In case you’ve missed the latest reality TV dating show spectacle, let me enlighten you. NBC’s Age of Love put The Guy, aka 30-year-old Aussie tennis pro Mark Philippoussis, in the awkwardest of positions when it presented the flock of ladies from which he’ll select his Ms. Right-or, if reality TV dating show tradition holds, his Ms. Right Now. Billed an “experiment,” the show aims to determine whether age matters; ergo, when the first group of ladies-forty-somethings, sensitively dubbed the “cougars” on the show’s promos-introduced themselves to Philippoussis, each told him her name and then : her age. Unsurprisingly, Philippoussis appeared utterly dumbfounded. The first episode proceeded with the standard televised matchmaking fare-group dates, “alone time”-before ending with a bomb: the arrival of a group of fresh-faced, fresh-out-of-college twenty-somethings, the “kittens.” And when you pit cougars against kittens, the fallout’s bound to get a bit : catty. Ahem.
As for what to make of it, I’m torn. On the one hand, of course, it’s disgusting, dogged by the general offensiveness of any dating show that features a bunch of women lining up in front of one man, pleading “Pick me!” Clever cougar/kitten metaphor notwithstanding, no one wants to be reduced to her age. (Are all older women cunning huntresses: secure, successful, just a little bit desperate? Are all younger women wide-eyed innocents: immature, playful, just a little bit dumb?)
On the other hand, it brings up an interesting issue. Society barely bats an eye at a May-December couple, but when the tables are turned and it’s a December-May arrangement, or hell, even a September-July situation we’re talking about, tongues begin a-waggin’. But the times, they are a-changin’. Although (or maybe because) the hot-mamma/trophy-guy thing is subversive, it exudes a certain Letters-to-Penthouse-Fantasy type appeal. This is, after all, the era of the MILF, Botox, Demi and Ashton. And perhaps this is what biology intended: Men are younger when hitting their sexual peaks, and they die younger, too.
So, which way will he go? I couldn’t care less. At its core, the show screams simply, “Trashy, Mindless Entertainment Here,” and for that, I’ll be watching. Meow.