We’re currently weeks into Matt James’ season of The Bachelor, but it’s not time for producers of the popular ABC dating series to be patting themselves on the back for finally casting a Black man as the lead — especially when they’ve also cast a number of low-key racist cast members throughout the show’s long history.
Some fans of The Bachelor might actually be feeling hopeful for the future of the reality mammoth. We have our first Black Bachelor in Matt, and recent episodes of the show have led to more discussions of race and social justice than ever before (whether those conversations actually engaged critical thinking and furthered the discourse about equity is another conversation for another day). Unfortunately, The Bachelor still remains problematic due to the show consistently giving closeted racists and bigots a platform.
Remember James Taylor? It’s okay if you don’t; he was a contestant on JoJo Fletcher’s season who didn’t make it very far. On Monday January 11, James proudly revealed on Twitter that he had been among the group of domestic terrorists who had stormed the Capitol last week while “protesting” the very legal confirmation of president-elect Joe Biden’s win.
“Big thanks to #TheBachelor family for supporting me during this time … from top to bottom,” he tweeted. “Conservative producers are the best!! Thank you @ABCNetwork @ABC & @BachelorABC for having my back while I legally supported our President.”
The tweet was shocking for a number of reasons, the first being James’ willing self-exposure; the FBI is actively working on identifying attendees of the violent event and taking them into federal custody. Secondly, James claimed that ABC and The Bachelor had approved of him attending the event — which the network was quick to publicly deny.
Bachelor creator and producer Mike Fleiss didn’t hesitate to call James out on Twitter, calling him an “idiot” and "[exiling]” the reality star from Bachelor Nation. But for former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, who has been outspoken about The Bachelor's problems for years, the energy was too little, too late. People like James have the platform that they have now because of the show’s failure to properly vet them and keep them off of our screens.
“Reason #4853569536 we have to do better with casting,” Rachel quote tweeted the creator’s message.
James isn’t the only Bachelor Nation star with problematic politics. Just two weeks into Matt’s season, we’ve already seen a contestant wield her white woman tears to verbally and emotionally abuse a woman of colour. Another one of Matt’s contestants has since been exposed by a high school classmate for her allegedly anti-Black past. Becca Kufrin famously ended her relationship with Bachelorette season 14 winner Garrett Yrigoyen after his pro-police stance made waves amidst a summer of extreme police brutality. And Rachel herself had to deal with the racist micro-aggressions and social media posts of Lee Garrett during her season. These examples and many others point to a structural issue within the Bachelor franchise: the team is simply not doing its due diligence when it comes to casting people for the show.
"Diverse" casting doesn't mean much when you're still subjecting contestants to racial discrimination and giving bigots a platform (and a co-sign). Casting people of color is only one step in making a show like The Bachelor a truly representative and equitable space — keeping weirdos off of our screens is just as important.