I started watching The Bachelor before my frontal lobe was fully formed in my early 20s– the same age as most of the contestants on the show. Who doesn’t love a little mindless TV paired with wine and a cheese board on a Monday?
But I’ve grown up a bit (dare I say aged). I’ve grown tired of the format, and troubled by the show’s value system that places such a high premium on aesthetics above all else — from the infiltration of aspiring influencers there to chase clout, to the overdue, but feigned attempts at making the show more inclusive and diverse.
Are we supposed to believe these gorgeous young women are struggling to find average looking [white] dudes to date? And how delulu does one have to be to think rushing into marriage at 22 with someone you barely know is a good idea? These are child brides pretending they’re on the verge of becoming old maids!
It’s true, you can make the same critiques about many reality TV dating shows today, and the absurdity is part of the fun (At Codeword, we’ve had Bachelor fantasy pools, dedicated Google Spaces to rehash episodes, and even employees who’ve created Tumblr pages capturing the faces of rejected Bachelorettes. The love for the show runs deep!).
But competitors like Love Island, Love is Blind, and The Ultimatum are showing The Bachelor franchise up when it comes to diversity and looks in their casting. Their concepts have specifically moved away from the aesthetic-driven focus of The Bachelor franchise.
That’s why The Golden Bachelor is such a refreshing departure from what we’ve been conditioned to expect from the producers, and reality dating shows in general.
It’s also a brilliant PR move for a brand that’s fighting to repair its public image and reclaim its title as the king of reality dating shows.
Bachelor Nation’s PR Problem
Bachelor Nation has bigger worries than just competing against other shows in the era of streaming. The 21-year-old franchise’s history is fraught with controversies that have muddled its reputation.
It’s also taken heat for what happens off-screen and who’s been in charge. The show’s creator Mike Fleiss left the franchise in March 2023 after an investigation into racial discrimination. This comes just two years after the long-time host Chris Harrison was ousted for making racially insensitive remarks.
While the show may hold a spot in the cultural zeitgeist, the conversation often skews negative — and they haven’t been very successful turning that around. The most recent attempt to give the franchise a more feminist-forward feel with two Bachelorette leads backfired, drawing backlash for pinning women against each other. As Observer put it, “The Bachelorette Sells Girl Power, Doesn’t Deliver.”
It’s clear they need to shift public perception of the brand. I’m betting The Golden Bachelor is the comeback key.
The Comeback Strategy
The Golden Bachelor is not a random, quirky premise from this franchise. As someone with nearly a decade under her belt specializing in PR and reputation management, I can assure you this is a deliberate choice to build the show around a higher age bracket.
The strategy? Position the franchise as an ally to the pro-aging movement.
This new show is a subtle apology for heightening that fear. They’re using their platform to help shift public perception about the realities of aging as a woman, and dating in your Golden years. That’s a much more compelling cause for viewers to root for than expecting blind loyalty from people you’ve let down.
The show producers saw an opening to lead a conversation no one has taken yet, and seem to have found the ‘X’ — that intersection of what the brand wants to say, and what their audience cares about. Plus, they are serving this content up in a familiar format that honors its legacy — a chance to restore some glory to ‘fantasy suites’ and ‘hometown’ episodes that long-time fans get fired up about.
Will it Work?
It’s early days still for The Golden Bachelor, with just the second episode airing tomorrow night. But the early ratings signal the show could move the needle for the franchise — more than 4 million viewers tuned into the premiere, a 45% jump from the last premiere of The Bachelor. So far, the buzz is positive.
You have to give some points toward the general likability of the leading man, who comes with a heart wrenching backstory and an endearing hearing aid. But more credit is due to this spinoff’s genuine POV on aging and dating, which is rooted in first-hand accounts delivered by contestants and the Golden Bachelor himself.
Is the franchise and all its problems ‘fixed’? Far from it. But they’ve lured me back in for now, and are early-movers on what I bet will be the next marketing gold rush: brands discovering that pro-aging messaging is a way to capture millennial market share as this generation enters a new age (and income) bracket.
This spinoff finally has something of substance to say, and dares audiences to question cultural norms. And mark my words, these contestants will soon have platforms of their own and score some big brand deals.
These are not “child brides” you want to mock. These are people in their 60s and 70s that deserve more representation and carry decades of wisdom about finding love gained from past relationships. They aren’t coming into this naive about the work marriage takes, or ignorant about life’s hard truths.
No spoilers, but I will say that within three minutes of the first episode I found myself unexpectedly in tears. The middle was layered with more mature get-to-know you conversations. By the end of the first episode, I actually felt relieved about the aging process.
I’m certain there’s still plenty of botox at work here, but it was inspiring to watch a show celebrating women that aren’t letting a number define what they can do, how many shots at love they’re allowed, or what their worth to society.
So I’ll be tuning in this season dutifully, with some renewed optimism about how some ‘old’ faces can bring new life to brands.