‘The Bachelor’ Finally Went Black — But Doesn’t Know How to Deal With Race

18 years after its premiere, the reality show finally has a Black man at its center. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Tirhakah Love
LEVEL
Published in
6 min readJan 8, 2021

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Photo: Craig Sjodin/Getty Images

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This week, after resisting it for nearly 18 years, I finally watched The Bachelor. And the first four words out of my mouth were “Wait, that’s a dildo!”

On the screen, a White woman waved a lightsaber-style vibrator (censored, of course, given that this is an ABC production) towards a Black man, his face frozen in a nervous smile. And thus began my foray into the bizarro world of the Bachelorverse. Yes, I’m here on CP time — but it’s because they finally gave the CP time.

After approximately 7 million seasons, reality competition The Bachelor has finally cast a Black man, Matt James, as its lead. Which is why a rookie like me had to tune in to see how they would stick the landing in these here racial gymnastics. And no matter what I’d expected, I couldn’t have asked for a more surreal introduction to what is truly a wild-ass show. The first episode of the new season — aka The Bachelor: Noir, aka The B(l)ac(k)helor — was chock full of newish personalities from glammy to scammy, with queens, kings, princesses, CEOs, and a healthy amount of electric dick.

We hardly get a sense of what each woman is actually after, how they might feel about dating a Black person, or if they think about that at all. But it isn’t just the characters themselves telling the stories in reality television — it’s the editors and camera crew.

Before this week, the only thing I knew about The Bachelor was that Flavor of Love was based on its design. Instead of gold clocks, each potential spouse is given a rose to signify that the main person still kinda sees it for you, at least for the next week. Aside from that my knowledge is pretty scant. Apparently there have been many Madisons? And now there are many Laurens? This…

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Tirhakah Love
LEVEL
Writer for

African from Texas• Staff Writer at LEVEL • Black politics, Celebrity interviews, TV & Film Criticism • Previously: MTV News, San Francisco Chronicle