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If you watch The Bachelor, you’re familiar with its charismatic host, Chris Harrison. Harrison has hosted every single episode of ABC’s The Bachelor and its various spinoffs. He’s always there announcing the obvious and offering support to the show’s season lead. He’s generally considered the father of the franchise and is well-loved by casual watchers. However, those who have watched and followed the show on and off-screen for years know that Chris Harrison (and the show) have a long history of problematic behavior. 

On February 13, 2021, Chris Harrison put out a statement on Instagram announcing his decision to step away from the show, and on March 13, 2021, ABC announced he would not be hosting the next season of The Bachelorette. So, what happened? 

It all seriously imploded when Harrison went on an interview with Rachel Lindsay, a former contestant and the franchises’ first Black bachelorette. Harrison fervently defended the racist past of one of the contestants from this current season of The Bachelor, Rachael Kirkconnell. At the time of this podcast, Kirkconnell had not spoken out or apologized for the controversy, in which she was exposed for going to an antebellum-themed plantation party in 2018. He defended her actions by saying that she did not act with malicious intent and that things were different then than they are now in 2021 — as if the world had just learned that slavery was racist sometime in the last three years.

Harrison goes on to say that Kirkconnell deserves to be given “grace,” and he criticizes the “woke police” for tearing her life apart. He questions why there isn’t a conversation happening about her love story with a Black man. He repeatedly talks over, interrupts and dismisses what Lindsay says. This all gets more complicated when you take into consideration the fact that Kirkconnell was on the season with the show’s first Black bachelor. The entire interview was a very messy look for Chris Harrison, and the backlash came hard and fast. And, as I said before, this isn’t his first incident; this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. Harrison’s statements come after years of the show continuously dismissing calls for representation, sweeping racial insensitivity under the rug and mistreating their own BIPOC contestants during and after airing. 

I’ve been watching the show since I was a little girl. I enjoyed following the drama and watching the kooky dates and love stories play out on the screen. However, it wasn’t until the past couple of seasons that I started lurking deeper into the very dedicated community and discovered a sweeping dissatisfaction for the show’s lack of growth. On the flip side, there are people who are angry about Chris Harrison’s departure and share his disdain and disbelief for the “woke police.” While I do believe everyone should have a chance to learn from their mistakes, simple apologies and statements need to be backed up by actual action and accountability, or else it’s all just meaningless. Up until now, Harrison and the rest of The Bachelor franchise have not taken any real steps to seriously address their problematic behavior (and even then, he is still technically a producer of the show and may possibly be back in future seasons). That interview was a clear view into what’s been happening all this time — white people not listening to minorities. 

Chris Harrison leaving is a very small step, but a necessary step nonetheless. In their statements, ABC and Harrison had declared their intent in “doing the work” and avoiding future racial mishaps. At this point, the network and the show have to make a choice between prioritizing an inclusive environment or continuing to profit off of their flawed morality. If they choose to let him return, it would make it clear where their ideals really stand. 

Chelsea is a Junior at the University of Central Florida majoring in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and minoring in Mass Media. Her hobbies include reading romance and fantasy books, binge-watching Netflix, writing for Her Campus and going to concerts. She dreams of living somewhere in Europe some day with all the books she could read and a few cats.
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