Even if you’re not familiar with The Bachelor, the long-running dating show has probably crossed your radar. The memes and references are hard to avoid, especially if you’re a fan of Twitter. The pop culture staple has been on the air since 2002. And that’s pretty much where its evolution has remained. That is until this week, when a racial reckoning finally arrived at the franchise’s doorstep. And, needless to say, it has been a long time coming.
It began when host Chris Harrison appeared on Extra for an interview with Rachel Lindsay, the first Black Bachelorette in the history of the franchise. (This casting finally happened in 2017, which probably tells you a lot of what you need to know about the show’s loooong history with covert racism and resistance to change and growth.) Speaking of racism, Chris was booked to talk about allegations of terrible behavior on the part of one current contestant, Rachel Kirkconnell, who is competing for the heart of the first Black Bachelor (note the year: 2021!). It’s come to light that Kirkconnell has posted racist things on her Instagram feed, including QAnon conspiracy theories and pictures of attending a fraternity/sorority Antebellum-themed party. The photos from said party took place in 2018. Houston, we have a problem! You’d think Kirkconnell’s extremely poor judgement would be enough to cause concern. Except… Harrison fiercely defended Kirkconnell, leaving it up to Lindsay to explain to a 50-year old man why attending an Antebellum-themed party is wrong. Yikes!
But we’re not done yet. Harrison continued to double down, insisting that Kirkconnell shouldn’t have to be held accountable for her actions because that was “two years ago and things were different then,” before stating that such incidents were “viewed through a different lens” than they are now. Um, excuse me?! Rachel K. is an educated adult who chose very recently to attend a party with a theme that celebrates slavery while romanticizing the Confederacy! This wasn’t 50 years ago (still not acceptable), this was TWO YEARS ago. The “lens” was not different then. We were embroiled in the thick of the horrific Trump era, the brutality of which is reverberating today. Just because it was a few years prior to George Floyd’s heartbreaking murder and subsequent marches doesn’t mean Kirkconnell is off the hook. If anything, it’s even more awful. How many senseless murders could’ve been avoided if white people had been doing the work to help end this racial divide before now? Instead she put on a pretty dress and leaned in. This doesn’t get a pass. The fact that Harrison thinks she should receive one should disturb you. It sure as hell disturbs me.
Thankfully I am not alone. After this week’s egregious remarks aired, a firestorm erupted and calls for Chris to step down took over Twitter. (Harrison also continued to condescendingly chastise Lindsay during the fraught interveiw saying the franchise was “busy” and they couldn’t look after “all of her little problems.”) Harrison “agreed” to step away, indicating that he would take some time to reassess his belief system. (He’s probably working as hard at this as Ted Cruz does during a snowstorm.)
Will the hiatus become a permanent decision? One hopes so. After all, we’re viewing things via a different lens now, right Chris?
(*The show has already been taped, so Kirkconnell remains on the air. Spoilers even indicate that she’s possibly the winner, complicating this already disturbing story. In addition, as of this posting, ABC, Warner Bros., and Bachelor creator/producer/owner Mike Fleiss have all failed to issue statements. Stay tuned.)