Moments before The Bachelorette premiered, my friend Liz texted me, “I think this is the biggest TV moment ever for you.” She’s not wrong. It was right up there with Barack Obama’s inauguration, the series finale of Dawson’s Creek, the premiere of Insecure and that episode of Saved By the Bell when Zack Morris kissed Lisa Turtle. Rachel Lindsay, “the hero we need”, made her debut as the first black Bachelorette last night and my girl did not disappoint.
For two hours, we witnessed a beautiful, poised and confident black woman as the object of affection by a multitude of men. 31 men with various occupations (some of them even have real jobs and seem accomplished and relatively normal!) fawned and fought over Rachel. A white Bachelor called her a “Disney princess.” Before Tiana in freaking 2009, Disney princesses were blonde or blue-eyed or fair skinned. They definitely did not look like Rachel Lindsay. This was a moment for me. Rachel was consistently referred to as “wife material.” One of the generic dudes I can’t keep straight – Dean maybe?— was even self-aware enough to acknowledge that Rachel is “out of [his] league.” Every time the men praised Rachel, I got a bit emotional.
Listen, I know that the validation of a bunch of unexceptional men should not be a benchmark of success. Frankly, Rach might be better off without all of these thirsty dudes. Half of these contestants are trash and all of them seem unworthy of her affection but the fact is that we don’t get to see black women revered in this way. I will never stop stressing the importance of seeing black women depicted as desirable and deserving of romantic attention – by men of all backgrounds.
My biggest fear going into this season was that The Bachelorette producers would be incapable of finding normal and nice men to court our perfect Rach. Thankfully, they did better than expected. Peter is a Patrick Dempsey lookalike who can wear the sh-t out of a checkered suit. McDreamy 2.0 is my pick in my office pool and I regretted that difficult decision right up until he stepped out of his limo. That gap tooth. Those eyes. Goddamn. Peter can stay. DeMario has the chill of Drake around any pretty girl. He’s an episode away from buying Rach a billboard and I’m not mad at it because DeMario is really, really handsome. Josiah, the Assistant State Attorney who overcame insurmountable circumstances, is a wonderful man whose backstory brought tears to my eyes. Blake E., the “my penis is amazing” guy, gave my gag reflex a workout. Honestly, that guy was something else. Dear God, grant me the confidence of a mediocre white man on a reality show. I have spent most of my adult life avoiding the Lucases of the world or you know, men in general who come up with their own catchphrase and wear it on a t-shirt. Bryan is a LOUD kisser who made me cringe with every lip smack but Rach seems to like him so I’m going to try to be supportive.
The Bachelorette stereotypes we’ve come to know were all represented: dude with made-up job (Jonathan, the Ticklemonster, who should be charged with a crime for tickling someone without consent), dude with daughter (Kenny, the wrestler), dude who is definitely a low-key serial killer (Adam and his mini me, aka the star of all my future nightmares), dude who cries on night one (Milton, the growler) and dude with a dumb gimmick who is going to stick around way too long (Whaboom). This season is proof that these archetypes and men with weird quirks can come in any colour, that diversity doesn’t compromise the integrity of content and that every excuse ABC has given for the whitewashing of this show has been bullsh-t. This is still going to be the series we love, or love to hate, but with the injection of a cast of men who actually reflect the world outside of the Bachelor mansion. It feels fresh. And it was so FUN.
I’ve survived every season of this show. I know what good (Jillian, Kaitlyn) and bad (Juan Pablo, Desiree) leads look like. This isn’t just my bias talking: Rachel absolutely killed it. She maneuvered through awkward situations flawlessly. Her fake laugh didn’t seem forced. She was funny and relaxed and charming. Those 31 men weren’t the only ones falling in love with Rachel last night. This is the distraction we deserved.
Aside from the joy that watching The Bachelorette premiere brought me, this morning the show has given us some top-notch writing by a few of my faves. Roxane Gay wrote a piece for Marie Claire that essentially summed up why Rachel’s season is so groundbreaking and a much-needed escape from the horror of the everyday news cycle.
The bar for progress is generally really high—we measure it by the first black president, the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court, the first black Librarian of Congress. But sometimes, progress is an incredibly beautiful, talented, and charming black woman voluntarily tolerating the attention of 31 unworthy men on national television so that she might find love or something like it.
And Ali Barthwell at Vulture, who has been my go-to Bachelorette recapper for years, hilariously pin pointed Rachel’s appeal:
If Carefree Black Girls were Pokémon, Rachel is what you get when you use a Sun Shard on Yara Shahidi. The shots of her dancing in the street and playing on the beach could be right out of the credits of a ’90s UPN sitcom. Queen Latifah would play her best friend and landlord and Brandy would be her lab partner.
I don’t understand that Pokemon reference but I am still here for all of this.
Over at The Daily Beast, Amy Zimmerman wrote a piece that made me and Lainey, who doesn’t give a sh-t about The Bachelor franchise, laugh out loud multiple times.
If this is what we’re in for every week, I am so f-cking excited. As for what’s coming this season on The Bachelorette, as usual, we were treated to a promo package teasing the drama of the upcoming episodes. In its premiere episode, The Bachelorette mostly avoided talking about race. In the promo, we see Rachel crying about her “decisions” and worrying that people will judge her. It will be interesting to see what the Internet reaction will be if Rachel’s final four are all white men, or vice versa. I’m fascinated to see how a show that has done so wrong in the past when it comes to race handles a season of interracial dating and a house full of diverse men fighting over the same girl.
Here’s the upcoming season promo. If you didn’t watch last night, have I convinced you to join us on this journey for love? I promise you won’t be disappointed.