I cannot say that I’m a fan of The Bachelor. I’ve never watched a full season. I couldn’t tell you who my favorite contestants are. And unless Bachelor Nation is anywhere near Wakanda or Zamunda, I can’t tell you how to get there.
But when I learned that the South of television shows was going to have its First. Ever. Black. Bachelor. *audible gasps* I was intrigued. I set my DVR to Jim Crow and tuned in. Here is what I found: The Bachelor is a lot like America—and America is totally fucked up.
Think about this: The show had its first Black Bachelor in some 300 seasons and in that one season alone, the host is on hiatus, the woman that the Black Bachelor chose to continue his journey with had photos of her playing antebellum Southern on a plantation, and no one got engaged. In fact, the whole thing is off. The Bachelor, Matt James, doesn’t even fuck with his pick anymore, and it’s all over race.
Probably doesn’t help matters that a former casting producer called this season a PR stunt and noted that James is the first Bachelor who hasn’t appeared on a previous Bachelorette season, which means viewers have limited knowledge of his backstory.
It doesn’t matter because we, America, don’t know how to have a conversation about race in this country and we never have because all of them usually go like this:
Us: Man, you know what is fucked up? Racism.
Them: Why are you always talking about the past? Get over it. It’s not like my father enslaved your family! Why do you always see color?! Move so that I can get in my BMW and speed away from this conversation.
So The Bachelor tried and totally fumbled the bag. They brought in James, a nice enough Black man born to a white mother and Black father, and who seemingly had an endless supply of male jeggings. James spends the majority of the show working through his feelings for his father—who abandoned the family—and the struggles his mother went through raising James and his brother alone. James and his father finally had a raw on-air conversation about his father’s absence and what that had done to James, and it felt a tad bit too real for television. There were tears and tropes, sadness and stereotypes (Black father abandonment). James did a good job handling it all. He was not only juggling the emotions of all the women, but he was also processing his emotions as a Black man and a racial representative while trying to find love in just 12 episodes. I know that seems like a small window but trust me, things are different in Bachelor world.
The Real World (not the MTV reality show but the actual world that we live in) 2nd Date: I think I could like her.
Bachelor World 2nd Date: I’ve never told anyone this but I love you, and I lost my father in a drug cartel murder-kidnap plot.
Just like the insurrection on the Capitol, Arizona Iced Teas costing $1.25 despite the can saying .99 cents, or the Grammys, we just kind of accept that it is what it is. We just kind of go with it and ignore that all of this is unfolding in a three-month window in which all of the women are gorgeous pick-me’s. Seriously, no one is over a size small, no one wears a satin cap, and they all seem to handle living with the Bachelor’s side-women as the price of doing business.
An aside: The kissing. Can we talk for a second about the kissing? The Bachelor is kissing everybody back to back to back to back. Literally, he kisses one woman and takes her back to the group to join the rest of the crew and then grabs another woman and kisses her in the mouf. Love in the time of COVID...Amirite?
An aside-aside: Matt James french kisses with his eyes open. I saw it so you have to see it too.
There’s a reason that the Bachelor never had a Black Bachelor and most likely it’s because they didn’t know how the fuck to handle any of it.
When the news broke that contestant Rachel Kirkconnell, who was then a frontrunner but hadn’t been chosen as the engaged—which would later turn out to be the girlfriend—had played on a plantation in a Southern-style dress that screamed racism and mint juleps, host-producer Chris Harrison went on Extra to speak with the first Black Bachelorette in the history of the show, Rachel Lindsey. Instead of condemning Kirkconnell’s participation in an “Old South” party, Harrison blamed the “woke police.”
“These girls got dressed up and went to a party and had a great time; they were 18 years old. Now, does that make it okay? I don’t know, Rachael, you tell me,” Harrison said.
He’s asking a Black woman if a white woman attending a “let’s make slavery great again” party is wrong and doesn’t see a hint of anything in this. So now, Harrison’s on hiatus, Kirkconnell is on a racism apology tour, a Black man may get the hosting job and James, well, he will be fine as there will be no shortage of women willing to throw themselves at him as he wasn’t a perfect Bachelor but he did what was right—I mean, besides not picking Michelle Young, the beautiful Black runner-up who will be next fall’s Bachelorette.
Much like Trump, America didn’t get The Bachelor they wanted, America got The Bachelor it deserved and if the show is a funhouse mirror reflection of who we are, then we not only won’t fare well in a room that is set up for us to win, but the host is going to lose his job and someone’s going to have to go on an apology tour because racism is embedded into our DNA in the same way as “Will you accept this rose?”