I really should have known better then to watch Age of Love. I don’t like reality TV, and I think reality TV dating shows portray women in an especially bad light. But when I heard the premise – seven women in their forties (well, 39-48) and seven in their twenties (21-27) compete for the ‘love’ of Australian professional tennis player Mark Philippoussis (aged 30) in a so-called experiment to see what age group had more to offer, I had to see just how appalling it was.
Let’s just say, I wasn’t disappointed.
No-one bothered to tell Philippoussis that these women were as much as eighteen years older then him. I cringed to see the welcoming smile disappear from his face when he was introduced to the first woman, a forty-year-old. This continued for the entire seven introductions. It was cruel of the producers not to give him a heads-up and put the women – all attractive, stylish and successful – through that kind of embarrassment.
The show started with the seven older women – who later get named the Cougars – initially showing solidarity, comparing notes about their experiences and careers. Of course, that disintegrated as soon as they all got to meet Philippoussis, with one woman (the second oldest, at 46) gloating that she had an ‘edge’ because she’d never been married or had children. Said woman then piped up ‘can you believe she has a son your age?’ about a woman, Maria, who Philippoussis was showing a fair amount of attention to. (The son was actually 21.) Clearly, age and experience hasn’t made these women any more gracious about competition.
It got better – or worse, depending on how you look at it. When the younger women – later known as the Kittens – are introduced, they show a pettiness towards the older women that has to be seen to be believed. The toasted to the Cougar’s ‘crow’s feet and saggy boobs’. They were confident that the Cougars have absolutely nothing worth holding any man’s attention. I get their confidence and I believe the last woman standing will be one of the Kittens, but were they so mean-spirited, so arrogant as to not see a threat in women who most likely had wisdom, life experience, knowledge and professional success over them?
(I hope the joke ends up on the lot of them, because no Australian network would touch the idea of promoting Philippoussis as the ‘tall, dark and handsome’ man of every woman’s dreams – he has a reputation which, among other things, involves Paris Hilton and a teenage fiancee.)
This was a particularly bad reality TV dating show, IMHO, and I don’t know what the producers were out to prove. That women approaching fifty were prepared to undermine each other for a man young enough to be, in the case of the two oldest women, their son? That all pretenses of solidarity evaporate with the promise of a man, let alone a tall, dark, handsome, wealthy professional athlete? Does it give men a sense of satisfaction that all women are desperate for a man? Does it give women the satisfaction that they wouldn’t be so mean and desperate?
The whole thing left me feeling embarrassed for everyone concerned.