November 17, 2023

Is ‘The Golden Bachelor’ Something Old or Something New

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As a former Bachelor franchise addict, I was very intrigued by the concept of The Golden Bachelor. The Bachelor is one of the original, most popular dating shows which is premised around one seemingly perfect man who has 20 seemingly perfect women competing for his love. This year, ABC created The Golden Bachelor, which is this exact premise, except all the contestants are elderly. I started watching out of curiosity, but was pleasantly surprised at how invested I became. 

From a perspective that judges purely based upon entertainment value, I think the show is very good. Every week, I get excited to watch the new episode, though the elderly kissing is a bit uncomfortable. They chose Gerry, a man who appears to be very kind, charming, emotionally intelligent and who is easy to root for. 

The show is pretty self-aware and pokes fun at itself, for example, with a gag contestant, Chippy, who is Jimmy Kimmel’s 84-year-old aunt. She, a very typical older person, contrasts the chic, botoxed contestants in a way that acknowledges how ridiculous the show is. 

From ABC’s perspective, this was a smart move to capture new audiences and recapture those who had gotten bored by the 27 repetitive seasons of The Bachelor. I was stunned, though, at how the show, despite the new concept, follows the exact blueprint that I’ve seen in every other season. It starts out lightly comedic. A few characters stand out, but most blend together. A few episodes in, a conflict emerges between two of the women. One complains to the bachelor that the other is a problem and the bachelor is torn up over who to believe. One is clearly the villain, and we’re so frustrated that he’s unable to see this! The villain gets eliminated and we’re down to the final few. This raises the question as old as reality TV itself: How much of it is real?

From a more analytic perspective, what does the intrigue of the Golden Bachelor say about us as an audience? Does it push back against the problems of reality TV or encourage them?

Reality dating shows are a strange facet of entertainment that we’ve come to accept as normal. Since the dawn of reality dating shows in 1965 with The Dating Game, various networks have tried to spin the same concept of finding love through a competition, in new ways. Recently, that comes with tweaks that seem to minimize the moral issues of these shows so that we can all feel good about ourselves while watching. For example, Love is Blind tries to remove the physical aspect of attraction from dating shows, presenting itself as being all about personality. Similarly, the creation of The Bachelorette to challenge the misogyny of The Bachelor’s concept by saying: It’s okay. Women can do it too! The Golden Bachelor tells us: It’s okay. Old people can do it too!

This show is helpful in that it encourages older people not to give up on new experiences. I love watching the ladies get excited to dress up together and go out. I can imagine why it would be inspiring for older viewers as an illustration that fun doesn’t have to stop when you reach a certain age. In this way, it accomplishes something that the show previously hadn’t. 

There are some problems, though, that linger from the original Bachelor. Notably, the show suffers from limited representation of minorities and, even in old age, the impactfulness of conventional attractiveness. The franchise has been accused of lacking in minority representation and, when including minorities in the cast, doing so only to check a box. This season is no different, with only a few non-white contestants, they just added about 40 years. They have also been accused of perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards. If you look at the list of those who have won The Bachelor, you’ll see overwhelmingly white, conventionally attractive women. It seems to be attempting to resist this accusation about beauty standards by highlighting the beauty of aging, but, ironically, the contestants are still a model of beauty standards, within the category of older women. Even with the older group, it seems that the most attractive rise to the top of Gerry’s pick. This is hard to say, though, objectively.

If you take The Golden Bachelor purely at face value, it is a nice, feel-good show about people rediscovering love at an older age. I don’t think, though, that we’re really solving the issues of reality TV with this one. I was drawn in by the gimmick and ended up staying for the plot. 

Rachel Cannata is a junior in the Hotel School. She can be reached at [email protected]