If The Bachelor (supervising producer: Deborah Read) promos are any indication, one of the biggest plot points this season will revolve around Bekah M., a contestant whose age seems to be a heavy source of contention among the women in the mansion. But is Bekah even the youngest Bachelor contestant ever? The franchise has long paired older men with significantly younger women, so it's a bit surprising that, 22 seasons in, this is the first time it's played up that fact for drama.
It's even more confounding when you look at the statistics. An analysis conducted by The Huffington Post in 2015 found that, on average, the age of all of the female contestants is five years younger than the Bachelor, with the Bachelor tending to choose a woman six years his junior. Which is to say that, in the world of The Bachelor, age disparity is fairly common, and while Bekah is the youngest woman on Arie's season, it's only by one year. Both Olivia and Maquel — the latter of whom is still in the running for Arie's final rose — are 23.
More importantly, though, Bekah is definitely not the youngest contestant to ever appear on the show. Though her age was suspiciously absent from her pre-season bio (and on-screen during the premiere), Bekah explicitly stated in the premiere screener given to press that she is 22.
However, a look back through Bachelor history — and recent Bachelor history no less — shows that Cassandra Ferguson, a single mother from Michigan, was just 21 when she vied for 32-year-old Juan Pablo's heart in 2014, as was dental assistant Mackenzie Deonigi when she competed on 33-year-old Chris Soules' season the next year. And when Nick Viall became leading man in 2016, he was matched with not one, but four 23-year-olds — a full 13 years younger than the 36-year-old software salesman.
Granted, Bekah's age gap with 36-year-old Arie Luyendyk Jr. is a little wider, but when the difference already spans a decade, do we really need to be splitting hairs over one year? Bekah meets the age requirement for The Bachelor's application, and thanks to a little thing called the internet, she should be fully aware of Arie's age. As long as Arie is comfortable with it, too, it really shouldn't be an issue. Yes, it's valid to critique The Bachelor's age gap pattern, but it's unfair to single out specific women selected to be on the show. Bekah is no more or less worthy of finding love on reality TV than any of the other women.
Nonetheless, The Bachelor has turned it into a Whole Big Thing™, and Bekah will be forced to bear the brunt of it. In promos for what's to come, one contestant can be heard wondering if her age will be a "dealbreaker," while Chelsea, who is 29, says that she thinks Bekah is reluctant to tell Arie her age. In the next scene, a tearful Bekah says she's "sick of people saying that.”
Frankly, what's more concerning is that this, of all things, is one of the story arcs. Was there really no better material? Could this mean we're in for an utterly boring season? It's inarguably better than seemingly exploiting race relations for views, as appeared to be the case with Kenny and Lee on Rachel Lindsay's season of The Bachelorette, but when every season is the most dramatic ever, is this really what the franchise has resorted to? Of course, knowing The Bachelor, it could be another case of hyped up editing, but for now, it seems like just another story line viewers will have to roll their eyes through — Bekah included.