BY ALYSSA KHAN
“The Bachelor” franchise went through a lot of controversy when the Black Lives Matter movement took over the world. Loyal fans became upset with the lack of Black representation in the franchise since there had only been one Black Bachelorette and no Black Bachelor up until 2021. As a response to this, they casted Tayisha Adams as the second Black Bachelorette and Matt James as the first Black Bachelor for 2021.
The producers addressed the concerns of viewers. Fans were promised a cast with representation for Matt James’s season in a statement released on Chris Harrison’s social media pages.
“We are taking positive steps to expand diversity in our cast, in our staff and most importantly, in the relationships that we show on television,” the executive producers said. “We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all of its beautiful love stories.”
This was one strike for “The Bachelor” franchise, but all seemed to be going well with Matt James as the Bachelor. He received the most submissions for women who wanted to date him because of his infectious laugh and outgoing personality. However, another issue arose on the first night of the season.
User “@maddyybierster” came out on TikTok claiming that one of the contestants, Rachael Kirkconnell, bullied her in high school for liking Black men. A few people commented saying she did the same to them either in high school or college. Ironic, right?
Following this, all attention was on Kirkconnell. She was already in the spotlight because she was a frontrunner. Fans took to social media to investigate Kirkconnell’s background and what they found was shocking. Photos of her and some friends at an “Old South” Antebellum plantation-themed party were dug up.
When these photos came into light, Kirkonnell’s online comments were flooded with hate messages. More digging was done and people also found that she liked numerous offensive tweets on Twitter.
Fans took to social media to investigate Kirkconnell’s background and what they found was shocking.
“The Bachelor” producers, along with James and Kirkconnell themselves, stayed silent as everything came forward. The silence irritated fans because they wanted to see producers and participants alike own up to their mistakes.
Finally, host Chris Harrison did an interview with former Bachelorette Rachael Lindsay where they spoke on the issue. Harrison’s response was disappointing, as he basically supported Kirkconnell despite her evidently racist past.
“This judge, jury, executioner thing where they’re just tearing this girl’s life apart and diving into her parents and her parents’ voting record—it’s unbelievably alarming to watch this,” Harrison said. “I’m not defending Rachael, I just know that 50 million people did that in 2018. Where is this lens we’re holding up and was that lens available and were we all looking through it in 2018?”
Harrison was implying that actions like that were not as bad in 2018, but in 2021 everyone pays attention to these things, calling them the “woke police.” Though such activities like those Kirkconnell participated in have never been okay, people nowadays are starting to understand why not take part in such activities.
“Where is this lens we’re holding up and was that lens available and were we all looking through it in 2018?”“The Bachelor” host Chris Harrison
Kirkonnell made an apology saying she isn’t asking for immediate forgiveness, but she will show that she deserves it through her actions. Her mistakes won’t be forgotten, however she’s starting to show remorse for her wrongdoings.
After this, former contestants came out and declared their support surprisingly for Rachel Lindsay instead. She was heavily praised for her poise throughout the frustrating interview with host Chris Harrison. She was able to argue her points while keeping her cool and wasn’t afraid to call out Harrison, which made her the perfect person to be the voice of this conversation. Sadly, Lindsay then began receiving tons of backlash for her bluntness, causing her to deactivate her Instagram.
Harrison released his own statement a few days after the interview. He claimed to realize the faults of his actions and decided to take some time away from “The Bachelor.” This is historic, seeing as Harrison has hosted every season of this show. It was announced that Emmanuel Acho was going to step in and host the “After the Final Rose” (ATFR) special at the end of the season.
The ATFR special aired on March 15, and fans were finally able to see what happened with Kirkonnell. James ended up choosing her at the end, but not to get engaged. He claimed that he wasn’t ready for an engagement, but he still did love her.
It was obvious that they were going to be endgame, but the drama surrounding Kirkonnell made things uncertain.
It was obvious that they were going to be endgame, but the drama surrounding Kirkonnell made things uncertain. During the special, James finally announced that they are no longer together, because he believes Kirkonnell has some learning to do on her own.
“I think there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before I can think about being in a relationship with anybody,” James said. “I still need time to process everything that’s going on and I want to respect Rachael and everything she’s got to do as well.”
Everyone knows that “The Bachelor” does intense background checks, so how did Rachael Kirkonnell make it onto the show? Do better, Bachelor producers.
Photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times