The following story contains spoilers for the season finale of “The Bachelorette”.
Between the declarations of love and engagement and the lush soundtrack and the final rose, “The Bachelorette” made history.
In the season finale of the hit ABC reality show, Michelle Young got engaged to Texas sales manager Nayte Olukoya. The Minnesota elementary school teacher chose Olukoya over a heartbroken Brandon Jones, who last week asked Young not to send him home.
Young and Olukoya’s love story was also a breakthrough for the “Bachelor” franchise, which has been repeatedly rocked by accusations of racism and cultural insensitivity. The final marked the first time in its 19-year history that a black leader had chosen a black candidate as their soul mate.
Previous black stars – Rachel Lindsay, Tayshia Adams, and Matt James – all picked white mates from culturally diverse groups of suitors.
This season was already a milestone for the “Bachelor” franchise. For the first time, a season featured a black frontman, a black co-host – Adams – and a black executive producer, Jodi Baskerville. Another defining moment came later in the season when the four finalists competing for Young’s ailments were all black.
Such developments could have sparked optimism that the producers had gone beyond the racist scandal that clouded the most recent season of “The Bachelor,” which starred James as the leading male role. black of the flagship and ended with the departure of host Chris Harrison.
Instead of a happy ending, however, the loyal members of Bachelor Nation are disappointed enough to threaten to boycott the franchise.
The problem is the selection of former football player Clayton Echard as the star of the historic 20th anniversary season of “The Bachelor”, which begins on January 3. Fans claim that the all-black field of Young’s season finalists has been overlooked by producers. in favor of Missouri-based Eshard, a medical representative who was eliminated by Young in Episode 6, ahead of seven other suitors.
Warner Bros., which produces the series, pointed out that several leads – including James; Young’s predecessor, Katie Thurston; and Juan Pablo Galavis, the first Latino Bachelor – came from outside the pool of finalists. But several fans told The Times they interpreted Echard’s selection as a marked departure from mainstream tradition.
“There were those moments of relief and surprise that made it look like things were really going to change for the better,” said Myah Genung, who has watched the “Bachelor” franchise since she was a teenager. “But that was immediately followed by disappointment and a return to the status quo, where there are glaring signs that they favor white males.”
“There were these fantastic black men at the end for Michelle, but it’s clear the producers don’t want this to be known as ‘the black show’,” Genung added. “All the energy that we have put in as a black fanbase to make this show change and be better has gone for nothing. Michelle’s season has been wonderful to watch, but I’m definitely not going to watch the season. from Clayton. “
Diane Castro, a corporate communications executive who has also watched ‘The Bachelor’ from the start, said: “After what happened with Matt’s season, the Black Lives Matter movement and the promises of change, come back the old-fashioned way is very disappointing. It’s infuriating that the ‘Bachelor’ house still looks like Barbie’s beach house circa 1975. “
Young’s season premiere drew 3 million viewers – the premiere of the least-watched show ever, according to the Hollywood Reporter. And while there are several potential reasons for the decline, including ABC’s decision to air consecutive seasons of “The Bachelorette,” fans have speculated that the franchise’s increased focus on diversity , with three Black Leads out of the last four, may have alienated a certain subset of viewers.
“There are two audiences for this show – those who want to see diverse love stories and those who don’t want to see a story that isn’t like them, that doesn’t resonate with them,” said Ashley Tabron, fan of long time. . “We’ve seen what’s possible when you have black people in the middle. To take that off abruptly hurts. I don’t see them going back to a black head like Michelle or Matt for very long.”
Other black fans who support a black love affair say that selecting Echard is the right move – in order to avoid a repeat of James’ disastrous season.
“They tried with Matt James, and it was a disaster,” said Justine Kay, who hosts the “Bachelor”-themed podcast “2 Black Girls, 1 Rose” with her friend Natasha Scott. “They had a really hard time dealing with a black man’s story. If they want to do what they did to Matt, you better not do it. It was bad for everyone involved. “
James saw his season turned upside down when photographs of eventual winner Rachael Kirkconnell surfaced at a pre-war Southern-themed party. Harrison was swept away by the storm when he defended Kirkconnell in a controversial “Extra” interview with Lindsay, the first black frontman in franchise history. James also spoke out during the season, saying the controversy reflected a larger problem “that the franchise has failed to adequately address in years.”
Kay said she and Scott were eager to return to their original approach of discussing shows more lightly: “We’re going to have more fun.”
News that Erhard was the new bachelor leaked even before Young’s season premiere. “It was shocking,” Genung said. “But then it was like, ‘Wow, this guy must have a fantastic story. He has to stand out among the other guys.’ So we waited for the rationale as to why the producers would choose him. But that moment of escape never came. He literally looks like every other single. “
In the sixth episode, Echard was positioned as a hit with some of Young’s fifth-graders, who picked him up for a one-on-one date with Young. Although Young told her he had many admirable qualities, she didn’t consider them to be a good match and sent him home.
“My heart tells me that Clayton is a really wonderful person,” she said in a voiceover. “He’s just not my person. But I know there is someone who is going to be absolutely amazing to him.”
Race was a dominant guideline during the season, with Young repeatedly identifying herself as a strong black woman who had endured a number of painful times including being called the N word by a woman in a grocery store.
During a speech creation session, she recited a poem in which she said, “Very early on, society designated me as the symbolic black girl. I was their imprint on diversity, all thanks to my layered curls. … I’ve never been the girl on cute dates at the apple orchard in the fall. I was the girl chosen last for the ball, but the first for the basketball. “
A moment of tension erupted when a contestant circulated a rumor that Young had been seen before the show having dinner with “a fair-skinned baller.” Stunned by the speculation, Young told her suitors, “If I have a romantic dinner with a white man in a restaurant, no one is going to say,“ They’re a couple. ”But because he’s another black man, we’re supposed to being together. And it’s frustrating, because I’m open to all of you. “
“There have been a lot more substantial conversations about race than I’ve ever heard about the franchise,” Castro said of Young’s season, which is why she’s not ready to leave just yet. “The Bachelor”. She hopes the franchise will further expand the number of its romantic stars, including not only blacks, but also Latinos and other participants of color.
“Not doing this,” she said, “is a missed opportunity.”