After tuning in with most of my family for years, I am finally ready to break up with “The Bachelor.” I finally have the wherewithal to separate from the patriarchal reality television show that epitomizes both misogyny and Eurocentric dating standards.
My foray into “The Bachelor” began my freshman year of high school when a group of girls in my English class continually discussed the reality television shows they watched. I wanted to be a part of it.
From my eavesdropping, I gathered that year’s Bachelor was somebody named Ben Higgins. So, I did some research and found out I could watch “The Bachelor” Mondays on ABC. I tuned in on Mondays to break up my high school work night. Sometimes my brothers would join me. Now, I wince at the idea of making my two younger teenage brothers feel as though I approved of the show’s sexist nature.
The first time I watched it, the women were on a group date and seemed incredibly anxious to speak to the Bachelor, while he spent the entire date with one girl. This guy was cute, sure, but was he worth the emotional distress on all the girls’ faces? Absolutely not. My instincts told me to turn it off, but I wanted to see who got a rose and would stay another week.
My revelation comes after a series of media controversies and years of the franchise failing to promote diversity and equity in its programming. I initially watched it to “fit in” in high school. Then, I watched it as a homework-break guilty pleasure. But I have hit my breaking point. “The Bachelor,” which centers around one man who is simultaneously dating dozens of women in order to find his future wife, is ridiculous and chauvinistic at its core.
The casting of this year’s Bachelor Matt James followed a summer 2020 campaign to make the franchise more racially diverse, as the show has faced backlash in the past for its few BIPOC leads and contestants. After the campaign, two Black leads, Tayshia Adams and James, were cast as the Bachelorette and Bachelor, respectively. However, Adams was only cast as a replacement for Clare Crawley, the original Bachelorette for season 16, who was white. I thought Adams and James’ presence was a step in the right direction, but the actions of contestant Rachael Kirkconnell and Bachelor franchise host Chris Harrison demonstrate how the casting choices were merely performative and did little to change the show’s white-centered legacy.
Photos of Kirkconnell surfaced attending an “Old South” Antebellum-themed party at her college, Georgia College & State University, after it had banned the gathering in 2018.
Harrison defended Kirkconnell’s actions in an interview on Extra TV with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, the first Black lead in the franchise. In the interview, they discussed the harmful photos of Kirkconnell, and Lindsay asked Harrison to think critically about the event. Instead, Harrison referred to those calling out Kirkconnell as the “woke police.” Harrison also claimed the public was “judging 2018 [actions] by 2021 standards.”
“The picture was from 2018 at an Old South antebellum party, that’s not a good look,” Lindsay said to Harrison in the interview. “She’s celebrating the Old South. If I went to that party, what would I represent at that party?”
In the days that followed, Harrison faced backlash for his words and released an apology on social media Feb. 13, announcing that he was temporarily stepping away from the show.
I felt sick after watching the whole ordeal. I knew I could no longer watch “The Bachelor” and still consider myself an intersectional thinker and feminist. Harrison refused to acknowledge the severity of Kirkconnell’s actions, and he would not let Lindsay speak in her own interview. ABC and the franchise clearly do not value Black and BIPOC communities if they give a platform to ignorant people like Harrison and Kirkconnell. Occidental has taught me how to think differently and critically about media and institutions like the entertainment industry. Seeking acceptance in high school, I ignored the show’s shortcomings. Now, I will not make the same mistake.
I wish my brothers had not seen women pitted against each other and held to impossible Western beauty standards. Watching the Bachelor now, I see the show for what it really is — a game in which men are the perpetual winners and referees. The franchise also excuses contestants like Kirkconnell, painting them as beautiful people looking for love instead of exposing them as the bigots they are.
Not only is the Bachelor sexist — it is racist and heteronormative. “The Bachelorette” is slightly better, but the female lead is still held to the same, narrow-minded standards as the women in “The Bachelor.” The Bachelor franchise is a problematic concept prompting a problematic legacy.
I think it would be best for everyone if we broke up with “The Bachelor.” This rose has too many thorns.