Matt James is the first Black Bachelor. That’s a wonderful thing but there’s still a lot to unpack here.
I am an unapologetic fan of all things Bachelor Nation. Even though I’m a relatively new fan, I’m still eating up whatever trash TV they supply. I fell in love with Hannah Brown on Colton Underwood’s season of The Bachelor, and was subsequently heartbroken when her season did not go as planned. Peter Weber’s train wreck of a season disappointed in all areas. Like many others, it was a relief for me to see a more mature Clare Crawley cast as the next Bachelorette. The four people I have just mentioned are all charming and likable in their own way but they have something in common that has plagued The Bachelor franchise since the beginning.
A Brief History
The Bachelor is a franchise that has been around for 18 years. It all started as a stand-alone show in which a man is expected to find his wife from a pool of 20+ women. It has now inspired multiple spin-offs including The Bachelorette (far superior in my opinion but that’s a discussion for another day), Bachelor in Paradise, and most recently The Bachelor Presents: Listen to Your Heart. The show is no stranger to criticism and parodies due to the novelty of it all.
While I do believe there are issues with this franchise, I do also appreciate it for what it is at the surface. I think it is important to not take shows like The Bachelor too seriously, because it clearly doesn’t take itself seriously. These shows give me a good laugh, and some fun personalities to root for and against. Though I don’t view the cringe-factor as a dealbreaker, there is a criticism of the show that I believe is warranted: this franchise is overwhelmingly white.
Until the announcement of Matt James as the next Bachelor, Rachel Lindsay was the only black lead in the franchise’s history, being named the Bachelorette back in 2017. This casting gave the franchise some long-awaited diversity but despite this, most non-white contestants historically have not made it far in both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Peter Weber’s cast was fairly diverse but most of those women were cut in the first few weeks. Due to the fact that the producers will pick a rejected contestant usually from the top 6 to be the next lead, many women and men of color never make it far enough to be considered.
Back to Peter Weber for a second. Peter was a likable contestant on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette and was named the Bachelor for 2020. That’s all fine and good but may I remind everyone that Mike Johnson was right there. Mike Johnson finished 6th on Hannah Brown’s season and seemingly checked all the boxes. He screamed ‘Next Bachelor’ material, but lost the gig to Peter, also a good guy but ultimately a safe choice. People were upset that an opportunity to once again diversify the franchise was passed up. To top it all off, Peter’s season was rampant with drama and immaturity. The decision to not cast Mike looked even worse after this, given how many people advocated for him.
Enter Matt James…
It isn’t even a question that a black Bachelor is long overdue. After missing the opportunity on Mike, I believe producers may have finally felt the pressure and listened. That and the fact that Bachelor Nation favorites like Rachel Lindsay have been increasingly outspoken about the franchise’s diversity issues. This is not to say Matt isn’t a great choice, because he totally is. Casual watchers may not know who he is as he is not a past contestant but I’ll fill you in.
Matt is 28 years old, a lifelong athlete, philanthropist, and oh right, best friend of Tyler Cameron. If you don’t already know, Tyler Cameron was undoubtably the favorite from Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette. The show showcased his down-to-earth personality, heart of gold, and a level of respect for the lead that was rare. It’s no wonder why Matt and Tyler are friends. They both appear to be genuinely good and authentic people, something that reality TV doesn’t have enough of. Matt was also cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s season, which never began filming due to the pandemic.
Matt is not only notable for his ties to Bachelor Nation alums though. His non-profit ABC Food Tours reaches children in underserved NYC communities, taking them to restaurants while also promoting fitness. He is also a former football player attending Wake Forrest University and having a brief stint in the NFL. On top of that, he also has a degree in economics and currently works for a real estate company. One look at his social media and it’s easy to see he’s a nice guy with enough personality and competence to carry a season of The Bachelor with ease.
The Future of the Franchise
A show that has the reach of The Bachelor has a responsibility to make sure people from all backgrounds are being represented. They cannot just show what they think will sell to a more conservative audience. In reality, that is no longer their audience. Everyone should be able to watch a show with such wide appeal and see someone like themselves in it. This is reality TV after all, even with all the drama and staged dates. We all deserve some trash TV if we want it.
I think Matt James being the next Bachelor is a wonderful step in the franchise becoming more inclusive and representative of our country and the people in it as a whole. Like Rachel, I fear that this action is a result of pressure from the audience and general public. I echo her statement that there needs to be more done to dismantle the exclusionary nature we have come to expect from the franchise. Statements from ABC indicate they will be taking more actions. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but right now I’m hopeful. The new Bachelor himself said it best, “I don’t think it’s ever the wrong time to do the right thing.” I hope producers continue to do the right thing. I am eagerly awaiting Matt’s season.
Cover Photo via. Good Morning America