‘The Bachelor’ Producers Acknowledge Franchise’s ‘Vicious Cycle’ of Racism: ‘We Have to Do Better’

After years of dodging questions and ignoring the issue altogether, ‘The Bachelor” executive producers have addressed the show’s problem with race directly. “We didn’t have a Black lead in this franchise for 15 years, and that’s inexcusable,” executive producer Bennett Graebner told the Los Angeles Times. “It created a vicious cycle, and it’s taken a lot of work to get back to a place where we feel at least we’re working for the positive.”

Graebner was joined by executive producer Claire Freeland for the extensive interview in which the pair admitted that people of color haven’t often seen themselves represented on the show. Freeland also acknowledged the racism experienced by contestant Rachel Nance, whose mother is Filipino and father is Black and Arab, and admitted, “That was another missed opportunity for us. Our intention was to bring light toward what Rachel was going through. But we have to do better.”

Nance, a contestant on the 28th season of “The Bachelor,” was the subject of horrific racist attacks online after her Hometown episode with Bachelor Joey Graziadei. During the show’s “Women Tell All” episode, she explained, “I got a lot of hateful messages … calling me the N-word or jungle Asian, all because I got a rose.”

“It’s sad because my parents really enjoyed the Hometown episode, and for them to see people attacking our culture and attacking me — I’ve been in this scenario before, but this was like a whole new level. Hundreds of people messaging me. TikToks of people throwing up when [Joey and I] were kissing.”

Host Jesse Palmer acknowledged Nance, but immediately pivoted to asking the entire panel of women if they’d experienced “a hateful comment or statement on social media.” The treatment of Nance went beyond a hateful comment or statement, and Palmer’s response was something Graebner said was a “mistake.”

“We’re not always going to get it right,” he admitted. “We’re going to make mistakes as we move forward. But we’re not going to shy away from difficult conversations.”

Freeland and Graebner also touched on the experience of season 25 Bachelor Matt James, who has since shunned his time on the show despite still being in a relationship with the season’s winner, Rachael Kirkconnell. As the only Black male lead in franchise history, James was introduced nearly 20 years after the show launched in 2002.

Ahead of his season, ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke said the network was focused on bringing more diversity into the franchise and had a “responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in.” As the season aired, James increasingly felt producers reneged on their promise to present him as an accomplished, proud Black man and instead relied on stereotypes and tropes that he hoped to avoid.

“That season went wrong on so many levels,” Graebner told the Tines. “We did not protect him as we should have. The finale of that season was the darkest day I’ve had on this franchise. Here was this great Black man, and we should have been celebrating his love story. Instead, what we saw was a man burdened and overwhelmed by issues of racism. It was really sad for me personally.”

The team hopes to continue to correct the course with the casting of former “Bachelor” contestant Jenn Tran as the franchise’s first Asian American lead on the upcoming season of “The Bachelorette.” Graebner and Freeland realize they can’t control what fans believe, but they can steer the show in a new direction.

“We can’t change the minds of people who aren’t interested in this new direction. What we have the power to do is change the program,” Freeland said. “There’s a reason why this show has been around for 20 years. The dream and desire for true love will never go out of style. We hope that people can look at the last couple of years and see that we are intending and taking steps to make the change.”

The post ‘The Bachelor’ Producers Acknowledge Franchise’s ‘Vicious Cycle’ of Racism: ‘We Have to Do Better’ appeared first on TheWrap.