Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's 'Bachelor' Essay Examined The Franchise's Place In Our Current Culture & He Didn't Hold Back
Most people know Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a legendary NBA basketball player, but to Bachelor Nation, he is the author of an erudite critical essay about the franchise published in The Hollywood Reporter on Jan. 2, 2017 with the headline "The Bachelor Is Killing Romance in America." Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's Bachelor essay broke down the franchise's diversity flaws and how it could influence millennial romance. Yes, you read all of that right — one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time is a fan of The Bachelor franchise and, as it turns out, he will guest star on May 29 episode of The Bachelorette.
Jabbar's very intelligent and keenly observant piece was written as a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter before Nick Viall's season aired — and before Rachel Lindsay became the Bachelorette. Now a contributing editor at The Hollywood Reporter, Jabbar published a follow-up Bachelorette column on May 29 explaining how exactly he has gone from critic of the franchise to current guest star, admitting that the selection of Rachel Lindsay as Bachelorette has since shifted his opinion. Yup, the NBA legend loves Rachel just as much as we all do. "I was relieved she wasn’t chosen by Nick because, let’s face it, she was too good for him," Jabbar wrote. "She was smarter, wittier, funnier and more mature than he was, which I suspect he realized and is the reason he didn’t select her."
Jabbar continued in the follow-up piece, explaining that The Bachelor franchise producers called him in response to his Jan. 2 column to tell him the next Bachelorette would be black — and they invited him to guest star in an episode, airing on May 29. In the new essay, he detailed his experience on set, running basketball drills with Rachel's suitors to expose the "sharp teeth behind the polite smile," which is exactly what the NBA legend wrote the show needed to do in his Jan. 2 column.
The 70-year-old NBA legend's original essay expressed concern about the feminist values of The Bachelor franchise and its emphasis on physical beauty. Jabbar wrote: "These shows promote the scorched-earth effects of raising females to be continually judged physically above all other attributes and then measured against impossible physical standards that has marginalized a majority of girls and women — and made billions for the beauty products, clothing, and cosmetic surgery industries."
In the original column, Jabbar went onto criticize The Bachelor and The Bachelorette's "lack of intellectual and appearance diversity, which leaves the contestants as interchangeable as the Mr. Potato Head parts," he wrote in The Hollywood Reporter. It's a section that expressed many concerns about diversity among contestants that the show has since seemed to address. "If you’re black on The Bachelor or The Bachelorette, you’re usually kept around as a courtesy for a few weeks before being ejected," Jabbar wrote in his column before Rachel, a trial attorney, became the Bachelorette. He continued:
"With all eyes firmly fixed on firm buttocks, the criteria for finding love becomes how high a quarter will bounce off rock-hard abs. Will we ever witness a conversation that isn’t so bland and vacuous that words seem to evaporate as soon as they are spoken?"
This season, Rachel's dating pool includes attorneys, doctors, a former pro wrestler, a CEO, a Marine veteran, and a chiropractor — and yes, while they are all handsome men, they are also accomplished in their careers.
But one of Jabbar's biggest concerns about the franchise is how much The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and even Bachelor in Paradise have become love as a sport or a game show, in which their are winners and losers. He wrote, "But, unfortunately, we tend to take the premise seriously and form camps around contestants, rooting for them to be chosen to get the engagement ring as we would root for our hometown team to win the championship ring."
Most of all, Jabbar wrote that he feared how love in the world of The Bachelor could influence romantic ideals in future generations. "The fact that most of these relationships eventually wither when not nourished by the lights and cameras reveals just how much of a fantasy it all is," he wrote. "The real danger is when we try to apply that fantasy thinking to our own lives."
But in the short term, Jabbar did write that the shows are "just good, clean fun" and he is a devoted fan of the franchise. It should be interesting to see how the NBA legend and culture critic has to say when he appears on The Bachelorette on Monday night.