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Where does The Bachelor franchise go from here?

Where does The Bachelor franchise go from here?
Rachael Kirkconnell and Matt James on The Bachelor season 25's "After the Final Rose" reunion (Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC)

The Bachelor ended its 25th season—the first with a Black man cast as The Bachelor—with its usual “After the Final Rose” special, but it was unusual for many reasons, starting with Chris Harrison’s absence.

Host Emmanuel Acho teased Matt James and Rachael Kirkconnell’s reunion in a very Bachelor way, promising “the most uncomfortable conversation in Bachelor history.”

Emmanuel Acho hosted The Bachelor season 25's "After the Final Rose" reunion
Emmanuel Acho hosted The Bachelor season 25’s “After the Final Rose” reunion (Photo by Craig Sjodin/ABC)

It was uncomfortable, and Matt James’ pain was evident, both from what Rachel did and, it seems, from the entire experience.

As Matt James said during ATFR, “any other lead would be asked one thing, to find love,” but he was being asked “to take on the weight of everything that was going on in the country”—and also be a model Black man, he said, “because for a lot of people that was the first time having someone like myself in their home.”

The truly uncomfortable conversation, however, needs to be happening behind-the-scenes, in the show’s production offices, as it considers how to move forward and fix its racism—which involves more than replacing Chris Harrison for a few shows or seasons. (Chris Harrison wasn’t, by the way, erased from the finale, though he won’t be on the next season of The Bachelorette.)

The Bachelor’s past and future

Where does the franchise go from here? And what can we take away from The Bachelor season 25 and the “After the Final Rose” special itself?

Here are five journalists’ and critics’ takes—pieces that I found very informative and insightful, and I hope you do too.

The Bachelor’s ‘Groundbreaking’ Season Was a Representation Nightmare

Kovie Biakolo writes:

James’s biracial personal history does not obscure that in the United States, he will be identified and treated as Black for a multitude of reasons, including how he looks. His presence as the Black Bachelor necessarily inspired the show to include more women of color, notably Black women, than in any season prior—at least at the beginning. (The show also included what’s believed to be its first-ever deaf contestant and cochlear-implant wearer, Abigail Heringer.) But it also became clear early in his season that James’s run as the Bachelor would replicate the same dynamics as previous, whiter seasons. Like those, James’s season still gave noticeably less screen time to its Black contestants—and because of James’s Blackness, the colorism that has always plagued The Bachelor became more visible. Darker-skinned and/or monoracial-presenting Black women were sent home earlier; none even made it to the hometown dating rounds. Brooklyn-based model Chelsea Vaughn, the last one standing, was cut in the rose ceremony right before.

The Bachelor’s uncomfortable silences speak volumes in emotional finale special

Greg Braxton writes:

The producers of the series never publicly explained Acho’s selection as “After the Final Rose” host. And although he was pleasant enough, Acho behaved more like he was auditioning for a more traditional emcee role than like a figure who could bring the probing seriousness and perspective that the discussion of this season’s hot-button issues required. Though he kept up the hype — “This is the most shocking ‘After the Final Rose’ ever!” — he also countered his allusions to the racism controversy with lines like, “But first, let’s not forget what this show is about, which is love and romance.”

Much of the time, Acho seemed to be walking a tightrope, asking mostly surface questions about the controversy while also placating fans more interested in the show’s fairy-tale formula.

The Bachelor Wasn’t Built to Handle Racism

Rachel Charlene Lewis writes:

As The Bachelor’s leads get more progressive than the show and its audience, race feels less like a “squeaky wheel” and more like a massive, grating tension. That tension has had a permanent impact on the perception of the franchise and the experiences of those within it.

Black Contestants Share Their Experiences On The Bachelor

Stephanie McNeal reports:

The disaster of James’s season has made clear what many Black fans and contestants of the franchise say has been true since the program began in 2002: The Bachelor has a race problem. The issue goes down to the root. While white contestants have been able to cause drama, pick fights and emerge with a healthy Instagram following and a ton of fans, according to Black contestants I interviewed, their appearances made them subject to harassment and abuse from fans simply for being Black on a show that, they feel, was never built to support them.

The Bachelor Is a Mess. Here’s How to Start Fixing It

Alex Zaragoza writes:

While people of all faiths can and should be welcome on The Bachelor, the show has become increasingly moralistic, focused on purity culture, and reflective of the values of Christianity, setting a tone that can be exclusionary and right-leaning. […] That the majority of The Bachelor’s audience is located in mostly Christian parts of the country, per a 2019 study, it stands to reason that this is who production is playing to through their casting and values expressed. Courting this community so often creates a fan base that can be rabid, misogynistic, and deeply racist. This is not to say other religions don’t have their own issues of racism and misogyny. But it’s time the show offers and embraces more viewpoints and challenges racism and misogyny in a direct way.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.

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