By Grace Cooper
LET ME set the scene. MyLittleBird editor, and (former) trusted friend, Janet Kelly, asked me to watch “The Golden Bachelor,” ABC’s latest “true love” adventure series, and write a review. I balked. She nudged, and because I love her I acquiesced, despite my aversion to network television programming in general, and “The Bachelor” dating shows in particular. After all, what I’ve observed being portrayed in the 27 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” series has been a cross between “The Jerry Springer Show” and “Women of Wrestling.” Week after week, ill-mannered beauties demonstrate the toxic, catty, backstabbing, hair-pulling skills they perhaps learned in middle school. Anyone with half a brain quickly realizes that this is about DRAMA, not love. And make no mistake, portraying young females in these roles, for the entertainment of millions of viewers, is a modern-day version of a colosseum sport.
Okay, I feel better now getting that off my chest. My little feminist heart is afire.
So, okay, let’s settle down for the next hour to watch this latest version of all the above.
“The Golden Bachelor” has a new twist—golden refers to one’s golden years, and all the contestants vying for Gerry’s red roses are 22 gals ages 60 to 84, the eldest being identified as Jimmy Kimmel’s aunt. I hope she at least scored points with the grandkids for agreeing to play along with this stunt.
I did a bit of homework to see what I could learn in advance. Gerry, our bachelor, is a 72-year-old Hoosier who was widowed six years ago after a long, reportedly happy marriage. Widely interviewed on all the major talk shows, “The View,” “Live with Kelly and Mark” and on and on . . . I noted one consistent trait —Gerry EMOTES. Gerry cries—a lot.
Now, I believe I have mentioned that I was a willing participant in Match.com, so I know meat markets and thought I’d experienced it all —the good, the bad and the humiliating aspects of the contemporary dating scene for golden agers. Honestly though, this one takes the proverbial cake . . . especially the scene where Gerry takes a big sloppy bite out of a cupcake so that one contestant can have the distinct pleasure of licking icing off his face. OMG!
I begged my beau—one of the men I met on Match several years ago, to watch alongside me and be an active participant in this review. It wasn’t an easy sell. He hemmed and hawed, dodged and weaved, suggested we invite over his rowdiest and most distracting friends, ran out for last-minute takeout, stopped for a drink with neighbors, returned home, poured himself a giant glass of wine, and finally settled into the sofa seconds before the first scene.
The competition opens with Gerry adjusting the bow tie of his Armani tuxedo, wondering aloud if he will become the “luckiest man on earth and find true love a second time.” He comes across as an innocent and earnest dweeb. After all, Gerry has been off the market presumably for five decades, living an ordinary life, raising his daughters with his late wife. I know the feeling of being a 25-year-old emotionally, then waking up one day, finding yourself single in an old body. It’s disorienting, often lonely and unsettling, but this? How did Gerry decide that this was the path to true love? Or was Gerry going after something else?
Next, the 20 women contestants are introduced as they spill out of a stretch limo wearing a rainbow of glittery ball gowns. So this is how we do first dates in TV land—tuxedos, revealing dresses, ladies primped to within an inch of asphyxiation in double Spanx under wraps, push-up bras to hoist the girls high, lacquered coifs, nipped and tucked—and from the looks of it—recently lasered, too. Then there was the schtick, one stunt more outrageous than the next, just to make sure Gerry—or the 20 million viewers—could differentiate one from the other. First impressions count, after all.
My beau is incredulous. He asks a series of male-brained questions:
Why would they want this guy?
Who selected these women? Gerry or the producers?
When is anyone ever in a room with 20 women all “wanting him?”
What happens if during the course of this show, Gerry meets another really interesting woman he wants to date more than any one of these hot-for-TV type gals?
Does Gerry have to sign a waiver promising not to really fall in love while he’s faking it for the camera?
How much do you think Gerry earned for this gig?
How much did these women earn for pretending to be hot for Gerry?
And why did they use Jimmy Kimmel’s aunt as a comedic foil for the only mildly humorous moment?
And where did they find so many presumably smart women willing to act so dumb?
I force him to choose just one fave, based on the way they presented themselves. Was it April, the 65-year- old self-described eccentric who did bird calls, clucked and pranced around performing a chicken dance, hoping to impress our incredulous bachelor? In a later scene she crooned some love song on a guitar plastered with heart stickers. Thank goodness for the commercials because I needed some air at this point.
No, my beau claimed to like the stately African American woman who led Gerry in a spontaneous meditation and breathing exercise in which she chants “f*ck” over and over.
Janet and our dear friend Maureen sent texts furiously throughout this shared ordeal . . .
“Pretty nauseating so far . . . ”
“Is it almost over??”
“I like the commercials better.”
“How humiliating for these women.”
And finally . . . exactly what I was thinking all along . . .
“You think they would try to show accomplished woman in a good light. Instead, this is demeaning. Wonder what the reaction is on social media?”
The roses were distributed to the 16 lucky women who survived the first culling of the herd.
Next week’s previews look a bit more lively—lots of ugly crying, horseback riding on the beach, a now stubble-faced Gary cries and questions if this is all worth it . . . even hints at polyamory!
So many contrived declarations of true love . . .
So many accomplished women demeaning themselves before millions of viewers . . .
So many tears shed by Gerry.
My little feminist heart is breaking . . .
Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 67, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.