If I were able to start this editorial by having you all hear my many audible sighs of the past several weeks, believe me, I would do it. As it stands though, I'm going to have to put all my opinions and feelings into words for you, so, if you're a proud member of Bachelor Nation, buckle up. I can't watch these shows anymore, not unless they begin to cast non-white leads on a regular basis.
There is A LOT going on right now. So much so, that I can admit to sometimes being at a loss as to how to do anything normal anymore, even when I get the chance. Right as I reported for work this morning, I was given the assignment of writing about former star of The Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, and how she's finally speaking out about the lack of diversity in the franchise, and her willingness to say that she won't be a part of it anymore, unless real change is made and we get non-while leads, especially for Season 25 of The Bachelor, which should air next year.
I say I was "given the assignment" because I didn't just jump on the Rachel Lindsay news this morning, even though I've written tons about The Bachelor and its many shows and personalities for over a year now. Why? Honestly, while I agreed with her sentiments, I just didn't feel like thinking about it too hard.
I didn't want to think about The Bachelor hard enough to remind myself that, in a combined 40 seasons and 18 years of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay is still the only non-white lead that we've had (and that just happened in 2017). I didn't want to think about it hard enough to relate what happens on a series as willfully silly as any Bachelor franchise show to racism. I didn't want to think about it hard enough, specifically, to have to also think about the senseless murders of so many black people at the hands of those who have, theoretically, sworn to protect them any more than I already have.
I wanted, this morning, to just try to get on with my fucking life. But, I couldn't and none of us really can, not with the way things are going right now. So, when I asked our TV Editor if he wanted me to take Rachel Lindsay's story, and he said he did, I took it. And, what I realized very quickly, after listening to about 10 minutes of Rachel's interview, was that I can't keep watching The Bachelor unless the producers make some real changes, and keep changing.
How I Started Watching The Bachelor
For some background, you should know that I am not any kind of longtime Bachelor stan. I've thought the whole thing lived in an odd TV land where a show can be ridiculous, but also ridiculously repugnant, for most of its time on the air. Not only did I not watch Season 1 of The Bachelor, I didn't tap in to the franchise until Season 13 of The Bachelorette. If you haven't been keeping track of which season starred which woman, make no mistake about this one. That's right, I started watching The Bachelorette because Rachel Lindsay was chosen to lead the show in 2017.
So, I watched along as Rachel tried to (and did) find love on the show. But, while I was captivated by her search immediately, I said nothing to anyone about watching her season. Not even to the people who work on this site with me, because I was sure I'd be forced to continue watching and write about the antics of too many young white people who are 100% not ready to get married and just want to be famous. I was going to be one and done with this bullshit, because I had no doubt that Rachel was going to lead a show, and then we weren't going to see any additional leads of color.
I stuck to my guns, for a time, and didn't watch anymore of this madness until Becca Kufrin's Bachelorette season a year later (there had been a Bachelor in Paradise season and one season of The Bachelor in between). Then, I was off to the races with it. I'd paid my penny and was in for a pound. But, as many Bachelor Nation fans of color will likely agree with, there was always an icky feeling, an undercurrent of injustice, to it.
As I kept watching white people look for love season after season, that feeling of wrongness continued, but I kept pushing it aside. I was having fun, and I kept letting things like fence jumps and windmill sex dominate my absolute certainty that we should be able to tune in to this franchise and watch some brown folks lead this insanity.
Mike Johnson Should've Been The Next Bachelor
Then, that nagging feeling got really bad toward the end of last summer. Last year, black man extraordinaire Mike Johnson appeared on Hannah Brown's season of The Bachelorette. As one of Hannah's many suitors, Mike was always upstanding in every way. He was kind, sensible, always ready with a gorgeous smile, understanding but able to voice his opinions/feelings calmly and clearly, and he never got roped into aggressive disagreements with her other suitors.
Hannah really liked Mike, and I wasn't the only audience member who liked Mike, either. There was a vocal group who championed him as the next Bachelor on social media once Hannah sent him home (I would say this was a big mistake, but considering her recent behavior, it's clear she's got a lot to learn before having a serious relationship with anyone who's not white), and who said it was way past time for another black lead, and the first such lead of The Bachelor, the flagship show, in particular.
Despite seeming like an all around stand-up guy, being good looking, and not appearing to have any skeletons hiding in his social media (or legal) closet, Mike did not get the gig. After an unimpressive showing on Bachelor in Paradise last year, where I believe he was purposely given the most boring as hell edit so that the attention around him and call to have him as Bachelor would die down, we were treated to another white dude, who would (sort of) bang his way through a bevy of women.
I had hope that Mike would be the next lead, but never really thought it would happen. Let's think about the optics here, there are many people in this country who will be OK with a black woman having some white men at her beck and call, and many more who will be just fine with a white woman having some non-white men in the same position. But, I can guarantee that there are millions upon millions of people in this country who will really hate watching a black man (or any guy who's not white) have his pick of white women.
Imagine this fictional man dumping a white woman, and maybe even making her cry. Imagine him making out with one white woman... and then another... and another, in the same day. As Chris Harrison said when asked why the show is diversifying so slowly, "we have to stay on the air," meaning they know most of their fans will hate it and they don't want to try any more than they currently are, which simply isn't good enough.
As I listened to Rachel's interview earlier, she admitted that her season is one of the lowest rated in the franchise. Isn't that an indictment of society, however small that indictment may be? I'm sure that many of the fans who sat out her season had watched every previous season, but, suddenly, a televised search for love wasn't meant for their interest and entertainment? Why would watching an intelligent, strong, accomplished, gorgeous black woman be any different from watching a white woman with the same qualifications?
The Bachelor Franchise Is A Huge Problem
Here's the huge problem, and why something which looks as inconsequential as The Bachelor is actually so important. When you allow the lowest common denominator to run the show (in whatever area of life that "show" is) we will never see real change. When you say to those people, who've gotten pretty good at hiding, "Hey, we hear you don't want change. It's fine, everything will stay the same," what you're promising them is that they will always be able to hide.
You're promising those white people that their desire to pretend that they are better than non-white people is A-OK. You're telling them that they're right; non-white people don't want to look for love, or, at the very least, that search isn't worthy of having a spotlight put on it. And, if our search for love doesn't matter, if our hearts and emotions and minds and futures don't matter THEN OUR LIVES DON'T MATTER. We've seen many times in real life what happens when people are allowed to believe that our lives don't matter and see us as less than human. We've actually been seeing this for literally hundreds of years and I'm fucking sick of it.
So, here's what I'm doing. I'm done with this franchise. I'm not watching it or writing about it beyond this editorial, not even the barest hint of a tweet, unless they promise to change the way they do things and start those changes as of The Bachelor 2021. I was having some personal confusion over whether or not to watch Clare Crawley's upcoming season of The Bachelorette, because ageism with regards to women in the franchise has become another issue, but I've decided that I can't do it. Sorry, Clare. I'll circle back around when I see what creator/producer Mike Fleiss and ABC do after getting called out by Rachel Lindsay.
The people who watched lots of Bachelor shows before and since Rachel was lead, but conspicuously sat out her season, need to be pushed into the light, not covered up and coddled. Those are the people we need to worry about, more so than the ones who wear their hate and distaste like a badge of honor; it's easy to stay away from those lunatics. The people who don't want things to change, but know to whisper it to their white friends in the dark when they're "just" talking about a reality show are the problem, because they're the one passing these twisted beliefs down to their kids and keeping this whole sick, maddening, dangerous cycle going.
The Bachelor needs to say "fuck you" to those people and open the mansion doors to leads of color (as well as seeing casts that have more diversity, in general), and it needs to do so on a regular basis. Not just when fans get mad at them, or when the show gets called out by those who've appeared in the franchise. In fact, if the producers do it frequently, they'll never have to be "forced" into doing the right thing.
The producers need to think long and hard about whether or not they want to begin to represent this country more fully and if they're truly OK with letting their television institution continue to be a breeding ground for racism. If they are, I'm cool with leaving the whole franchise behind and spending my time on something that uses its influence (however mild) to do better, be better, and be willing to grow, all the time.