As a Black girl, I feel comfortable saying that The Bachelor franchise represents the whitest of television’s offerings. I had a general knowledge of the premise, but knew nothing about it’s massive fandom or fantasy leagues until I joined R29’s entertainment team. The zeal with which some of my coworkers devoured the episodes put my college Flavor of Love watch parties to shame. I was more than content never knowing a single contestant, lead, or couple from the series, but then something happened. Rachel Lindsay, a Black woman, got the first impression rose during Nick Viall’s cycle.
That single rose set in motion a series of events that suddenly made race a thing in the Bachelor universe. All at once, this world of TV dating became way more relevant to me. In addition to being the first Black woman to receive a first impression rose, Viall visited Lindsay's family as one of his final four picks. She wasn’t the lady that Viall proposed to in the end, but she got an even sweeter deal when it was announced that she would be the next, and first Black Bachelorette. Because I will follow Black women to some strange and unusual places, I was on board for it all.
And I hated every minute of it. The show’s best effort to diversify the brand meant largely ignoring the issue while treating the racial microaggressions of a certain white contestant as mere interpersonal spats. The racial tension that built up during Lindsay’s cycle of the Bachelorette spilled over into the following Bachelor in Paradise season when production was halted due to accusations of sexual misconduct. Despite the fact that no such misconduct was found to have occurred after an investigation — a story corroborated by all parties involved and other cast members — the packaging of the incident via edited footage seemed to suggest that DeMario Jackson, a Black man, sexually assaulted a white woman, Corinne Olympios. To me, it felt like Bachelor in Paradise used the myth of the Black male rapist as a sensationalized incident to get viewers.
Now, a new season of The Bachelor is upon us, and things are back to “normal.” A white dude (Arie Luyendyk Jr.) is at the center of it all. There are even seven Black women among the 29 vying for his heart. But a 24% inclusion rate for Black women on one cycle is in no way a reflection of the show’s overall history of including Black people. There have been roughly 579 contestants on The Bachelor (including Luyendyk’s upcoming cycle) since it started in 2002 and 312 on The Bachelorette since its premiere in 2003. With help from this Splinter News piece, we know that only 38 Black women and 25 Black men have been among them. This means that in over 15 years of televised matchmaking, only 6% of their eligible women and 8% of their eligible women were Black.
This is a problem for me. As a result, I’m not at all interested in revisiting the Bachelor franchise as a spectator, cultural critic, or hate-watcher. It’s way too cheesy, basic, and yes, still too white for me. And I finally have some numbers to back that up.