Approximately 10 seconds into Tyler C.’s week three proclamation that women are powerful and run the world, I was struck by a wild thought: I’ve…dated this guy? Not *this exact guy*, obviously, but variations of him. Dudes who are, by all appearances, Total Bros (something Hannah called Tyler out for this week), but beneath their strong chins and muscles are complete sweethearts—usually by virtue of being raised by a mom they’ll describe as “strong” (swoon) and in a world that’s no longer totally ass-backwards about where women do and don’t belong.
By the time Connor S. was pinning li’l sticky love notes around Hannah’s hotel room (and I finished gasping about how cute and insane this was), I figured out what’s so very special about this year’s testosterone-laden crop of Bachelorette boys: they’re so young that they’re barely even millennials, and as a result, they’re…actually good?! At 24, Hannah is the youngest Bachelorette lead in the show’s history, and she has an equally young cast—their average age, by my very accurate and fancy math, is just 27. Their softboy proclivity and aversion to hyper-masculinity is trademark of the generation they belong to. In other words? They’re a bunch of sweeties, and unless the show pulls another Arie on us, we have many more seasons of sweeties to look forward to after this.
I’m not crazy. Millennial dudes being kinder to women (stay with me here) is a real thing: “If you were raised in the ’80s or ’90s and you saw your mother stand up for herself, you’d treat your girlfriend with respect,” Rachel Sussman, a psychotherapist in New York City, previously told Cosmopolitan. “And if you are a boy and were raised in the ’50s, ’60s, or ’70s and your mom didn’t get a lot of respect, that would translate to how you treat your own girlfriend.” This is even more true if your parents got divorced and you were raised in a single-mom household, but since not all the dudes have pulled Hannah aside to spill their dramatic backstories yet, we can’t know how many of them had that precise experience.
In any case, the sweeties on Hannah’s season have already provided droves of evidence supporting this nice boy theory. Exhibit A is, of course, Tyler C.’s deep-voiced proclamation that women run the world. Mike caused yet another collective swoon when he told Hannah about how he feels bad for not being there when his ex experienced a miscarriage. Fans of Connor S. may recall the SERIES OF STICKY NOTES he left around Hannah’s hotel room after his one-on-one, one of which praised how pretty she looks “without makeup.” And before his date with Hannah, the boys literally *patted Connor S. on the back*, hooting and hollering in support of him cheering their girlfriend up (“Go get her better for us!” one dude literally yelled). You simply gotta love these boys!
But maybe the most substantial evidence toward a softboy theory comes in the way the men have collectively handled The Luke P. Problem. In past seasons, the villain has often earned the label by displaying creepy, hyper-masculine, and at times straight up-misogynist behavior. But even Chad, who more than lived up to his goatee and extremely bro name, found allies on JoJo’s season. As we saw in this week’s episode, when literally every dude turned on him after his rugby tackling incident, Luke P. is alone on his overly testosterone’d island. The messages these sweeties are sending to Hannah B. and millions of people everywhere? They’re absolutely not here for your creepy behavior, my dude.
The generational demarcation is hard to draw, but the Pew Research Center announced just earlier this year that the official cutoff line between millennials and the even-more-woke Gen Z is those born in 1996, aka anyone who’s 23 today. The youngest remaining dudes on Hannah’s season are 24 (looking @ you, John Paul Jones). If the pattern holds, we’re in for several more seasons of sweetheart, softboy-bliss behavior worthy of internet boyfriends, and—dare I say?—more actually good men on the universe’s most widely watched dating show. In the meantime? I leave you with this:
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