Fans of “The Bachelor” aren’t new to the concept of “the most dramatic season yet.” Host Chris Harrison claims this every season, but the show’s 25th season might actually have lived up to this statement.
The season began as a historic one with Bachelor Matt James being the first ever Black male lead in the franchise. The 28-year-old real estate broker from North Carolina was also a unique choice as he had never been on a “Bachelor” franchise show before.
The show was filmed entirely at a resort in Pennsylvania to maintain COVID safety protocols, and all of the contestants quarantined before filming began. The season started with 32 women and was one of the most racially diverse casts ever on the franchise. In week three, the show brought in five new women to shake things up in what was also a first for “The Bachelor.”
Matt James was a relatively well-received Bachelor, despite kissing with his eyes open, and many viewers respected his handling of much of the drama that happened in the house. Early in the season, a group of women in the house accused others of creating a toxic environment and bullying each other, and viewers appreciated how Matt James tried hard to get to the bottom of the drama and resolve it.
But as the season progressed, controversy arose online around one of the contestants, Rachael Kirkconnell. Photos surfaced of Kirkconnell attending Antebellum-themed parties in college and wearing culturally insensitive costumes. Allegations against Kirkconnell of bullying and racism also spread.
As these allegations gained more and more traction, Kirkconnell kept quiet. Eventually, franchise host Chris Harrison went on former Bachelorette, and first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay’s podcast to discuss Kirkconnell’s past.
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On the podcast, Harrison defended Kirkconnell saying that she was young at the time and probably didn’t know better. He also complained about the “judge, jury and executioner” nature of those calling Kirkconnell out and the “woke police.” The explosive interview caused massive outrage from many fans who called Harrison out for seemingly defending racism and dismissing the hurt that Kirkconnell’s actions caused.
Soon after the interview, Harrison apologized for his words and announced he would be stepping away from the franchise temporarily and would not be hosting Season 25’s “After the Final Rose” special. ABC then announced that Emmanuel Acho, author of “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man,” would replace Harrison for the final episode of the season.
Meanwhile, Kirkconnell released a statement apologizing for her past. During the controversy, the women of color who were on Matt’s season also posted a statement condemning Kirkconnell’s actions, as did James himself.
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In the season’s finale, James and Kirkconnell left the show as a couple but did not get engaged. The information about Kirkconnell’s past came out after the end of filming, and the couple broke up as a result of the controversy. James and Kirkconnell addressed their breakup on the “After the Final Rose” special, saying that Kirkconnell needed time to learn before they could be together.
The special also announced that the next year would bring two new seasons of “The Bachelorette,” one in the spring led by Katie Thurston from Matt’s season and another in the fall led by Matt’s runner-up, Michelle Young. ABC also announced that former Bachelorettes Tayshia Adams and Kaitlyn Bristowe would take over as co-hosts.
As far as “Bachelor in Paradise” goes, it’s scheduled to air this summer, but reports have claimed that producers are having trouble finding contestants as many try to distance themselves from the franchise in the wake of the controversy.