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‘The Golden Bachelor’: The beauty of aging

| Monday, November 13, 2023

Ethan Chiang | The Observer

When I first saw the trailers for “The Golden Bachelor,” I wasn’t exactly thrilled. A season of “The Bachelor” except with an older guy? I was certain they were going to pair this actual 72-year-old man named Gerry with women half his age. Viewers were going to have to suffer through a lack of any understanding between the leading man and his ladies as they struggled to find common ground. Everyone was going to be airbrushed and in absolutely absurd shape, cajoled by producers into bikinis and strong martinis until there was inevitable relationship drama. 

I was so wrong. 

Instead, it was one of the most refreshing pieces of media I’ve consumed in a long time. The show is truly a sweet and tender depiction of searching for love after hope is considered lost. It’s everyone on the show’s second chance to find love. The group of women are all around Gerry’s age, ranging from 60s to 70s and have the maturity to match. Many of them are widows, divorcees and have children — basically women with complete lives who are now taking another chance at love. They are presented as beautiful women who have gracefully aged and aren’t past any sort of expiration date to enrich their lives. While they are all competing to win Gerry’s heart, there isn’t the kind of drama and pettiness one normally associates with “The Bachelor.” There is some jealousy, which is to be expected for this kind of dating format, but it’s honestly handled really well. The women communicate with each other and with Gerry about what they are truly feeling at the time, and it’s really nice to see. 

Now a definite highlight of the show is Gerry, the golden bachelor. He’s a lovely gentleman who was married to his high school sweetheart Toni for 43 years. They had two daughters together and now two grandchildren. Tragically, Toni passed away in 2017. Six years later, Gerry is ready to find love again and, even in his 70s, he believes that you can’t give up hope. This guy has me tearing up every episode with how utterly tender-hearted and compassionate he is, usually when he’s remembering his late wife or emotional about developing deep connections with another person again. He is so mature and refreshingly earnest about falling in love with the women there. It’s content that I love to watch and would love to see more of in the future.

Unfortunately, “The Golden Bachelor” is an outlier in how it portrays an older crowd. Most media, especially reality TV, tends to keep an insurmountable wall around it for anyone who isn’t young and attractive. There seems to be a certain age where actors or actresses aren’t allowed to be portrayed as still sexy or desirable, as if after 40 you’re put out to pasture. Ageism is pervasive in pop culture and advertising, telling people that aging is something to be feared and fought against by any means necessary. Signs of aging on one’s face are something of which to be ashamed, instead of proof of a life well lived. 

This stigma against getting older tends to affect women in a particularly lopsided manner. Hollywood has the unfortunate habit of allowing male co-stars to age gracefully while their female counterparts are exchanged out to keep the youngest model in play. Age gaps of 15+  years between co-stars are frighteningly common. Popular media pieces such as “Never Have I Ever,” “Indecent Proposal,” “Singin’ In The Rain,” “Birdman” and so many more all have massive age differences between co-stars, with the woman being younger. It speaks to the idea that looks are the only thing of value. Editing your image is common practice on social media, with the Kardashians being some of the most notorious culprits for smoothing fine lines and nipping in waists. Advertisements proclaim miracle cures for tightening skin and erasing wrinkles. It all adds up to a culture that is fundamentally afraid of aging and actively ignores its older population.

Aging should be a process that is celebrated as a gift that you’re still living. Although I won’t lie and say I don’t wear sunscreen every day religiously, neither am I terrified of getting older. I’m excited to see how I develop as a person and gain many more lived experiences. This is something that “The Golden Bachelor” celebrates, and I hope that its success is a signal to the industry to start procuring more media that embraces the natural process of aging. 

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