By Patrick Miller
On Monday, March 1, 2021, I posted my thoughts about a Bachelor contestant caught attending an “Old South” plantation party.
My friend and Crossing Member, Kaitlin EuDaly, sent me a thoughtful critique in response. And she asked me to consider posting it. In the name of charitable dialogue (which the world needs more of!) we are posting her letter here, followed by a brief response from me.
As an avid member of Bachelor Nation, I felt obliged to respond to your post. Overall, I agree with your message, but there were some things I found problematic.
Here’s where we agree: Rachael Kirkconnell’s past choices were racist. I don’t think Rachael is a racist. Rachael doesn’t deserve to be canceled or to be called horrible things. We have all said and done racist things. Everyone deserves grace and forgiveness in the midst of learning. We should always remember our need for forgiveness.
Here’s where I’m having trouble: You don’t watch The Bachelor.
This is hugely important to note because you’ve consumed all of this recent controversy without some important history.
A brief backstory about problems within the franchise…
For years, people called upon The Bachelor to diversify the cast and staff. In 2017 (15 years after the start), Rachel Lindsay became the first Black lead. Among her cast was a contestant who had many tweets (from the recent past) that were problematic regarding race and women. He did and said many questionable things to both the Black contestants & Rachel, which was good “drama” for the show.
As time has gone on, it’s pretty clear ABC was aware of these things but cast him anyway. This was the first of many incidents in which contestants’ social media left viewers wondering how people slipped through the cracks. There have been multiple examples of contestants tweeting and liking negative things about immigrants, promoting Blue Lives Matter, being a part of the Capitol riots, saying and doing racist things, etc. In these instances, ABC said nothing.
The only time they addressed anything was last March when they had Rachel Lindsay facilitate a discussion about social media hate the women (specifically the women of color) received on the Internet after their season aired. Following this discussion, Chris Harrison challenged viewers to “do better.”
However, in a subsequent interview, Rachel admitted that ABC wouldn’t allow her to say “racism” on air. Further showing ABC’s inability to call it like it is. This is why the culmination of everything this season is such a big deal. Context matters.
I agree with your points regarding Rachael K.’s impact and intent, but Chris’s interview was just BAD. I agreed with Chris that people should let Rachael speak and try to withhold judgement, but his dismissal of her racist actions and the way he spoke to Rachel Lindsay was shocking. As an executive producer and the face of the franchise, Chris downplaying Rachael K.’s actions make viewers question whether ABC is just providing lip service. Again, context matters, and I think some of your takes were over-simplified.
(Quick plug for a great commentary on this: the February 12th episode of my favorite podcast, Rose Cast. Highly recommend.)
As a Matt James apologist, I feel a strong need to defend him :). This is another place where not watching the show hurts because you don’t know that Matt is one of the kindest, most grace-giving lead there’s been. You claim Matt first asked viewers to give grace, but then changed his stance, condemned Rachael & Chris, and called the whole franchise racist. However, his only mention of Rachael is calling the photos “incredibly disappointing.” Matt then said Chris’s actions in the interview were “troubling and painful to watch” and that “The Bachelor franchise has fallen short on addressing [issues] for years.”
I disagree with you that this was condemnation. And it felt like your points about Matt were to somehow claim that he was influenced by our “culture” to turn his stance away from a gospel-like message of grace.
You also claim we shouldn’t be surprised if someone who chose to go on The Bachelor would also attend a plantation party. To me, that signals your belief that every person who goes on the show is shallow and not capable of discerning wisdom. That’s a bold blanket statement to make, especially for someone who has never seen the depth of some of the people and conversations that have occurred.
I know the correct response for Christians isn’t to let racism persist. It’s also not to let heads roll. I think we agree that we have to hold these two truths simultaneously, which can be difficult when it feels like there are sides to take.
But grace comes at a cost, and while we’re called to forgiveness, we can’t downplay the truth that racism occurred, and it costs people of color a lot to continue to see examples of hatred towards them (intentional or not) and keep moving forward.
Lastly, was the purpose of the post to address “cancel-culture” and these Bachelor events as a picture of that or to talk about why Christians shouldn’t watch? I feel like those are two separate conversations, but the tone of the post felt a little judgmental to those that do watch (or participate). Now, I know you and respect you enough to know that wasn’t your intent but starting off calling the show “perverse” was an interesting choice.
Foundationally, I think we’re on the same page regarding the need for racial justice and grace and forgiveness to coexist without “canceling.” But I felt like some additional thoughts from a Bachelor superfan might be helpful.
Thanks for taking the time to reply. You are absolutely correct: I come to The Bachelor with almost no historical context. I don’t listen to Bachelor podcasts, read Bachelor blogs, or watch the show.
For me, the set of events around the most recent season were a case study that offered a window into our cultural moment. How Bachelor Nation responds to or participates in “cancel culture” is a microcosm of how our society reacts. In other words, there are interlocking contexts, and I missed part of the picture.
I also agree that I should have read Matt James’s comments more charitably. That is, after all, one of the main applications of the blog!
You are also correct: I did not intend to shame people who watch the Bachelor. I do want people to wrestle with the ethics of turning a polygamous dating show that dramatizes emotional torment into entertainment. Those wrestling with this may experience shame or guilt. But I can’t control that.
In all my years of debating with Bachelor fans, I have never once heard someone give a cogent moral defense for why it’s okay for a man to be physically intimate with multiple women at the same time. I do think there is a strong case to be made in the reverse. Let’s just say that in the Bible, serial sexual encounters, and polyamorous relationships usually end in disaster.
As a wise friend once told me: watching a dumpster fire is entertaining… until you realize there are people inside.
Did you miss Patrick’s original post? Check out “Roses and Racism: What The Bachelor Reveals About Cancel Culture.“