When I was younger, my grandmother and I used to watch The Bachelor franchise together. We bonded over the petty antics, the drama, and we’d make predictions about who the Bachelor or Bachelorette would choose. There was one prediction we always had, though we never said it out loud: The black contestant wouldn’t be getting the last rose.
I’d be lucky if they made it beyond the third round.
Monday, it was revealed that Rachel Lindsay was named the Bachelorette for the 13th season, premiering May 22 on ABC. She is the first black lead in the history of the franchise.
Lindsay, a 31-year-old lawyer from Texas, looks way younger than her years because black has never cracked. This isn't the first barrier-breaking move that ABC has made recently. Last year, Channing Dungey became the first black woman to head entertainment at a major broadcast network when ABC promoted her to entertainment president. It seems ABC is giving black women the rose. Thank you, Shonda Rhimes.
Big news, right? I kept scrolling.
For me, The Bachelor/Bachelorette is about 30 seasons too late. For years, the show was criticized for its lack of diversity, not just in its leads, but in its casting. Middle school me wasn't even aware of these controversies, but I naturally moved on to other Bachelor-inspired shows with more diverse casts, including VH1's Flavor of Love and I Love New York (featuring Tiffany Pollard, one of the greatest characters in reality television history). They may not have reflected me totally, but I felt like I knew them.
Also, it’s a pretty convenient time to diversify. Trends are shifting as networks are beginning to realize that inclusivity and diverse casting would also diversify their profits. Shocker.
But I, like many others, have already moved on. More options on TV -- including streaming services like Netflix and shows like Being Mary Jane on legacy outlets like BET -- mean I'm no longer married to shows that didn't have me in mind.
Late or not, a black Bachelorette is monumental and commendable. In the online-dating sphere, black women and Asian men received fewer matches than their gendered counterparts. When black women are sought out, many have reported being fetishized or sexualized. This is due to false or narrow narratives of who we are. If you don't know black women personally or are relying solely on television, we're the video vixen or the Angry Black Woman, or worse. This sort of visibility The Bachelorettte can provide about who black women are can expand the conversation to a demographic probably not used to seeing us.
I don’t know how many young black girls watch The Bachelor or The Bachelorette now. I’m not sure Lindsay’s role will result in an uptick of young black viewers, because we're already gone.
I might tune in for solidarity’s sake, but I wish I'd had Lindsay when I was a kid, watching this show with my grandma years ago. At the very least, this is bringing a new perspective to the majority white audience that The Bachelor or The Bachelorette has already invested so heavily in.