The Bachelor is back, and it’s exactly the same as we left it. Well, not exactly. There’s a new host, Jesse Palmer, and a new leading man in Clayton Echard (who looks suspiciously like some of the previous leading men). And among the 31 new contestants are three nurses, one Bat Mitzvah dancer, and one—wait for it—33-year-old.
Arriving in a vintage convertible, Jane tells our new Bachelor, “I’ve been called a cougar once or twice, but I like to consider myself vintage, like a classic car.” Again, Jane is 33 years old, which you may or may not have caught, because her age literally flashes onscreen three times to remind us. To his credit, Clayton says “She’s a cougar?” as Jane walks away. So maybe she looks only, oh, 32 in person. See the moment for yourself around the 2:05 mark:
But lest that be the end of the questionable age moments, immediately following Jane walks out a woman named Holly, age 63. She claims she’s “in the wrong place” and is really there for the upcoming senior version of The Bachelor. It’s awkward for everyone involved, and all I can say is Holly deserves better.
For the record, Clayton is 28. He’s a grown-ass man, or at least should be. And had he ended up with Jane—spoiler alert: she was sent home—they would have a measly five-year age gap. Right now feels like a good time for me to be the zillionth person to say the term cougar is misogynistic and outdated; if the roles were reversed, not a single eye would bat.
Now, I’ll concede that it’s possible—possible—the show was in on the joke by poking fun at the age thing and only highlighting that Jane’s 33 because of how young she actually is. But this isn’t the first time the Bachelor franchise has shown its casual ageism.
During Colton Underwood’s season, a contestant named Elyse revealed on a group date that Colton was the first younger man she’d dated—a move which earned her a rose for being so “vulnerable” and drew ire from her younger competitor (and current Bachelor Nation mainstay) Demi Burnett. Elyse was 31 to Colton’s 26—another deeply scandalous five-year difference. As Glamour’s Anna Moeslein wrote at the time, “Her delivery was off, but maybe Demi was right after all when she snipes, ‘There’s no advantage to being an older woman here.’”
And then there was Clare Crawley’s brief tenure as the Bachelorette, which was marked with a Graduate-inspired poster. Not only was the placement puzzling (In the original image for The Graduate, a younger Dustin Hoffman is framed by Anne Bancroft’s leg. Attention to detail, people!), but it was also accompanied by the tagline “It’s about time.” Clare was 39.
There was a lot I liked about the latest premiere: The women seem, by and large, here to entertain, and I could write a whole other article about contestant Claire who, upon meeting Clayton, used actual human agency to decide he was a no for her. (Although, yes, she could have been a little nicer about it.) And while the show has made some efforts to overcome its problems with race—with varying degrees of success—the other “isms” seemingly have yet to be addressed at all. I don’t expect the show to change overnight, but moving on from the idea that a woman over 30 is the butt of the joke seems like the bare minimum.
Lindy Segal is a writer, editor, and disaster on Twitter. Follow her @lindysegal.