By Claire Jennings, Assistant editor
Photos from Bustle and Google
Matt James made history as the first bachelor to be a person of color, but his season of the show has been surrounded by controversy both from the women’s treatment of each other and their social media accounts.
Fans of The Bachelor franchise know there hasn’t been a season without contestants at each other’s throats. In a typical season, 30 women fight for the heart of the attractive, intelligent, and often wealthy bachelor. Each episode, women are eliminated when they are not given a rose from the lead, indicating their journey to find love in the mansion (or in this case, the covid-free hotel) is over. The bachelor eventually chooses between the final two women remaining, proposing to the winner.
In a show that refers to the woman not proposed to as “the runner-up” in a “competition” that supposedly leads to marriage, it’s not a surprise most bachelor couples either break off their engagements soon after the show airs or get a divorce years down the road. In 2020 alone, nine couples from the franchise’s various shows have called it quits.
“I think one of the biggest issues was me going from one show to the next, with really no time to process,” Chris Randone said of his split from Krystal Nielson. The two met on Bachelor in Paradise immediately following Randone’s exit from the most recent Bachelorette season.
Viewers of Matt James’ season have analyzed each contestant in hopes that one of the male leads will finally stick with their “winner”—we haven’t seen that in the past five years.
James’ season has stood out in more ways than one. The women on his season bullied another contestant to the point that she self-eliminated and quit the show. After Sarah Trott interrupted a date she was not invited to, the other women repeatedly lashed out at her despite the narrative of an interruption being regular on the show. Kit Keenan, one of the contestants, told Sarah “I never want to see your face or hear your name again,” while supervillain Victoria Larson laughed as Trott cried.
“At the end of the day, please just be a decent, kind individual,” Trott wrote on Instagram after her exit aired.
The introduction of five new constants during week three pushed the bullies over the edge. Anna Redman, Victoria Larson, and MJ Snyder declared themselves “the varsity squad” and repeatedly told the new girls they were not welcome. Redman went so far as to announce that new contestant Brittany Galvin “entertained men for money” despite not having any reason to believe so.
The mean girl squad wasn’t the only notable difference from another “Bachelor” season. The casting of Matt James was surprising both because The Bachelor has never had a black male as a lead and because he has never been part of the franchise. The bachelor and bachelorette have always been selected from a past season with the exception of Alex Michel, the first bachelor. ABC named James the bachelor at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in an awkward attempt to brush aside the show’s long history of racism against its contestants and which cast members they feature. Throughout the show’s history, attractive white girls (especially blonde ones) have made it the farthest in the competition and have had the most air time. James’ season has had the most diverse group of women; 25 out of 38 are women of color with varying ethnicities.
One of the worst “Bachelor” controversies erupted once the show began airing and longtime host Chris Harrison has been sidelined for the live episode “After the Final Rose” in which the lead discusses why they picked the winner and if they’re still together. Rachael Kirkconnell, one of the frontrunners, has formally apologized after images of her at an “Old South” party surfaced. In 2018, Kirkconnell’s sorority held a plantation-themed party in which all of the girls dressed in clothing meant to replicate the time period. Noticeably, all of the women attending the party were white. In an interview with Rachel Lindsay, the show’s first-ever black lead, Harrison defended Kirkconnell by alleging in 2018 the Old South antebellum party was not as controversial.
Harrison argued, “Well, Rachel, is it a good look in 2018? Or, is it not a good look in 2021? Because there’s a big difference.”
Lindsay responded by asking Harrison what she would represent at the plantation party as a black woman. Since her interview, Lindsay has terminated her contract with ABC requiring her to make appearances and host a podcast as a former bachelorette. Although Harrison released an apology to the public, he has stepped down as the franchise’s host temporarily.
With all the drama from angry women and the racism shown by contestants, season 25 of “The Bachelor” has truly been the most shocking. Though entertaining, it is important for viewers to acknowledge the poor behavior of the cast and hold them accountable for ignorance.