The Bachelor should be a fun, dumb thing. It should just be a weekly goofy thing on that’s on TV, something you watch despite knowing it’s junk food simply because it’s fun to argue about the show with your friends and/or track all the food that the participants do or do not eat. There are other such properties in pop culture (though they’re increasingly rare), but the longevity of the Bachelor franchise has allowed it to build up an institutional appeal that’s not unlike that of professional sports. There are brackets and the gambling that comes along with brackets (I am shocked, shocked, etc.), predictions, rumors, feverish interest in the off-camera drama and the lives of those we see on TV, the list goes on; such discussions of the season are arguably more important than the season itself. Would you watch The Bachelor if you didn’t also get to dunk on, wildly speculate about, and generally shoot the shit over it with others?
But the discussions this season are of a very different nature. The Bachelor is supposed to be fun and dumb, but it can’t be the former—not until the franchise and its network get some shit handled.
Variety has more on Matt’s statement, initially shared on Instagram, in which he directly addresses both the photos of Rachael Kirckonnell and the interview between Chris Harrison and Rachel Lindsay, but it should be noted that having the lead of the show speak out like this during his own season is a huge deal. It’s also worth checking out this piece from the Huffington Post, and this section in particular:
“As the season has progressed, it’s become clear that Matt’s presence on the show was exemplary of what so many POC face daily. He and the Black women had to take on the extra responsibility of helping ‘The Bachelor’ address issues of diversity and were often exploited,” a source close to James told HuffPost. “‘The Bachelor’ executives have failed to realize that casting a diverse set of contestants is not the same thing as creating equitable conditions and opportunities. If they want to change, that means change behind, and in front of the camera.”
In this context, all the dumb, fun stuff seems a lot less fun and dumb. There’s also the much less important but still inconvenient truth that this season was already pretty damn dull. All these factors have combined to make Matt James Journey To Find Love pretty close to unwatchable. ABC and The Bachelor’s response to the Rachael photos already made the ending of this season pretty clear—to this writer’s eyes, at least—but Matt’s choices in this episode make it still more obvious. (“Thank you for sharing that with me” is never what you want to hear from someone to whom you’ve just declared your love.)
And if Rachael Kirkconnell is the winner of this season, that perhaps explains why the producers didn’t cut the segment in which a young woman currently in the news for having been photographed at an Antebellum-themed formal, among other concerning behaviors, blindfolds a Black man and drives him to an unknown location in an extremely fast car. Has no one working on The Bachelor seen Get Out? It betrays an astonishing lack of insight and awareness, at the very best. I’m sure Matt didn’t feel he was in any sort of danger beyond the whole jumping-out-of-a-plane thing, but again, this is a show that exists so that people can gossip about and debate it. The conversation is the context. That date does not exist in a bubble.
Whether the powers that be didn’t think to cut the segment or did consider it but decided it should stay matters not. What matters is that they didn’t cut it. They could have omitted the blindfold and the nightmare car ride and instead included more of Michelle and Bri’s dates, or even Serena’s (though she got the most screentime this week). It’s not like they didn’t leave stuff on the cutting room floor. Look at this photo from ABC’s press site:
If we saw this particular moment, it was so quick that I missed it. The show had options, but they kept the car ride. They had options, but they made no effort to reduce Chris Harrison’s presence in the episode, despite his “stepping back.” And it is possible to make such changes, even with a frontrunner—RuPaul’s Drag Race did it for an entire season.
The conversation about The Bachelor is what makes The Bachelor what it is. That’s why there’s a column this week. (That, and there was some poutine, which we’ll return to momentarily.) And if show matters because we talk about it, then the focus of that conversation is hugely important. This week, The Bachelor wants us to talk about Serena P. and her family (especially her hugely unimpressed sister, whose “good luck with everything” is a reality TV moment for the ages.) It wants us to talk about Michelle’s cute Zoom date with her students and about Bri’s mom telling her they’ll heal a broken heart together. It especially wants us to talk about Rachael’s admittedly very scary skydiving landing and what it means for her relationship with Matt. It does not want us to talk about all that other stuff.
So there you go, there’s a column about all that other stuff. Do better, ABC.
Yes. He ate some Canadian food, notably this plate of poutine:
The poutine isn’t why Serena P. eliminated herself—at least, I don’t think it’s why. But eliminate herself she did, and then Matt very charmingly asked her to walk him out. Also, two people who aren’t Rachael Kirkconnell told Matt they were falling in love with him and he responded by smiling and not saying anything that remotely resembles “I love you too.” It all sucked, a lot.
That is not the beard of a person who’s had a great February. Next week is the Women Tell All, taped well after the show had finished filming but before the Rachel Lindsay interview happened. There’s never any food, this time it won’t even be a little bit relevant, and it’s a safe bet that at least a third of the episode will be Victoria crying about not being treated like a queen. Your faithful Bachelor Nation food correspondent is not going to waste her time or yours with that garbage. See you in two weeks.