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The Golden Bachelor is a morally corrupt nightmare

As it turns out, a Bachelor season where people are actually looking for love and not just a Revolve sponsorship is a major bummer

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The Golden Bachelor
The Golden Bachelor
Photo: Disney/John Fleenor

Hello, it’s your friendly neighborhood Golden Bachelor recapper here. We’ve been on a long, strange trip over the past nine weeks. If you’ve been on it with me, the rest of this essay shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. If you’re new to the mansion, well, here’s my confessional: I hate The Golden Bachelor.

Before you tell me to zip it (shout-out to my girl Kathy), hear me out. I’m not a romance-hating cynic and of course I think seniors should get a second chance at love, or at least a shot at a sick new Reformation wardrobe like some of these ladies are sporting. I mostly don’t hate Gerry, and I definitely don’t hate any of the women competing for his heart. But the show sure does.


Seven weeks ago, I sat down to review my first episode of The Golden Bachelor. I had jumped in a bit late; this was episode two, where the women do a sexy photoshoot and Gerry and Theresa split a milkshake with two straws, dance to “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and talk about their late spouses. I was touched and even a little teary-eyed as these brave septuagenarians stepped way out of their comfort zone and put their hearts on the line in a way I’d never seen on television before. I typed out the headline “The genuine vulnerability of The Golden Bachelor is setting it apart from the franchise,” fully believing it at the time.


I wasn’t the only one. The Golden Bachelor (which airs its finale November 30) has received breathless praise from outlets such as The Washington Post, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The New York Times. Fans and critics alike have celebrated the representation it provides, the freedom with which its contestants are able to express themselves and their desires, and perhaps most notably, how different and refreshing it is to watch a Bachelor season where people are actuallyhere for the right reasons”—i.e., to find true and lasting love.


But it’s somewhere around this last part where the producers should have looked long and hard at themselves in the mirror and thought, “Hmm, maybe it isn’t the best idea to create a situation where older women who’ve protected themselves against heartbreak for years or even decades are encouraged to break down those walls just to experience the kind of debilitating hurt they’ve feared all along. Maybe we shouldn’t put people’s children through the rollercoaster of seeing their mom happy and in love with a man for the first time since their dad died, only for that man to leave her on live television mere hours later. Maybe, just maybe, we should finally admit we’re just a goofy show people mostly use as an excuse for a wine night and we should do what we’ve always done.”

Sneak Peek: The Dramatic Finale of The Golden Bachelor - The Golden Bachelor

That didn’t happen, of course. The Golden Bachelor is running exactly like a Bachelor season should. But as it turns out, a Bachelor season where people are actually looking for love and not just a Revolve sponsorship is a major bummer.


While the Bachelor franchise has always claimed to show real romance and real heartbreak, both of those things have been largely unbelievable on the regular seasons for almost a decade now. Sure, there’s been a handful of engagements and a whole lot of tears, but there’s still an underlying understanding that this is mostly just for show. Those emotions probably feel vital and all-encompassing in the moment, but that’s more due to producer manipulation and the haze of alcohol than any actual sense of commitment. You’re not really watching people’s entire worlds get shattered while you giggle and do face masks with your friends.

That’s not the case with The Golden Bachelor. This show is very, very real. Tonight, Gerry will hand out his final rose and propose to either Leslie or Theresa, a person he will likely spend the rest of his life with. The other woman will watch an entire life path she had grown attached to wither and die on national television. Neither woman knows just how deeply Gerry has fallen for the other, and neither wants to say goodbye. Neither does Gerry. In a recent interview with The A.V. Club, host Jesse Palmer teased the finale as “the most emotional goodbye anybody’s ever seen on The Bachelor, Bachelorette, or Bachelor In Paradise.”


I believe it. I haven’t seen the episode yet, but even just in the preview Gerry is shown choking out the words, “The only time I’ve ever felt worse in my whole life is when my wife passed away, and this is a goddamn close second.” That’s not heartache. That’s trauma. And that’s just Gerry. We haven’t even seen how the eliminated contestant reacts to her rejection yet, much less how the winner responds to the knowledge that Gerry struggled this much with his decision. If second runner-up Faith’s silent sobs in the “Women Tell All” episode are anything to go by, this is about to be really, really ugly.

“Had I known this is how much pain I would cause someone, I would have never taken the first step on this journey,” Gerry says later in the clip. Maybe next time, the show should actually listen to the people they claim to be so inspired by and leave the roses on the bush.