In real life, it's been weeks since we've heard anything from Chris Harrison after he "stepped aside" from The Bachelor franchise. His decision came after he attempted to excuse racism during a February 9 Extra interview with former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay. He later apologized for his words and stated that he intended to take some time away from the show because, "This historic season of The Bachelor should not be marred or overshadowed by my mistakes or diminished by my actions."
However, it's still being overshadowed by his presence thanks to pre-taped episodes like The Women Tell All. It was extremely uncomfortable on Monday night to see the host joking around like we're all old pals when we know how things have unfolded since the episode was taped. But the series did the bare minimum to acknowledge how weird it was to see Chris Harrison hosting The Bachelor: Women Tell All like everything is normal. All the show offered was a small disclaimer that ran at the bottom of the screen to kick off the show. It said simply, "Previously recorded on February 4, 2021."
There was no mention of the events that have transpired since then, rendering the caption more an "if you know, you know" situation. And the problem with that is that some viewers may not know; not everyone follows the real world drama between Bachelor episodes. For many fans, what happens on TV is the entirety of Bachelor Nation. The show needs to acknowledge everything that's happened off screen, during its Monday time slot on national television. Harrison issued his own statement on Instagram following the Extra interview, in which he said in part, "I will always own a mistake when I make one, so I am here to extend a sincere apology … What I now realize I have done is cause harm by wrongly speaking in a manner that perpetuates racism, and for that I am so deeply sorry."
But The Bachelor needs to acknowledge that Harrison berated Lindsay about "woke" culture and attempted to excuse season 25 contestant Rachael Kirkconnell's past racist behaviour. (Her biggest offence was attending an "old south" plantation party in 2018; an incident which she has acknowledged was racist, and for which she has since apologized). And it needs to acknowledge that things only got worse from there. After Harrison decided to “step aside," legions of fans sent racist vitriol Lindsay's way, blaming her for Harrison's uncertain future on the show. She had to delete her Instagram account because of the scope and ferocity of the attacks.
The official Bachelor Nation Twitter account did release a statement during The Women Tell All from the executive producers about fans’ mistreatment of Lindsay, stating that "any harassment directed towards Rachel Lindsay in the aftermath of her interview with Chris Harrison is completely inexcusable. Rachel has received an unimaginable amount of hate and has been subjected to severe online bullying, which, more often than not, has been rooted in racism." The statement continued, "Rachel has been an incredible advocate for our cast, and we are grateful that she has worked tirelessly toward racial equity and inclusion."
But none of this has been acknowledged onscreen, aside from noting that that the Women Tell All was filmed before an unnamed date and an implied incident. It's especially important to acknowledge the situation surrounding the series because Harrison's interview and the ensuing attacks on Lindsay are symptoms of a series that has continually underrepresented contestants of colour and has even cast contestants with racist speech on their publicly available social feeds. Nothing can fundamentally change if the reality TV franchise refuses to acknowledge what’s happening using its televised platform. It's like Ryan Claytor noted during the Women Tell All, there's a lot more power in saying something on national television, with a loyal audience of millions, than just expressing it online.
It's possible that the series may be planning a larger acknowledgement of the controversy around Harrison when former NFL star Emmanuel Acho takes over After the Final Rose hosting duties on March 15, but it's long since been the time to speak up. Every episode in which the show continues to air as if nothing else is going on, effectively ignoring the situation, causes more damage. So excuse me if we don't want to chuckle along with Harrison's dad jokes and watch Bachelor bloopers — no matter when the special was taped.
ABC did not immediately return Refinery29’s request for comment.