If you haven’t seen the show, you’ve at least heard the audio. Clips of Big Ed and Rose from Season 7 of TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days” are circulating the TikTok and Instagram cyber-spheres due to their sheer ridiculousness.
TLC’s “90 Day Fiancé” and its various spinoffs, including “Before the 90 Days,” has somehow been running for over seven years. “Before the 90 Days” follows couples who are dating online, but have never met in person. They visit each other’s home countries for the first time on the show, and navigate applying for a 90-day fiancé visa.
Each season’s most shocking moments — which would be too intimate for regular couples to share with the world — can be found on YouTube.
In the latest season, 54-year-old Ed from San Diego travels to the Philippines to be with his girlfriend Rosemarie (called Rose), who is 23. Although he had never met her in real life, Ed had already sent her expensive gifts in the mail and declined a request for money from her sister.
Ed makes a series of blunders throughout the show that do not endear him to the audience, while Rose has become a social media icon. In one notable scene, Ed asks Rose to shave her legs because “hairy legs on a woman are unfeminine.” She responds by telling him to shave his itchy beard.
These clips from the show sum up the plot: It goes from “Meet BIG Ed” to “Ed Doesn’t Have Sex, then Rose Picks in his Wallet in Humid Hell” to “Rose Want’s Babies with Big Ed” and finally, “Rose Ditches Ed!”
In the first episode, we meet Ed taking pictures of young models in his photography studio in San Diego, and learn that Ed gave himself the name “Big Ed” because, at his 4-foot-11-inch stature, the nickname makes him feel tall.
He slathers mayonnaise on his hair to alleviate his hair dye-induced dry scalp because, as he tells the camera crew, “I just want to look young for Rose.” He adds that he is self-conscious about his physical appearance because Rose is 31 years his junior.
Among the other ridiculous scandals in the show, the age difference between Ed and Rose is merely an added bonus. Many celebrity couples have big age gaps: Leonardo DiCaprio is 23 years older than girlfriend Camila Morrone. Johnny Depp is Amber Heard’s senior by 23 years. Emilie Livingston is 30 years younger than husband Jeff Goldblum, with whom she has two children. In light of these differences in age, Ed and Rose’s 31 years doesn’t seem that crazy.
While age gaps can go several ways, most of the bigger ones in celebrity couples are between an older man and a younger woman. Psychology Today suggests that the younger woman is seeking a father figure.
Researchers from Saint Mary’s University looked into this hypothesis, based on the “attachment theory” that people’s adult relationships reflect the way they were treated in their formative years. They ultimately found no significant psychological qualities within the stereotypical May-December relationship.
Another study by the American Psychological Association suggests that since women can’t continue having children forever while men can, they have evolved to seek older “mates.” In plain English, having kids may be a subconscious factor driving these relationships.
In “90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days,” having kids becomes a topic of contention. Ed neglects to reveal to Rose, who has already told him she wants another kid, that he is planning to get a vasectomy. He is prepared to take on Rose’s 4-year-old son Prince, but doesn’t want to tell her that he doesn’t want any more kids beyond his own 29-year-old daughter. “I don’t wanna break her heart” is his lame excuse.
As Ed and Rose explore their atypical relationship, many celebrities have recently been defending their own. Some couples see it as an asset. Sarah Paulson said, “There’s a poignancy to being with someone older,” referring to her relationship with Holland Taylor, who has 32 years on her. Others have equated their maturity levels: “She’s very mature for her age and I’m very immature for mine,” said Dick Van Dyke of his much younger wife in 2013.
Still, more celebrities ask why people care about their intimate relationships. Actress Florence Pugh pushed back at Instagram haters after posting a birthday shot of 44-year-old boyfriend Zach Braff, saying: “I am 24 years old. I do not need you to tell me who I should and should not love.” Yet the celebrity scrutiny refuses to abate.
Even President Macron of France had to defend his relationship with his older wife, pointing out the extreme double standards we place on older women: “If I had been 20 years older than my wife, nobody would have thought for a single second that I couldn’t be legitimately together,” he told the New York Post.
There is no need to criticize celebrities for having big gaps in age from their partners. We don’t know the ins-and-outs of their intimate lives, so who are we to judge?
Ultimately, Rose and Ed’s problem in “90 Day Fiance” is not their age difference. They are in entirely different places in their lives and not willing to communicate about it. While their approach to life was tied to their age, their interpersonal issues were so much more than that.
Ed should have told Rose from the get-go that he wasn’t prepared to have an Emilie Livingston and Jeff Goldblum relationship. TLC should have turned its focus away from the age gap and toward the foundational aspects for a good relationship: communication and openness.