Bachelor Nation Controversy

The past couple of weeks in Bachelor Nation have been hectic, dramatic, and disappointing. In the past, the Bachelor franchise has failed to cast diverse leads and contestants on their shows. Rachael Lindsey was the first Black female lead in the franchise's history. Her season aired in 2017, and since then, neither the Bachelor nor Bachelorette had featured another lead of color until Matt James was cast as the first Black bachelor this summer. The franchise made this choice after it received enormous amounts of criticism for underrepresenting people of color and showcasing predominantly white love stories. With the announcement of Matt James as the Bachelor, the franchise also vowed to cast a more diverse group of women on Matt’s season and to work towards diversifying its staff internally. 

These announcements over the summer seemed to indicate that the Bachelor franchise was moving in the right direction. However, once Matt’s season began to air in early January, upsetting information about Rachael Kirkconnell--a frontrunner in the fight for Matt’s heart--began to spread across social media. Kirkconnell was accused by a handful of Tik Tok users from her high school for bullying them while in high school for liking Black men. Additionally, photos resurfaced of Kirkconnell culturally appropriating Native American culture for a Halloween costume. A bit more recently, another photo resurfaced of Kirkconnell at an antebellum south-themed party in college; Kirkconnell and her sorority sisters were dressed in hoop skirts, the “classical” attire of white women during this shameful time in the United States’ history. Antebellum south parties, such as the one Kirkconnell attended, have also been known to include male attendees dressed up in Confederate uniforms and Confederate flags as “decorations.”

Obviously, the information on Kirkconnell’s past is concerning and upsetting--especially to the BIPOC community. Many Bachelor fans were expecting a public statement and apology from Kirkconnell immediately after this news came out. However, as the weeks of Matt’s season progressed, Kirkconnell remained silent. 

About two weeks ago, Rachael Lindsey interviewed Chris Harrison, the host of all the Bachelor shows, for a talk show. Lindsey--like many other members of Bachelor Nation--was curious about the information circulating about Kirkconnell and asked Chris Harrison if Kirkconnell or the franchise had plans to publicly address and apologize for her past racist behavior. To say that Chris Harrison did not respond well to Lindsey’s valid and important question would be an understatement: he essentially defended Kirkconnell’s past behavior. He condescendingly asked Lindsey “is it [not] a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?” in reference to Kirkconnell’s participation in and attendance of the antebellum south party. He went on to stress how the “woke police” need to grant Kirkconnell grace and time to deal with this situation. Lindsey remained composed throughout the interview and let Harrison make a mockery out of himself.

Once the interview aired, Harrison received an immense amount of justified backlash and criticism. He immediately issued a statement via Instagram, apologizing for perpetuating racism and talking down to Lindsey during the interview. Kirkconnell also came forward after the interview aired and finally apologized for her past behavior, promising to put in the right work to be better in the future. A couple of days after the interview had been released and these various apologies had been made, Harrison released another statement on his Instagram. He announced that he would be “stepping aside [from the Bachelor] for a period of time” and would not be hosting the “After the Final Rose” special. As of right now, it is unclear if Harrison will eventually be allowed to return to work for the Bachelor franchise. 

Since these events transpired, ABC has announced that Emmanuel Acho will be the host for this season’s After the Final Rose. Acho is a former NFL football player who now works as a sports analyst for Fox Sports. He is also the author of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. Although replacing Harrison with Acho is the right move, it is difficult for the switch in hosts to not feel performative. 

The aftermath of these events continues to unfold by the day. Lindsey has recently been forced to deactivate her Instagram. Since the interview, she has received an extreme amount of racist, hateful, and overall malicious messages from individuals who are upset about the backlash Chris Harrison has received. Many Bachelor alum publicly condemned this type of aggressive behavior, expressing their support of Lindsey during this time. 

Overall, this entire situation from start to finish is disheartening. The racial issues that have emerged within the Bachelor franchise are indicative of the larger issues that currently exist within this country. People like Kirkconnell need to be held accountable for their past racist behavior, and people like Chris Harrison do not deserve to have public platforms if they are using their platforms to perpetuate ignorance and racism. Although the future of the Bachelor franchise is unclear, we can only hope that those in power take the time to make real and impactful changes to the structure and values of the show.