You’d think we’d be used to surprises on The Bachelor by now. This is, after all, the show that gave us several non-proposals, two whoops-I-changed-my-mind revelations, and a couple of train wrecks (yeah, we’re looking at you, Juan Pablo and Jake). So there was no reason to expect anything less from Season 25. It featured Matt James, the franchise’s first-ever Black Bachelor, plus the show’s most diverse set of hopeful women. This promised to be must-watch TV.
It was — but alas, for all the wrong reasons. Apart from the typical drama and disappointment as Matt sent women home (aw, Abigail!), the show was rocked behind the scenes by the unearthing of Rachael Kirkconnell’s racially insensitive photos, followed by Chris Harrison’s departure from the show for his awkward defense of her. It almost made us forget the whole romantic-journey storyline as it chugged toward its conclusion. Down to two finalists — Rachael and Minnesota teacher Michelle Young — Matt had a big decision to make.
As Us Weekly recounts, the first shocker came when Matt confessed to a devastated Michelle that he just wasn’t seeing a future with her. (Anyone want to buy some “Mr. and Mrs. James” jerseys?) That left Rachael, who gladly accepted the final rose when the two met up in a romantic fireplace setup in the woods. The pear-shaped Neil Lane sparkler stayed in Matt’s pocket, though; while he did see marriage in their future, “I just want to make sure my love is enough for you,” he explained.
Matt couldn't get past Rachael's photos
Filling in as host, Emmanuel Acho promised that After the Final Rose would include “uncomfortable conversations,” and he delivered big-time. First came the inevitable meeting with Matt and Michelle, who had her long-awaited “closure” discussion with him before saying goodbye (via People). Then it was time for the real discomfort: the reunion of Matt and Rachael, who had since broken up over the photos (via Entertainment Weekly).
Social media exploded with reaction. Some viewers weren’t on board with the “escapist” show taking a serious turn as a platform for bias education. There were plenty of Chris Harrison fans who vowed never to watch the Bachelor franchise so long as he remains off the show. But the bulk of the discussion centered on Matt. Many commenters slammed him for being unable to forgive Rachael, who seemed genuinely contrite and willing to work on herself. Others thought Matt was just using the photos as a cover-up for his fear of being in a relationship. One representative tweet said, “You mean to tell me the man, who repeatedly said he has commitment issues, is having commitment issues?!?!”
Supporters agreed it would be hard for a Black man to give his heart to a woman who’d “liked” pictures featuring Confederate flags and who didn’t understand the implications of an antebellum South theme party. One fan tweeted, “learning those things about [Rachael] must have hurt him deeply. He may have felt betrayed. I wouldn’t blame him. I wish him all the best.”
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