Reality TV becoming more reflective of our reality.
The 25th season of “The Bachelor” was actually the most dramatic season to air, and the finale was also missing the face of the franchise, Chris Harrison, hosting the episode. While tough conversations and controversies are never more than a commercial break away, this finale hosted by Emmanuel Acho covered some serious dialogue about the reality of racism in America.
After former Bachelorette Hannah Brown’s racial slur scandal during the height of quarantine and the surge of the Black Lives Matter movement, Bachelor Nation experienced a flood of commotion. Fans of Brown defended her actions, while other fans, former castmates and participants of other seasons spoke out against her ignorance. The franchise faced pressure to address the scandal. After the dust settled, ABC announced their next Bachelor, Matthew James. Fans knew him as best friend to Tyler Cameron (a frontrunner from Brown’s season of “The Bachelorette”), but this season let us really get to know James, as the first Black Bachelor in Bachelor Nation History.
This was a long overdue step towards diversity and inclusion in Bachelor Nation.
Aside from the eye-opening make out scenes (sorry, I had to), Matt James was everything we could have hoped for in a Bachelor: hilarious, smart, and positively gorgeous. We also got to witness James grapple with his parents’ rocky marriage in the build up to his potential proposal. James’ parents split because of his father’s infidelity, which made James’ journey to love and a long-lasting commitment that much more difficult.
In the peak of James’s season, many people, including myself, were rooting for frontrunner Rachael Kirkconnell. Their chemistry is undeniable, and their dates were by far the most entertaining.
However, another scandal erupted after racially insensitive photos surfaced from a 2018 Antebellum-themed college party of Kirkconnell and friends, and Bachelor Nation endured another storm of controversy.
Kirkconnell experienced severe backlash from people both in and out of Bachelor Nation. In an interview on EXTRA, longtime host Chris Harrison attempted to defend Kirkconnell, but his response only incited more fire.
Participants from former seasons, like Rachel Lindsay, commented on Kirkconnell and Harrison’s ignorance, and urged everyone involved as well as fans to take the time to educate themselves on the history of racism in America and its complex truths.
Amid the backlash, Harrison stepped down for an unspecified time frame, and Kirkconnell released an apology statement with a promise to educate herself.
With just two women left, Rachael Kirkconnell and Michelle Young, James decided to send Young home, and remained committed to Kirkconnell, minus the engagement ring. The photos came out after filming was completed, which left a lot up in the air for fans post-controversy.
Bachelor Nation and the franchise were presented with an opportunity to grow and take real steps towards change, and they took it. Emmanuel Acho, former NFL linebacker, author, and host of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” hosted the finale and helped James, Kirkconnell, and Young approach very difficult conversations regarding love and race.
James revealed that he and Kirkconnell split after the controversy, and the door was permanently closed on that relationship. In the episode, James explained how Kirkconnell’s actions were beyond disappointing, but what was most heartbreaking was her initial inability to see why they were wrong. However, Kirkconnell was insistent on her promise to extend her apology into action, which is a journey we all would want to see.
The serious, emotional episode still concluded on an exciting note, as Acho announced who our next Bachelorette would be. This year we get back-to-back Bachelorettes! Katie Thurston, another frontrunner from James’ season, will have her season first, then another “Bachelorette” season will follow immediately after with Michelle Young! And to make it even better, former Bachelorettes, Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe will be hosting! The face of the franchise is being taken over by powerful women, and we love to see it.
By not shying away from uncomfortable, but important conversations, and giving women more leading roles within the franchise, “The Bachelor” is engaging in a more realistic representation of our diverse reality.