On June 12, “The Bachelor” franchise surprised its fans by announcing their newest leading man.
Originally cast to be on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette, 28-year-old Matt James is the newest Bachelor and will make history as the first black male lead of the franchise.
Who Is Matt James?
Fans of The Bachelor franchise know Matt as the best friend of fan-favorite Tyler Cameron, who was the runner-up on Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette. Matt and Tyler met at Wake Forest University, where they both played football. Matt moved to New York City after a short stint in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints. Both men were inspired to start the nonprofit ABC Food Tours, which gives underprivileged children in New York City a chance to expand their palettes by trying foods from a diverse range of restaurants. He was on the Rachael Ray Show in 2018 to promote the organization.
He’s handsome, has a big heart, and a soft spot for kids. This man already has my heart! You’d have to be heartless to not admit that Matt isn’t awesome. He was originally cast to be on Clare Crawley’s season of The Bachelorette, but production was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
The more we learn about Matt, the more we love him. When describing his perfect woman, he says, "Fortunate for me, I'm looking for qualities that my mom embodies and that's selfless, honest, caring, compassionate, and those are qualities found in women all shapes, sizes, and races. And it's not a Black or white thing. So, I'm hoping that when that limo pulls up, there's a lot of diversity and I see every type of woman coming out of that limo."
I’ve been a fan of The Bachelor franchise for a long time, and I haven’t seen this much excitement over a male lead since Ben Higgins’ season was announced in 2015. There are few reasons behind this, one being that Matt seems like a genuine and awesome guy, but he’s also the first black Bachelor, something Bachelor fans have been wanting for a while.
Diversity in The Bachelor Franchise
There have been 40 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, and there’s only been one season with a black lead. Rachel Lindsay was the first black Bachelorette back in 2017, and she isn’t afraid to speak her mind about the lack of racial diversity on the show.
Mike Johnson, from Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette, was a fan favorite to be the pick for the 24th season of The Bachelor and the first black male lead, but Peter Weber ended up snagging the lead. In the midst of Black Lives Matter protests after the horrific murder of George Floyd on Memorial Day, fans and alumni of the franchise created a change.org petition demanding that the producers cast a black lead and ensure equitable treatment for contestants of all races.
Matt was announced to be the next Bachelor on June 12, but producers claim his casting had nothing to do with the petition or Rachel Lindsay's criticism of the franchise. However, host Chris Harrison says Matt’s casting is “just the beginning of the franchise portraying diverse love stories.”
Regardless of what the intentions behind casting Matt were, it’s no secret that there are harmful stereotypes of black men portrayed in media. Matt defies these negative stereotypes because he’s a family man, a gentleman, and a great role model. This is not only the perfect opportunity to prove these stereotypes wrong, but also the perfect opportunity for those who aren’t exposed to racial diversity to learn about the experience of others.
It’s also important to acknowledge that The Bachelor is ultimately a show about finding love, and love has no race. Love comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and we deserve to see diverse love stories on the most popular dating show on television.
What about Clare?
After it was announced that Matt would be the next Bachelor, fans speculated if Clare’s season was canceled. Chris Harrison clarified on Instagram that Clare's love story was coming first. Her season will likely be filmed over the next few months, and the filming for Matt’s season will follow.
Fans remember Clare from Juan Pablo Galavis’ season of The Bachelor. Arguably the most hated lead in the history of the franchise, Juan Pablo degraded Clare and was openly rude to her towards the end of the season. The moment she told him off for being a jerk after breaking up with her will forever go down as being one of the most iconic moments in the history of the franchise, and we’re so excited for her to finally find love.
We’re not sure when Matt’s season will begin filming, but there’s no doubt in our minds that this will be one of the most historic, and dramatic, seasons in Bachelor history.