On March 18, ABC revealed 34 men on the show's Facebook page that are in the running to compete for Thurston's heart this summer. The final cast will be released at a later date.
If you can get over the awkward poses, the batch of men seem pretty much in line with the Bachelorette status quo. The men are majority — sigh — white, and even though Thurston is a grown-ass 30-year-old woman, they skew more in their 20s. Only 11 out of the 34 are in their thirties, with the youngest contestant at 25, and the oldest at 36.
Of course, considering that at this point the Bachelor franchise is a magnet for mess, there's already drama brewing in the Facebook comments. Under the photo of Akron, Ohio-based Michael A., someone commented that he just got out of a relationship, and was shady about the breakup. "Huh. This is interesting," they wrote. "He was dating my best friend for the last year and broke up with her in February 2021 claiming he needed to work on his mental health."
Then there's 28-year-old Tanner from Del Mar, California. One commenter noticed on his Instagram that it seems like he hasn't been following COVID-19 protocol. "From his IG looks like he has been partying all over the country since last March? This guy is like what covid?" they wrote.
Peppered throughout the rest of the group are a few more surprises: Viktor from Galveston, Texas is rapper Riff Raff's brother; Joshua from Pembroke Pines, Florida is said to be friends with Ed from Tayshia/Claire's season. When it comes to the energy of this batch of suitors, Facebook user Denise likely put it best: "Looks like a unique dude. I am digging his vibe!"
As a whole, however, the comments offer a sense of the tension that will likely tinge the franchise's forthcoming seasons. Over the past few months, the show has dealt with a reckoning of sorts as it has faced criticism of its systemic and pervasive issues with diversity and inclusion. The string of controversies over the course of James' season ended with host Chris Harrison, who notably defended a contestant's racist behavior, taking a hiatus from the show. Many fans, including Bachelor Nation alums, have said they're not comfortable moving forward unless the show addresses its problems, while Harrison fans and apologists are still calling for his return.
"Won’t be watching. This last season left such a bad taste in my mouth," wrote one commenter. "They’re giving early sneak peaks to try to make everyone forget about This last disaster. I won’t be one of them."
"Not watching ever again till you put chris Harrison back on and stop making it a racial thing," wrote another.
Despite the turmoil, however, Thurston has said that she's committed to finding a partner on the show.
"I'm ready to find love," Thurston said during the After The Final Rose special. "And not just the temporary kind — I'm talking forever, my husband. And I'm in a place in my life where I feel like I'm the best version of me."