Bachelor Nation’s first Black male lead, 25 seasons later.
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As a new season of everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure series approaches, The Bachelor franchise has announced its newest contender.
Twenty-eight-year-old Matt James is a total catch. The Wake Forest grad and NYC resident was originally set to be a contestant on Clare Crawley’s season. However, when The Bachelorette was postponed due to COVID-19 complications, they pulled him out of the running and gave him some bigger shoes to fill.
Before we break out the champagne, let’s address the obvious concession in the room: Having a Black Bachelor is long overdue. Viewers and past members alike have been pleading for diversity for years. Especially the first, and only Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay.
In reference to her statement, Lindsay expressed that, “The whole point of calling them out was to say, ‘We don’t feel valued, we don’t feel heard, we don’t feel included.’ And you’re saying, ‘Here’s a black person to step into this role.’ It’s great to see it. Love to see it. But it doesn’t make me feel as if you’re really taking into consideration what it is we say when I say systemic racism. The internal, embedded, deep-rooted issues in this franchise where it needs to change structurally. What are you going to do with that?”
She really couldn’t have said it any better. The magnitude of having a Black man in such an influential reality TV position is undermined when it’s only obviously in response to an unavoidable conversation. With Black Lives Matter dominating the internet, it’s really no surprise that they decided to finally take this step.
The real surprise will be if the franchise continues to pursue a more diverse future down the road when the pressure from the media and viewers dies down. With a history of passing on POC candidates, there’s plenty of room for doubt.
Let’s take a look at Peter Weber’s crash and burn season. We can unanimously agree that fan-favorite Mike Johnson would have been a better choice. Plus, it would have saved us from the running Top Gun gag.
However, ABC had a weak explanation for the decision, saying, “Peter has always been their guy. He’s older, he as a career, and he has a great backstory. He can definitely carry a show.”
But we all know the real reasoning behind the choice.
An Iowa State University dissertation revealed that, “90 percent of reality TV contestants are typically Caucasian and skinny. Producers occasionally add in African-Americans to attempt diversity.”
So much for ‘reality’ television. News flash: POC don’t make up a microscopic 10% of the American population.
Johnson is pretty excited for James, however, making it known that there are no hard feelings.
And I’m pretty excited to watch Matt James during the upcoming season, too, and to see the impact he makes with this important role.
You may know Matt James due to his connection to ‘The Quarantine Crew’, which included Bachelor Nation alumni Tyler Cameron (James’ best friend) and Hannah Brown, who just so happens to be the perfect representation of Bachelor Nation’s covert racism.
You didn’t think I was about to let Miss Brown off the hook, did you? If you haven’t heard about her it’s pretty disappointing. Brown’s casual use of racial slurs goes to show that Bachelor Nation has a long way to go.
While Matt James may help the franchise transition to a more inclusive platform for reality television, ABC needs to stop simply accepting praise for this small but necessary step. It must keep the ball rolling.
Also, we stan a king who goes to protests. Congrats, Matt James. I hope you’re the first step to lasting change and not a performative stunt.
Madeline Murphy is an Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She’s currently studying Journalism with a minor in Women’s Studies. Madeline can be found making Apple Music playlists, trying Nigella Lawson recipes and binging SATC. She’s fiercely passionate about social justice and the power of words.