How Rachel Lindsay Changes The Fairy Tale As The First Black Bachelorette

Photo: ABC/Lorenzo Bevilaqua.
Many people are crying SPOILER ALERT after Jimmy Kimmel announced that Rachel Lindsay will be the next Bachelorette. But many people saw this coming, especially after Lindsay received the first impression rose during this season’s premiere. But even if we predicted it, there is still no denying the significance of this moment for the franchise.

Lindsay will be the first Black lead in the history of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Just like Lindsay being bestowed with the first impression rose, this an exciting first but one that is long overdue. It’s really a credit to Wells Adams' point about America not being ready for a Black Bachelorette. It sucks but he might still be right.

The Bachelor
franchise is built on fantasy. It relies on a dramatic recreation of true love fairy tales, with only a few modern tweaks, to work. This trope makes it easy for viewers to follow. After all, we’ve all been trained to know what to look for: a handsome man, a beautiful woman, grand romantic gestures, a commitment to marriage, etc.

It’s a storyline that Black women rarely ever fit into. And when we do, it takes some getting used to. It took Miss America 62 years to crown a Black woman (Vanessa Williams). It took People magazine 13 years to name a Black woman as their most beautiful woman (Halle Berry). Hell, it took Disney 72 years to finally conceive of a Black princess (Tiana).

Black women don’t fit into mainstream fantasies about heterosexual love for a couple of different reasons. For one, Black love is often popularized as the exceptional byproduct of trauma and struggle. It’s about people finding love in spite of violence, in spite of poverty, in spite of racism. The media doesn’t frame love as a predestined part of what it means to be a woman when said woman is Black. Think about it, the entire premise of Being Mary Jane is that she has too much career, too much family, too much stress to actually find love. It’s an unfortunate trope that has worked to exclude Black women from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

However, these are the same dynamics that work to make Lindsay such a palatable Bachelorette. She’s so obviously out of Nick Viall’s league as an attorney and mature adult. When she told Kimmel, “I’m ready to find love, find a husband…” I heard “I’m ready for tax benefits and a partner competent enough to make dinner and keep the kids while I hit the gym for arm day.” There’s a practicality to Lindsay that makes her more relatable than the other contestants.

As this is 2017 and fewer women of any race fit into the stereotypical, princess-available-for-marriage trope, Lindsay is ushering in a new version of the fairy tale that we can all get with.

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