The Bachelor cinematic universe is built on three pillars:
1) Love is available to all who are there for The Right Reasons.
2) The Fantasy Suite is the only place to get it in, because sex should only be had under the veil of horny, romance novel cliches.
3) To ride this ride, you absolutely should not have been alive when Dr. Kimberly Shaw ripped off her wig on Melrose Place, exposing a gnarly head scar incurred during the car accident that everyone believed to have killed her. (It was the "surprise, bitch!" moment of 1994, but the likelihood of Bachelor contestants having witnessed it live on television is slim.)
That last one may be the most puzzling rule in the series, but it also seems to be the strictest. Contestants on both The Bachelor or The Bachelorette tend to be very young—especially the women. As Insider reported in January, the average age for female contestants is a little over 26, with 79 percent of the cast being 28 or younger. For the straight-razored Chads seeking the final rose, the median age is 29, and 48 percent have clocked in at 28 or younger.
There's a reason that only one out of 23 Bachelors has ever had a successful marriage with his pick on the show, (though two more remain in a relationship with their pick and another is married to the runner-up). The Bachelorette has a slightly higher success rate, with six out of the 14 couples still together. There's also a few couples that sprung out of Bachelor spin-offs that have found love in a seemingly hopeless place.
Still, the odds aren't great, and that's probably due to the age range of the series' contestants. No one setting foot in the Bachelor mansion, where they'll experience near-complete isolation from society, antiquated Christian-centric ideas of love and sex, and weird hostel-style bunk beds, should be under 30 years old. Engrave that in stone.
Age is a constant theme on the series, because age is tied to the one question everyone asks ad nauseam: Are they ready for it? "It," of course, is marriage, because that's the goal of this reality show—to marry off every one of these former NBA dancers, sales bros, and Equinox trainers. The Bachelor is the pushy immigrant mom of reality TV, telling you you're old when you're not, and begging you not to let them die before meeting a grandchild.
And without fail, every contestant questioned about their maturity or readiness to enter a television-based engagement at age 21 assures the audience, the producers, and the Bachelor himself they are just being discriminated against by decrepit 32-year-old hags for being creaseless and further from death's grip. Of course they’re extremely mature and completely ready for marriage, they say. What this hot take presupposes is... maybe they're not?
Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s season broke boundaries never before seen on The Bachelor by featuring four women named Lauren, one named Becca, and another named Bekah. Becca Kufrin, 27, took the final rose, but then it was rescinded because Luyendyk just couldn't get Lauren Burnham, 25, out of his mind. Luyendyk was 36. During that season, Bekah Martinez was hounded for her age, which she avoiding revealing for as long as possible until finally admitting that she was 22. The house erupted, going in on her alleged lack of maturity and readiness for a forever love (this dumb chatter is common discourse on nearly every season of the franchise). At no point did anyone think it was kind of gross that Luyendyk, an unsuccessful race car driver and Zonie who struggled to form a coherent sentence, seemed to have a season stacked with very young women, chosen by producers who consider the show lead's type as well as who'd make for good TV. And he gladly dated Martinez even though she had only legally been able to drink for one year. He needed someone hot and ready like a Little Caesar's pizza, yes, but if they could also not know what a Quad City DJ is, that'd be ideal. Though on various occasions he wrung his hands about her age, it didn't stop him from slipping the tongue into a mouth still eligible for coverage by her parent's insurance.
Colton Underwood, last season's Bachelor, was only 26 when he was handed the black tuxedo of destiny. His thing was that he's a virgin, having focused too hard on football (and grown up in a very Christian household) to have ever gotten around doing even a single sex. But he was ready! Not just to experience the sensation of lovemaking on his penis, but for marriage, too. At 26. The season's most dramatic moment, which was played over and over again, came when Underwood jumped a fence in Portugal in one stealthy swoop after getting dumped by eventual winner Cassie Randolph, who admitted to not being sure about the relationship, nor ready for marriage... probably because she's 23.
Cassie was the subject of intrigue in the house about her “readiness,” with everyone piling on her for having voiced, at some point inside the stucco McMansion that houses these future beach-wave-spray-Instagram-shillers, that she might be scared and perhaps not all the way ready to spend her life with someone she went on like four dates with on a reality television show. Don't worry, though, because 31-year-old makeup artist Elyse Delbom also took jabs for her age; she was considered too old. But unlike the others, she chose to Next herself out of the season, saying that she "wanted the time and attention that a relationship deserves." And, might we add, she did it while wearing a stunning white, flowy gown.
The season eventually ended with Underwood begging Randolph to be with him, just to date, no pressure (but maybe a little bit of pressure). Was it a windy cliffside proposal that the series is known for? No, but it was the most realistic and mature ending possible. Because no one really needs to get married at 23 or 26, especially when they've only known each other for a few months.
This season, Underwood castoff Hannah Brown has been crowned as Bachelorette. The former Alabama beauty queen was known mostly for being cringingly awkward and smiling so maniacally through her pain that she could crush a walnut to dust with her incisors. She is 24 years old, the youngest Bachelorette in the series' history. Though she gives off a middle-aged-mom-buying-novelty-wine-glasses-at-Home-Goods vibe, she, indeed, was just hanging at the bocce ball courts in heaven (or wherever it is Southern Christians think life begins before you're born) when OJ Simpson went on his Bronco police chase.
The age of contestants has been hotly debated for some time. Recently, Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, an attorney who herself was 31 when she became not just the first Black Bachelorette, but the oldest ever, told Page Six, “If you’re wanting somebody who’s committed to marriage and a proposal, and I guess to embody what the ideals of the show are, then you’re going to have to choose older.” She added, "When people ask me about the new Bachelorette, I say, ‘Well, I hope she has the time of her life. She’s 23. As she should.'”
Lindsay’s season was marked by moments that showed her maturity, like openly discussing therapy and sending dirtbag DeMario Jackson (who was later involved in an alleged on-set assault scandal) home in the most boss way when his girlfriend showed up to set to confront him. She reportedly used her Fantasy Suite time—where the Bachelor or Bachelorette are given off-camera time in a luxurious hotel room to spend with finalists—to ask the men about their credit scores and incomes. And good for her: That is some actual real ass shit that you need to know before getting married.
When Tayshia Adams, who is 28 and also competed for Underwood's v-card, was asked by Vulture what a season with her as the Bachelorette would look like compared to Brown's, she said, "The guys would definitely have to be much older, I’d tell you that much. I require a little bit more life experience, someone who really knows who they are and still aren’t trying to figure themselves out. Show up, or get out. No bullshit, let’s go, I’m trying to find a husband!"
No bullshit, let's go, I'm trying to find a husband. Anyone who has attempted to find a serious relationship, especially a life partner, knows sifting through a pack of 23-year-olds isn't the way to go, especially if you’re in a big metropolitan city where there’s less impetus to settle down. As reported by Bloomberg, a study at the University of Maryland found that divorce rates among Gen Xers and Millennials have dropped mainly because, unlike Gen Z and the Baby Boomer generation, the former groups wait to get married. Instead of hitting that Bed Bath & Beyond wedding registry right out of college, they're building careers, getting their finances in order, and getting to know themselves and their wants and needs before shacking up. The days of Bridget Jones feeling doomed to being eaten alive by wild dogs because she's not married at 32 have been replaced by Ilana on Broad City being freaked out by a marriage proposal at age 27, saying, "What am I? A child bride?"
The Bachelor universe hasn't fully gotten the memo, though, and the show's producers normalizing the idea that we're only successful if we're married, and only worthy of love if we're young, is not just stupid and outdated—it’s dangerous. Restricting the contestant pool almost entirely to twentysomethings and then holding a foot to their necks if they admit the slightest hesitation to marry someone they just met is wildly irresponsible. Chastising them on a grand stage and feeding them to the wolves of Bachelor Nation is reckless. All this process reinforces is the harmful notion that young women should submit to outside pressure when making life choices, and that older women lose their value.
Sure, people in their twenties can hold serious relationships and make great partners; they can find what is (grossly, tbh) referred to as their "person," get married, and live out their lives happily. But a lot changes after 30—your priorities, careers, your body, and how society views you—and how much of a fuck you care about all of that. The experience that comes with time makes for more successful relationships because we learn from our mistakes and experiences and grow into better, more self-realized people (though with the obvious caveat that some people are terrible forever regardless of their age). We learn that boundaries and independence are vital to a strong partnership with another person.
Sure, the Bachelor universe has produced some marriages and relationships that have lasted away from the cameras, and even produced children, but those are in the very small minority of a large pool of unsuccessful pairings. We love to see young love blossom, but if The Bachelor wants to actually hold a mirror to our world, teach us how to fall in love, and show viewers how to have successful, supportive relationships, they need to fill the mansion with Lactaid and IcyHot and start at 30.
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