The Bachelor franchise faced a reckoning during 2020 and early 2021 as the Black Lives Matter movement shed a light on a lack of diverse casting on the show, which was followed by a controversy-laden season starring the first-ever Black lead Matt James. But with the latest announcement of the new Bachelor, Clayton Echard, fans are disappointed and believe the network hasn’t made strides in its efforts to diversify the hit reality series.
While Bachelor Nation viewers were anticipating the announcement of next season’s lead, Echard — a 28-year-old white former NFL player from Missouri — not only underwhelmed the show’s fanbase but also caused an uproar about the direction of the reality series after seemingly promising to do better.
“It’s a tired choice for a tired audience that is craving and demanding more,” members of the Bachelor Diversity Campaign, a collective of fans who want to see the show step up its commitment to diversity, told Yahoo Entertainment. “We have seen this show before, quite literally over 20 times. This is not a knock to Clayton, who seems like a nice guy from our very limited introduction to him, but frustration that producers ignored more visible, impactful and diverse contenders from this season and last in order to show us the same tired formula.”
The group was at the forefront of calls for ABC to make changes to the show’s format, which includes casting, in 2020 with a Change.org petition in favor of racial diversity “both in front of and behind the camera.” In it, petitioners stated that the lack of a BIPOC lead was “unacceptable” and called for a number of changes to “combat racism” in the show’s future, including “Cast a Black Bachelor as Season 25 lead.”
While James made history as the franchise’s first Black Bachelor in the show’s history, many see Echard’s casting as tone-deaf. And criticism is mounting that Echard, who competed for Michelle Young’s affections on Season 18 of TheBachelorette, is a disappointing choice following the franchise’s historic first fully BIPOC final four.
“The criticism of choosing Clayton as the next Bachelor has nothing to do with Clayton himself. It can’t be personal actually, because viewers don’t know him. He was not a primary contender on the show and we weren’t given a chance to learn his story,” the Bachelor Diversity Campaign members said. “So the fact that he was chosen as the Bachelor over BIPOC contestants who went further in the process, and therefore had more screen time and audience exposure, highlights once again that ABC makes the show it wants to. The question really is, why does ABC continue to want to make a show with a white lead when there are multiple Black contestants they had to pass by to do so?”
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