(We are so pleased to welcome Anastasia, the newest writer to join the team. Anastasia is a journalism student and a member of Bachelor Nation. She can be reached on Twitter @annieanokyee and on Instagram @annie.anokye. and by email at [email protected].)
Anyone who is a huge Bachelor fanatic like me knows that everything has been a mess. This season’s frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell has taken some well-deserved heat for being racist. She was exposed on TikTok, Reddit pages, Facebook pages, and it all eventually blew up on Twitter. And then everything seemed to completely fall apart when host Chris Harrison did an interview with Rachel Lindsay where he defended Kirkconnell for attending a plantation-themed fraternity party in 2018, among many other racist actions.
First of all, ew. Second, was I the only one who had no idea plantation-themed parties were even a thing…and in 2018? Chris Harrison, a cis white male telling the first Black Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay that she is in no place to decide what is and isn’t considered acceptable? As a Black woman myself, I am shocked by how poised Rachel was during that interview, because I know inside she must have been beside herself. However, Chris Harrison’s total PR-apology posted to his Instagram…
… isn’t what threw everything into a tailspin. Instead, it was his announcement that he would be stepping away from the franchise in response to the backlash he’s gotten.
This…is unprecedented. Through every single scandal and controversy, Chris Harrison has been there, smiling as if it was never happening. With all of this in mind, getting ready to watch last night’s episode of The Bachelor was interesting, to say the least. Many popular live-tweeters announced that they would be taking the night off in solidarity with the BIPOC community; Chris’s online presence was nowhere to be found (as it should be), and the thought of watching Rachael and Matt’s love story literally sent a chill down my spine. Personally, I felt icky. Why do I continue to give this show two hours of my Monday nights as a full-time student with mountains of readings when there are so many fundamental issues with it? With all of this in mind, I figured that maybe the show will take a turn for the better in this new era.
Did the show make any last-minute cuts to the episode? Were they going to finally take some sort of stand against the blatant racism that continues to show up in the franchise? Were they going to stop featuring mean girl drama and actually show, ya know, some LOVE? Maybe they would use the first episode in this new era as an opportunity to adjust from wrong to right, right?
Hindsight, my friends, is 20/20, because I can confidently say that this episode just made everything worse. Literal dumpster fire. The night began at last week’s cliff-hanger; Heather Martin, a former contestant on Colton Underwood’s season, showed up with the hopes of getting a chance at Matt’s heart. As Matt took some time to figure out if this was a relationship he wanted to explore, poor Heather had to endure some super nasty attacks from the contestants. She stood in front of them trying to hold back tears as the women badgered her for something I’m almost certain the producers put together to cause more drama, which is a criticism the show has been getting throughout the whole season. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) for Heather, Matt decided it was best he didn’t allow Heather to join the cast.
I can say with my whole chest that this season has been filled with the most ruthless mean girl attacks I have ever seen in my six years of devotion to this franchise. This was all in the first 20 minutes, and I was already uncomfortable enough to think about turning it off. After reading some tweets online of how disappointed viewers were for this display of overly rude behaviour for the sixth week in a row, I knew the next hour and a half would not help the franchise in any way whatsoever. This goes beyond some drama to make the show pull in views. Have the producers not taken the hint that the viewers are tired of seeing women tear each other down for a man’s approval yet?
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, my biggest worry came to light: the development of Rachael and Matt’s relationship being up and centre. With hometowns next week, there were only four roses up for grabs. At a group date, Bri pulled Matt aside and let him know she made the insanely difficult decision to quit her job in order to stay on the show. Now, at this point, I was almost certain she would get the group date rose. Like, how do you give the rose to anyone else after that? Apparently if your name is Rachael, you’ve cracked the code, because Matt picked her. With the context of Rachael’s racist actions, it was exceptionally hard to watch her be picked over a woman of colour who left her job in order to be there for Matt.
It doesn’t just stop there, though. Rachael and Matt then left the group of emotional women to be serenaded by (get this) singer and social justice activist, Aloe Blacc. Rachael’s rose means we will be meeting her family during the hometown date next week, and I am sure there will be lots more to speak on with that. As for the rest of the episode, Chris Harrison didn’t seem to be cut out in any way. Watching him counsel Matt through his emotions was almost as uncomfortable as watching Matt fall more in love with a woman who went to a plantation-themed party just three years ago. I also thought that just maybe the show would acknowledge what is going on with a written on-screen message denouncing the racism they have been caught perpetuating so many times. Nothing. At this point, I think the show is just showing their inability to deal with anything if it isn’t able to sweep it under the rug.
After such a dumpster fire of an episode, I sat there asking myself why I even bother. I’m a 20-year-old black woman who has seen time and time again that the franchise simply doesn’t care about how my community has been affected by their actions. The way things looked last night, I wouldn’t be surprised if the live-tweeters won’t be back for next week. If anything, the show’s silence on the whole situation may just push more people away. Do I see myself taking next week off? No. And it pains me to say that because I know me sitting in front of the screen is putting some sort of money in the show’s pocket. However, it just doesn’t feel right to boycott this season since it’s the first Black bachelor. Not watching it would, in a sick twisted reality, give the franchise a reason to point to for not choosing anymore BIPOC leads due to low ratings. Isn’t this a cruel world?
But what I can also say as a self-proclaimed Bachelor expert is how fascinating it has been to see the evolution of the show. When I started watching back in 2015 for Chris Soules’s season, the whiteness of the show was just another pill I had to swallow (story of any Black person’s life, TBH). However, as the years of horrible storylines for women of colour, lack of representation, and ignorance passed by and were called out, I realized that Matt James, the Bachelor, happened because of viewers like me who refused to let this continue. We used our voices on social media and demanded change in order to see the love stories that reflect true life. It all brought us to where we are today, with the freaking Chris Harrison taking a pause. So when I ask myself why I stay, that is my answer.
The “sweeping under the rug” era is no more. This episode marking the beginning of this new era has most definitely made all of the franchise’s flaws come to the surface. With the unionization of past and present contestants, which I will be writing on later this week, there is no one else to blame but the show. The ball is in their court, so I guess all we can do is wait and see what their serve will be, wait to see if it’ll just be another bluff, and whether or not pop culture force known as The Bachelor will be able to survive it.