, specifically female aging, is made out to be this looming, terrifying consequence of the passage of time. As women, we are told we need to get Botox because forehead wrinkles are hideous, told to get a tummy tuck to get rid of unsightly excess skin, told to avoid straws in case we get horrific wrinkles around our mouth and told to avoid the sun in case we get ugly sun spots despite the fact that these things are completely natural and, for the most part, unavoidable. This season shows aging unapologetically and makes a point to show it as beautiful through a group of kind, emotionally intelligent, and knowledgeable women over sixty. Though this may not be “the craziest, most dramatic season of The Bachelor yet,” it may be one that reminds us that each and every person, regardless of age or body type, deserves a blinding, whirlwind, life-changing love story.

Letterboxd enthusiast and international studies major who loves New England in fall, hates traffic, and will drop everything for a concert.

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