ABC’s ‘The Bachelor’ Is Black
After 24 Seasons, The Bachelor has finally cast its first Black male lead.
Since the launch of its series in 2002, the ABC hit series has remained stagnant in its efforts to introduce diversity into its series and cast. Throughout its history, the series has remained overwhelmingly white. The franchise as a whole has featured numerous blondes and size 0 fitness models, men with tapered waists and also (again) blonde hair but has come up severely short when it comes to featuring people of color and different sizes. In its entire history, only one black person took the lead and that was in its sister spinoff, The Bachelorette. And that was three years ago.
But, at least for the time being, that’s changing.
For the first time in Bachelor history, fans will see their very first Black Bachelor.
Matt James is a 28-year-old real estate broker, entrepreneur, and community organizer who reportedly carved out a clear path as a favorite during his time on Clare Crawley’s currently delayed season of “The Bachelorette.” The decision to cast James as The Bachelor came heavy on the heels of protests against racism across the United States (which was sparked by the recent murders of police victims like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd) and demands for a change from leading programmers and production studios.
In a statement about the decision to cast James as the lead ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke explained that “Matt has been on our radar since February, when producers first approached him to join Bachelor Nation, as part of Clare’s season. When filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor.”
The statement concluded with an emphasis on the fact that James’s casting is meant to be “just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise.”
According to Rachel Lindsay, The Bachelor Nation’s first Black lead, James’s casting could have come sooner.
The lawyer and reality show favorite has been vocal since her time on the series about her lack of enthusiasm for the way the series has continued. After all, soon after her series was done it seemed ABC made little effort to bring more diversity to its series.
“I was hoping when I came on to be a trailblazer for that and to increase diversity in the audience that watches it. But in the last three years, there really haven’t been changes made,” Rachel explained in an interview soon after learning about James’s casting. “I want producers of color. I’d like for them to cast leads that are interested in dating outside of their race that aren’t just getting their first-time experience — for the first time — on national TV.”
Fans of Lindsay and the series were quick to echo her statements on Twitter.
Soon after her statements were made, fans created a petition on Change.org demanding that the franchise admits to promoting anti-racism on the show. So far the petition has accumulated over 93K signatures. The petition calls for
“ABC and Warner Bros. have been producing Bachelor content for 18 years, the petition reads on the Change.org website. “During that time they’ve cast 40 season leads, yet only one Black lead. This is unacceptable. As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (“BIPOC”) relationships, families, and storylines. The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country–both in front of and behind the camera. Representation matters, and it is one of the most important ways our country can embrace its diversity and evolve.”
The petition goes on to call on ABC and Warner Bros. to take the following actions to combat racism and lists a number of actions points including: casting a Black bachelor as Season 25 lead, casting BIPOC for at least 35% of contestants each season moving forward, giving equitable screen time to BIPOC contestants, actively supporting BIPOC cast, including providing mental health resources specifically geared to helping them navigate the Bachelor franchise experience as BIPOC, ensuring equitably compensation and hiring more BIPOC employees in all parts of production, casting, and filming.
Here’s hoping the casting of James and the circulation of the petition spark real change within the walls of ABC and motivate its creators to align themselves with a message opposite of what they’ve been at the very least passively promoting for years: that Black people and other POC deserve love too.