The Cougar Bites.
Despite its attempt to position itself as a show that levels the dating playing field and normalizes older woman-younger man relationships, TV Land’s new reality show, odiously named The Cougar, isn’t a you-go-girl rallying cry packaged inside a pink bubblegum wrapper. It’s awful is what it is . . . but then again, I find most “elimination” dating reality shows creepy and manipulative, so I suppose this one’s no different, with the exception of the older-mom-of-four-being-wooed-by-twentysomething-guys premise.
My gag reflex was initiated when I saw the show’s logo, a dangling cougar tail that provocatively flicked to the side. The announcer uttered what the writers must’ve thought would prove meaningful for fortysomething women who are looking for love, “Welcome to a show that will change everything you know about relationships, love and getting older.”
Enter actress Vivica A. Fox, who stepped into a room with atmospherics that invoked those of a hunter’s lair – leather, a roaring fire, assorted greenery, cougar statues – where the prey consists of 20 heavily hair-gelled twentysomething men. “Now, for years, it’s been just fine when an older man dates a younger woman,” Fox said. “But when an older woman dates a younger man . . . whew! . . . heads turn and people start talkin’. Well tonight, we’re here to put an end to that double-standard . . . A woman in her prime is the ultimate catch.” She claimed that the show spotlights a “cultural phenomenon that’s changing the entire dating scene.”
To the drum beat of Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” we were introduced to “our cougar.” (Tangential irritation: What’s the male equivalent of “cougar?” Anyone?) We got to “feast our eyes” on 40-year-old Stacey Anderson of Scottsdale, Arizona lying by a pool, wearing black sunglasses and, of course, a bikini. The camera zoomed in on her legs and yellow, strappy heels. She removed her shades, jauntily turned her face toward the camera and winked, her long blonde hair gently brushing the ground. A subsequent montage showed Anderson slicking her hair back with both hands as she emerged from a Jacuzzi, dancing by herself while she lifted the hem of her black dress, and then standing with her backside toward the camera in front of a horse statute that had a water fountain behind it.
Why does she want to date younger men? Anderson, who sells commercial real estate, mentioned a “zest for life” and added, “Younger guys are able to keep up with me.” “I don’t care how it looks on the outside,” she said later. “I’m here to find the man of my dreams, someone I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.” Among a pool of 20 men who range in age from 21-29 and one who said, “I’ve never dated a girl who can legally drink before”?