ShowsThe Bachelor Faces Racial Controversy: Producers and ABC Respond

The Bachelor Faces Racial Controversy: Producers and ABC Respond

When it comes to “The Bachelor’s” shaky history with race, the franchise’s producers are still searching for the right words.

During an ABC panel at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, things got a bit tense. NPR’s Eric Deggans threw a hardball question at “Bachelor” executive producers Jason Ehrlich, Claire Freeland, and Bennett Graebner. He asked why the shows struggle so much with racial issues. And, oh, he didn’t stop there. He also inquired if they’d learned anything from past scandals, including the one that led to Chris Harrison’s departure.

Awkward silence followed. Like, really awkward.

Meanwhile, in a different part of the universe, an ad for something completely unrelated popped up. Because, why not? Life’s full of random interruptions, after all.

And then, as if we needed a breather, there’s a mention of related stories. Like that one about “The Rookie.” Apparently, they’re celebrating their 100th episode. A joyful distraction from the heavier topics, perhaps?

Back to the drama. Claire Freeland, who’s relatively new to the U.S. version of “The Bachelor,” attempted to answer Deggans’ tough question. After a pause that felt like an eternity, she spoke about striving to represent the country’s diversity. Not just in terms of ethnicity, but also ability, body types, and geographic origin. She insisted they’re putting their money where their mouth is, continuously working to improve.

But Deggans pressed on. He specifically wanted to know why the show struggled with race, especially with Black leads. Silence fell over the producers again. Deggans concluded, rather ominously, “I guess we have our answer.”

“The Bachelor” franchise has been under fire for its handling of racial issues for years. It took until 2017 for them to cast a person of color as the lead. Rachel Lindsay was that trailblazer. However, she later criticized the franchise for its “systemic problems” and eventually cut ties with it.

Matt James, the first Black “Bachelor,” chose Rachael Kirkconnell in the end. But then, photos of her at an antebellum party surfaced. Chris Harrison’s defense of Kirkconnell led to his own downfall, stepping down as host in 2021.

So, yeah. The franchise’s journey with race? Still a rocky one.

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