'The Golden Bachelor' delights with its positive portrayal of female friendship: 'It's about time'

"How do I get added to their group chat?" one fan tweets.

Contestants on
Contestants on The Golden Bachelor interact after a rose ceremony. (Getty Images)
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Regular Bachelor viewers noticed that The Golden Bachelor went harder than other seasons of the show in the area of friendship.

The women vying for the heart of Gerry Turner, who chose Theresa Nist in Thursday's emotional ending, were, for the most part, supportive of each other throughout the season. The women — all in their 60s and 70s — generally avoided slamming their competition in the confessional, as has become the norm on the traditional Bachelor. They amped up their camaraderie during the After the Final Rose portion of the finale, sitting together and squeezing each other's hands.

Fans were happy to see it, especially on a show that often appears to be egging on conflict between contestants for the sake of ratings.

Ellyn Lem, the author of Gray Matters: Finding Meaning in the Stories of Later Life, tells Yahoo Entertainment that she found it refreshing.

“For a long time, television has thrived on showing women in competition with one another, resulting in ‘catfights’ and petty jealousy,” she says. “From old examples like Dynasty with female leads clawing at each other to reality TV like Bad Girls Club that also seems to thrive on showing young women literally attacking other women.”

Joan Collins, left, and Linda Evans
Joan Collins, left, as Alexis Carrington Colby and Linda Evans as Krystle Jennings Carrington duke it out in an episode of Dynasty from 1983. (CBS via Getty Images)

One of countless examples is the former VH1 reality show Rock of Love, which was similar to The Bachelor except that it starred rocker Bret Michaels. And the late aughts series was more R-rated, presumably because it was cable TV versus a broadcast network. The contestants on that one came to blows more than once.

“That type of television never was relatable to most female viewers, but especially now, rings untrue as female friendship is regarded as essential in most women’s lives,” Lem says. “In addition, with women living longer than men resulting in fewer eligible romantic partners for heterosexual women, female friendship is often the dominant relationship in their lives; its about time television mirrored that reality."

Lem notes that she heard about a spat early in the season, but she attributes that to “an example of media outlets wanting again to create that female versus female animosity, even if they had to exaggerate or fabricate to do so.”

“Golden Bachelor” contestants
“Golden Bachelor” contestants. (Disney/John Fleenor)

MSNBC columnist Emma Gray summed it up in an opinion piece: “Anyone who watches reality television is familiar with the trope that cast members on competition shows — even if that competition is for love — ‘aren’t there to make friends,’” she wrote. “But the women of The Golden Bachelor seemed there for love and friendship. And those of us who tuned in week after week were there to watch them search — for companionship, for friendship, for the right to be seen and heard and valued — whether or not they ended up with Turner, a man whose on-screen persona can best be described as an AI-generated, Sensitive Midwesterner Ken doll."

She noted that watching the show, which was a ratings success, had been unexpectedly joyful.

"Where past seasons of The Bachelor have leaned into conflict and reduced the women to unflattering, flattening tropes, Golden flips the script and embraces complexity,” Gray wrote.

On the Ringer, writer Ben Lindbergh lauded it too.

“All of the energy [on the show] was devoted to working through feelings for Gerry or forming friendships in the house, and not once did I wish there were a ‘villain’ who derailed either effort,” Lindbergh stated. “As it turns out, The Bachelor is better when viewers are sorry to see contestants sent home, not relieved to be rid of them.”

As for Lem, she adds that the praise for The Golden Bachelor's portrayal of friendship among the more mature women should send a message to TV studios: “Older viewers are important to regard and the more content that can be geared toward them, the better for us all.”

The same goes for female friendship.