By Meredith Baccine
2020 has been a year of many firsts, and one positive first in this year was the first black male lead in the show ‘The Bachelor’. Matt James is the 25th lead of ‘The Bachelor’, and his season has already been filled with drama and excitement.
Before his season had even begun, a constant fight for better representation and more racial justice was occuring behind the scenes of the ‘Bachelor’ franchise. The 13th bachelorette was the first female lead of the show, Rachel Lindsay, and her season was filled with racist remarks and actions by the producers.
The Washington Post described Lindsay’s season to have several issues: “She called out producers for showcasing her as “an angry black female” at the end of her season, as they focused the finale on her breakup with the runner-up, Peter Kraus, rather than her engagement to the winner, Bryan Abasolo.”
Lindsay wasn’t as happy as most for ‘The Bachelor’ to finally cast a black male lead. “It doesn’t seem meaningful or heartfelt or that you’re hearing what we’re screaming for or fighting for,” Lindsay explained. She described the move as the “bare-minimum” and “the easiest thing” to do.
However, ABC programming executive Robert Mills did acknowledge that the show needs many more improvements. “Certainly no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this. But I don’t want this to look like we’re patting ourselves on the back or taking a victory lap,” he said. He went on to acknowledge that casting a black male lead is not enough to make up for the years of inequality throughout the show.
Nevertheless, Matt was honored and excited to have the job of being the first black bachelor. “Just in general, there’s no education without conversation. You can’t expect people to know how to maneuver, or where you’re coming from or to understand you, if you don’t talk about those types of things… I’m excited to share that with people,” Matt explained.
Matt’s season will be a positive example for viewers and diversity in future seasons of the show. Matt was the perfect choice for this important role, and he exudes racial equality, and the traits to make a great husband. “Well, I do have a type, but it’s not race-specific. It’s character traits and it’s qualities that I look for that stand the test of time, more so than beauty does.”