"It was never meant to be revolutionary; instead, it’s a well-produced, better-vetted take on the modern-day reality show. And it works," says Rachel Charlene Lewis. "White people like to watch other white people fall in love, especially in a universe that doesn’t make them face anything messier, like sexism or racism or the discrimination inherent in a world where everyone is happy, rich, skinny, and white. For better or worse, The Bachelor has perfected this utopia for the sort of white person who might ask why we can’t all just get along. This messaging, which was once unspoken, has only become louder in recent years as the franchise attempts to face its race problem. In venturing to remedy critiques that the show is racist — which have exploded during the latest season, starring Black, biracial lead Matt James — The Bachelor has instead only made its own stumblings more audible." The Rachael Kirkconnell controversy, says Lewis, "resulted in an explosion of years’ worth of racial tension that brought to life one simple fact: Maybe The Bachelor wasn’t a show that just accidentally didn’t think about Black people for 20 years. Maybe it was one that really and truly never wanted anything to do with Black people in the first place....No matter what the spinoff, The Bachelor has a specific narrative: Give audiences someone relatively easy to root for and give them a little bit of drama (but nothing too real), and keep those views on the up and up. It’s a show where life, and love, are easy. Meet a bunch of strangers, find your one and only, and live your happiest life. Anything too 'complicated' doesn’t fit into the Bachelor universe, and the inherent racism of our largest pop-culture franchises is nothing if not complicated. But, ultimately, love isn’t easy, interracial love even less so; nor is race, or racism, or the profound history of anti-Blackness in this country. Pop-culture franchises like The Bachelor may want to be able to skim the surface on race, but it’s impossible to merely skim something that warps everything it touches. As such, the series has become a prime example of what happens when a product shaped by the white gaze tries to give itself an 'update' without truly reckoning with its roots."
TOPICS: The Bachelor, ABC, Chris Harrison, Matt James, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, Reality TV