Throughout this season of The Bachelor, Matt James has talked about how it's hard for him to be vulnerable and open up, but week after week that's what the show has demanded of him. During the Fantasy Suites episode, Matt had a very intense conversation with his father about feeling abandoned in his childhood. It was the kind of moment that makes you wonder if you have a right to be watching something so sensitive, so private. So when the promo for the Bachelor finale teased a scene in which Matt breaks down in tears after speaking to his mom about what she's gone through in her relationships, something doesn't quite feel right. Those conversations, though important and serious, didn't need to be had on camera.
Every cycle of The Bachelor and its spinoff series demands a certain amount of vulnerability from the lead and their contestants. But the level of detail Matt keeps having to provide about his personal life — coupled with how the series has treated him and his contestants — makes the whole thing even more uncomfortable to watch as casual Monday night entertainment. This is a show run by people who either didn't do their due diligence or didn't flag any issues when casting Rachael Kirkconnell, who has a very recent history of attending a racist "Old South" party on a plantation (she's since apologized and recognized that her actions were racist). This is also a show whose host tried to excuse that racist behaviour by shouting over the series' first ever Black Bachelorette, during the series very first season led by a Black man. (Chris Harrison has also since apologized.) And that all happened offscreen, while onscreen, the series prioritized showing contestants like Anna Redman, Victoria Larson, and MJ Snyder cause drama rather than trying to give any insight into the women Matt was actually falling in love with.
Considering all of that, how much of his pain does Matt owe to this show? At what point does his familial drama stop being good for ratings and start being something that he deserves to hash out in private? These are people's real lives at stake here, and filming some of these conversations feels like a major breach of personal boundaries. If Matt wants to talk to his mom or his dad about his struggles, that is a fantastic choice and an opportunity for real, significant personal growth. But just because he signed up for a dating show doesn't mean that we deserve to see those extremely personal moments — especially not after how this season has treated him and his contestants.
There's also precedent for these tough conversations to happen off-camera. During Rachel Lindsay's Bachelorette season, her dad refused to be shown on camera, but he did still meet her future husband Bryan Abasolo when Rachel brought him over during the finale. The pivotal conversation still happened — it just didn't happen in a way that would allow it to be used in a Bachelorette teaser with a Chris Harrison voiceover.
When we say it's time for real conversations on The Bachelor, we mean it. But that doesn't mean that the series should abandon boundaries or exploit its participants' sensitive personal details for the drama.