Clayton Echard has been put through the wringer since being announced as the lead of The Bachelor for Season 26. First of all, ABC grossly mishandled Echard’s announcement, remaining mum even as his name leaked in the media before fans were introduced to him on Michelle Young’s season of The Bachelorette. He faced insurmountable levels of scrutiny before his season and was wholly unprepared to face arguably the worst villain in franchise history, Shanae Ankney, leading to continued backlash over his handling of that situation. It’s been so much that Echard has even admitted he regretted joining The Bachelor for a time, and I wholly sympathize.
Ever since I saw Clayton Echard gamely read mean tweets on The Bachelorette finale, laughing through the comments that clearly affected him, I worried that Bachelor Nation was about to eat Echard alive. Fans of the show have questioned his judgment, called him boring, and made fun of his fashion. Nick Viall — a former Bachelor himself — spoke to Echard on his podcast The Viall Files and asked him if he ever regretted saying yes to becoming the Season 26 lead. Echard had an immediate and frank response.
Clayton Echard explained that he didn’t watch The Bachelor before appearing on The Bachelorette, and didn’t talk to any other former leads at the time, so he wasn’t so keenly aware that the contestants in general face so much public scrutiny.
He (rightly) believed some of the backlash against his casting was because he wasn’t featured very much on The Bachelorette, so America hadn’t had the chance to see his personality. However, he expected that to change once The Bachelor started airing, and he said he became “hopeless” when people didn’t come around.
Has Clayton Echard handled everything perfectly? Of course not. He’s human, and he’s a man put in the incomparable position of dating 30 women simultaneously in front of cameras. It doesn’t help that his season immediately followed Michelle Young’s journey, where she exhibited endless grace, easily sniffed out those who weren’t “there for the right reasons,” and introduced America to possibly the strongest final four in the franchise’s history.
Her final four — Joe Coleman, Brandon Jones, Rodney Mathews and eventual winner Nayte Olukoya — didn’t feature Clayton Echard, but it did give the franchise its first final four of color, and three very viable potential leads for a show that’s screaming for more diversity. Did ABC screw up by casting Echard instead? Possibly. Is that Echard’s fault, though? No.
Clayton Echard took ABC up on the chance to find love, and it really is sad to see him trying his best to make fans happy and still falling short. He told The Viall Files at this point he’s just numb to the criticism.
That’s such a shame, and I feel bad that Clayton’s had to numb himself to all the hate. In a season that’s been so focused on villains, mental health and bullying, it’s ironic that fans are perpetuating the very behavior they’re mad at Clayton Echard about for not stopping. Echard’s journey is well on its way, and hopefully it will all have been worth it if he finds love in the end.
The Bachelor continues Monday, February 21, at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. Be sure to check out our 2022 TV Schedule to see what other shows are starting soon.
Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Can usually be found rewatching The West Wing instead of doing anything productive.
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