Born December 5th, 29-year-old new ‘Bachelor Matt James from North Carolina is just what Bachelor Nation ordered! It’s a milestone in ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise history in that James is the first African American male lead in the show’s history reigning in it’s 25th season. Why so long? Why was James’ selected? How did producers ensure they got it right? We don’t have solid answers for the first two questions, other than what we have been told by ‘Bachelor/ABC executives. President of ABC Entertainment, Karey Burke, stated that during Clare’s season, “when filming couldn’t move forward as planned, we were given the benefit of time to get to know Matt and all agreed he would make a perfect Bachelor.” We do, however, have an answer to the latter question. A group of ethnic super-fans were sought-out by producers who hired a focus group firm to seek their honest opinions about the upcoming ‘Bachelor season.
Since the show’s inception back in 2002, the next lead for the next season of The Bachelorette/’Bachelor seasons had always been based off of the pool of women or men who competed on the previous seasons. This holds true more so to “The Bachelorette” seasons than “The Bachelor.” There were a slew of seasons of “The Bachelor” where the leads were celebrities or real-life wealthy bachelors. Like these bachelors before him, Matt James is a successful businessman. But, lacking the most recent ‘Bachelors before him who have had to compete on “The Bachelorette.” He got to skip this step. Leaving fans a lack of insight into his competing style, morals and character.
While corporations and artists were showing their support left and right for “Black Lives Matter” (BLM), “The Bachelor” chose to make its stance by selecting the first black ‘Bachelor, making it amidst the real-time Black Lives Matter movement that was happening during a pandemic in 2020.
So, back to our original question. How did producers ensure they’d get his season right? Their concern was portraying African Americans not only accurately, but also how black viewers like to be portrayed on television. Many questions were asked of the focus group participants such as thoughts on current favorite black shows, and how African Americans are shown on other reality shows such as “Love and Hip-Hop,” and “Real Housewives” series.
Another question that was asked of fans was thoughts on Rachel Lindsay, the first African-American ‘Bachelorette? We’re guessing this was asked in order to achieve the same success with the show’s first African-American ‘Bachelor. What about the show being historically labeled “too white”? Well, from the photos of the 32 women in James’ season, this season will have the least amount of Caucasian contestants that it’s ever showcased in any season which takes place at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania.
Races and ethnicities of women were also discussed. What fans expect to see in the pool of James’ women as far as their ethnicities and backstories go. We got to see some men on Tayshia Adams’ season who had varied backstories. Straying from the traditional squeaky clean past contestants, we saw more men who had some checkered pasts and skeletons in their closets. This could be due to them being slightly older than contestants in previous seasons. It was hinted that viewers can expect to perhaps see the same in James’ season with women coming from varied backgrounds. Matt James himself comes from a broken family. As seen in teasers it looks like that will be addressed and uncovered in greater detail.
Also, just like in Tayshia’s season of “The Bachelorette” where BLM was brought-up in conversation during Tayshia’s one-on-one date with Ivan Hill, it was asked in the focus group how fans would feel about seeing it acknowledged in James’ season (before Tayshia’s season had aired). Another hurdle that was overcome successfully in Tayshias’ season was how much airtime should be given to the topic of the Coronavirus pandemic that is still happening.
President of ABC Entertainment Karey Burke ended with, “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing onscreen are representative of the world we live in, and we are proudly in service to our audience. This is just the beginning, and we will continue to take action with regard to diversity issues on this franchise. We feel so privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor and we cannot wait to embark on this journey with him.”
What type of ‘Bachelor do fans want? Well, certainly NOT like some of the past ones we’ve seen before (we won’t mention them by name). But, a man who is a gentleman. Respectful to all women and someone who is strong, honest and decisive. We are pulling for James to be all of this and more and to bring it home for a win. Frankly, at the age of 29 (age 28 at the time of filming his season), this should come naturally to him.
“The Bachelor” season 25 premieres on Monday, January 4th at 8 pm ET on ABC network. After its air, only then will fans be able to judge if “The Bachelor” producers got this season right