You almost have to pity The Bachelor producers. They really thought that this past season, with Matt James as the first black bachelor, was going to revamp their image. They cast a historic 25 contestants who identified as BIPOC, and it seemed like they were on their way to making amends for the years where their idea of diversity was casting a brunette amongst a sea of blondes. But the producers couldn’t predict that Matt’s final lady, Rachael Kirkconnell, would have a racially insensitive past that would surface as the season was airing.
The finale revealed that Matt and Rachael had broken up amidst the scandal. Although they were careful to avoid revealing any of the gory details, the viewers did learn a few things. Matt said that when the scandal initially started, he tried to support Rachael… until he learned that the rumours were true once the photos of her at a plantation-themed party were leaked. This begs the question of whether Rachael had initially tried to lie to him and deny her racially insensitive past. Although, as Rachael said on the show, she didn’t realize that it was racially insensitive. She didn’t even realize that she had skeletons in her closet until the whole world knew about them.
While watching “After the Final Rose,” you could tell that Matt was going through it, even if the beard wasn’t a dead giveaway. Could you imagine being the bachelor and all you get out of it is a racist girlfriend who you’re only with for a few months? As he expressed on the show, it is exhausting to have to explain to people why their actions are problematic or racially insensitive. He also felt the burden of trying to make the audience feel comfortable with his blackness by representing himself well while under such scrutiny. My heart goes out to the man, even though kissing with your eyes open is a crime against humanity. He deserved a better ending to his season than saying he broke up with the winner because she didn’t understand that going to a plantation-themed party was offensive. Matt and Rachael’s conversation ended awkwardly with him refusing to give her one final embrace.
The Bachelor host, Chris Harrison, notably missed the mark when he defended Kirkconnell… odds are you shouldn’t speak over your black interviewer and say that the “woke police” are out if you have plans to keep your job. It was interesting that Harrison’s voice was still used to introduce promos, voiceover clips from the season and even to introduce his replacement. Hopefully, Harrison’s absence from “After the Final Rose” is more than a performative time out.
Moving forward, the producers have announced two new Bachelorette seasons with fan favourite Katie Thurston and Matt’s runner-up, Michelle Young. Kaitlyn Bristowe and Tayshia Adams, two former bachelorettes, will be hosting Katie’s season. Hopefully, by opening up production to people who have experienced the show as a contestants, future bachelors and bachelorettes will have a better line of communication with the people in charge.