The 16th season of ABC's The Bachelorette kicks off May 18, and with its latest star comes a "big shift," per the Washington Post: a leading lady who's approaching 40. Clare Crawley was announced Monday as the new Bachelorette on Good Morning America, and at age 38—she'll be 39 when the show airs, its oldest star ever—the Post notes Crawley was a "surprising choice for a show where anyone over 30 is often treated as desperate and over the hill." The paper speculates the show's producers may be positioning Crawley as a reflection of older daters in America, where the average age for women getting married for the first time is 28, and 30 for men. TV writer "Reality Steve" Carbone tells Page Six the decision to cast Crawley, who's appeared on four installations of the Bachelor franchise, could've also come after blowback on the "young, catty women" who appeared this season.
At the Los Angeles Times, Amy Kaufman writes that Crawley approaching her fourth decade is "deeply meaningful" and "frankly, powerful." "By casting her as the lead, the show has made—and I can't believe I'm saying this—a progressive move," Kaufman notes. "It's a choice that flies in the face of societal expectations for straight women, positioning an unmarried woman in her late 30s not as desperate, but as desirable and worthy of love." As for Crawley herself, she sees her older-than-usual status as nothing but a plus. "It just is more years under my belt, more learning and knowing what I want, what I don't want, and what I won't settle for," she said on Good Morning America, adding, "I have been known to date younger guys, so that's not a problem for me." (Read more The Bachelorette stories.)