Leading up to the Bachelor finale, it was quite obvious that Rachael Kirkconnell would win, but the official results and the aftermath were still up in the air until last night. The episode shows that in its current form, the franchise wasn’t ready for their first Black Bachelor, and it’s unacceptable.
After a brief sneak peek, we heard Chris Harrison’s voice narrate the preview for the “After The Final Rose” special – and it’s embarrassing at this point. The show claims it is supporting Chris’s decision to take a step back to educate himself when he’s literally still doing voiceovers...and for a special that focuses on his own racial controversy. Even after last week’s episode that exposed the show’s lack of diversity in decision-making positions, they did something stupid again. Is anyone even surprised anymore? I’m down for the whole production team to be replaced if it means we’ll get some true change coming our way, but enough of this Chris talk, because I was so excited to finally see Emmanuel Acho’s beautiful smile on my screen. I appreciate how the preview they showed in the first two minutes included how they would be digging deep into Rachael’s participation at an antebellum-themed party. With TV, the first moments can make or break a viewer’s decision to stay tuned or not. I appreciate the show taking a stance by putting the subject front and centre.
At the start of the finale though, I found it hard to focus. Not necessarily because it was boring, I just felt like with the preview they aired, it was even more obvious to me that Rachael won. I wasn’t in the mood to see Michelle’s heart broken, and I definitely wasn’t in the mood to watch Matt happily pick Rachael knowing there was a big elephant waiting for us at the end. That said, even though it was kind of hard to get into, it was nice to see his mom and older brother come to support him. The family met Michelle and Rachael. It’s interesting, because there’s usually one family meeting that doesn’t go as well as the other, but both of them seemed...perfect?
Eventually the conflict was revealed after a conversation he had with his mom. Suddenly Matt had doubts about proposing. But why be the lead unless you were confident you were ready to at least get engaged? I can’t help but wonder if producers coerced him into saying yes to the role back in the summer when they were facing pressure to diversify the cast. ICYMI, Matt was originally part of Clare Crawley’s season, but was then cast as the Bachelor. I’ve always thought that was pretty suspicious on the show’s part.
On Matt’s final date with Michelle, he decided to break up with her after she gifted him matching jerseys that said “Mr. James” and “Mrs. James”. Talk about a cringe moment. Even though it seemed as though Rachael automatically won, Matt decided to cancel his final date with her to think about whether or not he wanted to propose to her. Instead of explaining what was going on, they sent Chris Harrison to let her know the date was cancelled with not much detail at all. However, on decision day, Matt did something that hasn’t been done since 2014. Instead of proposing, he decided to pursue a committed relationship with Rachael, which is probably the normal “off-camera” thing to do. We Bachelor Nation fans just tend to forget that at times.
And why wasn’t the special live? Some reports say it was to allow the crew to have enough time to quarantine before they start shooting the next season – that’s their official explanation; the unofficial explanation might be so all bases could be covered when it comes to the control of the show. Being able to select which facial expressions we get to see at certain times with editing can have a huge impact on the perception of the storyline.
But I LOVED how real Emmanuel was keeping it. Hopefully Chris was watching at home and taking notes, because Chris sure knows how to beat around the bush. First, Michelle spoke about how it was trying to process the breakup. She also revealed to us that Matt refused to give her a couple minutes just for closure when they broke up. Yikes. Emmanuel also asked Michelle about thoughts on the racist actions by Chris and Rachael, to which she mentioned how exhausting it is to constantly read statements promising change with no actions that follow. She couldn’t have said it any better. This season, the show has proven that no matter how many PR statements were released, they were not fully prepared or willing to give space to the change that needed to take place in order for this season to be successful. Having the most diverse cast of The Bachelor wasn’t going to be enough; that’s performative.
It was hard to see Matt have a full circle moment with the worries he shared at the beginning of the season and the pressure of showing the world “how black people move”. At least this time, he was having the conversation with someone who understands exactly what he was talking about. To me, the most important point he made was that while other Bachelors only had to worry about finding love, he had to worry about the weight of what was going on socially, in the show, and finding love. The bottom line is that it isn’t fair. As a Black woman, I deal with this same problem every single day. Whether it’s worrying about if my hair looks too big or my voice is too loud, it’s always in my mind. I don’t want people to be looking at me a different way because of some ignorant stereotypes they have in their mind waiting to be fit for me. Matt’s experience is a great example of how important it is to understand the different levels of privileges and how they present themselves in our society.
So after seeing his pain, it was no surprise that Matt ended things with Rachael. While speaking with Emmanuel, she did take accountability. And don’t get me wrong-- her taking responsibility is the bare minimum. But I commend her for being careful not to make this about herself. Emmanuel asked why she waited so long to release an apology, and she said it was so she understood the gravity of everything. Even though she seems to be doing the work and making strides to be better, it doesn’t seem like Matt is going to be getting back with her. For everyone who might be saying he should give her another chance, we also have to remember that this is not just something he can brush off. His Blackness is his life, and he said himself that her not understanding the gravity of being Black in America is what changed things for him. He shouldn’t have had to explain to her why going to a plantation party was messed up. It’s obvious he still has feelings for her, but that just isn’t enough. Sure, maybe the show didn’t deliberately intend to be ignorant in how they handled everything, but that isn’t enough. Being the Bachelor isn’t enough. The followers on Instagram will never be enough. Because when your being is attacked both directly and indirectly, it is hard to bounce back. As Matt struggled to find the words, the silence said it all. This season was a dumpster fire. And if it taught us anything, it’s that The Bachelor in its entirety has a lot of work to do.
At the very end of the show it was announced that fan favourites Katie Thurston and Michelle Young will be the next Bachelorettes in back-to-back seasons. It was also revealed a few days ago that Chris Harrison will not be returning for the next season of The Bachelorette. Instead, it will be hosted by former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe. So we’ll be able to see if they actually care about the work soon enough.