What 'The Bachelor' Must Learn From Rachel Lindsay's Historic 'Bachelorette' Season
The Bachelorette is wrapping up its first season with a woman of color as the lead, and so far, it seems obvious that the choice was a success. Rachel shouldn't be considered an experiment, but her season was a surprisingly bold step forward for the show, which never seemed to put much effort into diversifying its image or becoming more inclusive before. But, now that it has, there's a lot that The Bachelor can learn from Rachel's season of The Bachelorette. It's time for producers to think about how the successes and failures of this season should inform the franchise's future. The upcoming fourth season of Bachelor in Paradise was made before The Bachelorette ended, but now, with the next Bachelor, there will be a brand new season built from scratch hopefully utilizing all of the lessons of this highly scrutinized season.
As the first black woman to star on the show, Rachel had a difficult tightrope to walk (and she had a few emotional breakdowns about this during the season). She seemingly felt she needed to be a completely regular Bachelorette, and yet make sure that nothing she said or did, and nothing anyone else in the cast said or did, could possibly reflect badly on her racial identity. It looked incredibly difficult, but that's why the number one thing the show should learn from this experience is that casting is everything. There have been many white guys on this show who have embarrassed themselves, been overtly villainous, or victimized others in their pursuit of TV fame. But finding a smart, ambitious person with a good head on their shoulders instead is a good place for any season to start. And if producers want to improve on this season, give the lead a little more on-camera support. Chris Harrison was barely there throughout the whole season — it's time to bring him back and make sure he's there to call out anything problematic.
Speaking of, that's another important lesson: When casting the rest of the people on the show, disqualify those who have expressed bigoted views in a public forum. Was there anything good gained from the Kenny/Lee conflict over several episodes? Kenny could have had the chance to get to know Rachel better before heading home to be with his daughter, and maybe the show could have made some drama out of something else besides racist microaggressions. (Chris Harrison claimed on Twitter that producers hadn't seen those racist tweets prior to casting Lee.)
Casting directors need to make sure that the cast is filled with a combination of people who are diverse in perspective, experience, personality, and, yes, race and ethnicity. There will naturally be differences and disagreements. And if there aren't, well, producers can engineer some that aren't tinged with prejudice — intended or otherwise.
By the way, on Rachel's season, there were no tearful casting notices begging and pleading for men of color to apply. Instead, magically, a cast of men were assembled that was nearly half nonwhite. This should be the new standard cast for a season of this show. There's no reason why this should be a one-time thing.
Ultimately, that's the biggest lesson The Bachelor needs to learn: If this franchise is really going to change, then this can't be a one-off adjustment. It needs to be a fundamental shift in how the series thinks of itself. Hopefully, casting Rachel Lindsay has made all of the people responsible for The Bachelor series aware of how painfully white and painfully limited the show has been for years, and is now dedicated to changing that forever, not just for one season of The Bachelorette.