The deeply personal conversation is garnering a considerable amount of attention on social media with many calling the scene exploitative.
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The negative social media attention is the latest chatter to cast a cloud over this season of “The Bachelor,” which has been airing — per usual — as a racist controversy centered around its longtime host, Chris Harrison, and frontrunner contestant, Rachael Kirkconnell, continues to explode in real-time off-screen.
As Monday night’s episode was airing, James — the first-ever Black Bachelor in the franchise’s history — cautioned viewers on social media about the “dangerous stereotypes and “negative depictions” of Black fathers in media.
“Tonight’s convo with my dad was hard to experience, and it’s just as hard to watch all this time later, especially knowing the world is watching with me,” James’ Twitter thread began.
During the episode, James — who is the first Black lead of “The Bachelor” — met with his father, who left his family during his childhood. James has been open about his abandonment issues as a result of his father’s actions, which he has said have changed the way he views relationships and commitment. “Harboring that negativity in my life hasn’t progressed any of my relationships; it’s hindered my growth,” James said to his father during the episode.
Seeing the conversation broadcast on national television, James put the situation into broader context.
“I just wanted to say that too often, we see dangerous stereotypes and negative depictions of Black fathers in media. And they have consequences when presented without context,” James wrote, adding a link to an article from The Opportunity Agenda about the topic.
“All I hope is that people watch that conversation with nuance, care, and also an understanding that there are real systemic issues at play,” James wrote. “I’m so proud of myself for being vulnerable, and I’m so proud of my mother. I wouldn’t be who I am without my dad. That’s a fact.”
The scene also featured James confronting his father about the infidelity that caused James’ mother to leave his father. Though the conversation led to an apology and forgiveness, James was shaken when it came time to enter his dates for the week.
Following James speaking out on Twitter, Rachel Lindsay — who was the first Black “Bachelorette,” and interviewed Harrison about Kirkconnell’s behavior in the now-infamous and widely-criticized conversation — broke her hiatus from speaking about “The Bachelor” controversy to address the episode on The Ringer’s “Bachelor Party” podcast.
Lindsay called the episode with James’ father “disturbing and disappointing.”
“After what I saw tonight,” Lindsay posted, “I can’t keep quiet and gotta talk about this @bachelorabc episode and the perpetuation of stereotypes in the Black community.”
ABC and Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for comment.
Last month, James broke his silence on the Harrison scandal, writing that the controversy has pushed him to “reevaluate and process what my experience on ‘The Bachelor’ represents, not just for me, but for all of the contestants of color, especially the Black contestants of this season and seasons past, and for you, the viewers at home.”
As James has been sharing his emotions and thoughts in real time over the past few weeks, his season, which was filmed months ago, has been awkwardly airing with no acknowledgement of the turn-of-events.
For instance, Monday’s episode — which is the final episode leading up to the season’s conclusion next week — featured an emotional Kirkconnell professing her love for James and saying she envisions him as her “future husband,” as James continues to fall in love with the contestant on-screen. (In real life, Kirkconnell has come under fire for liking photos that contain images of the Confederate flag, along with photos from 2018 resurfacing, showing her in attendance at an Old South plantation-themed party.)
Following Lindsay’s interview with Harrison, the dating show’s handling of race has been put into the spotlight, even more so than usual.
This season of “The Bachelor” featured the most diverse cast in the franchise’s history with 25 women who identify as BIPOC. In light of the Harrison scandal, the female contestants from James’ season released a statement about the “historic season that was meant to represent change.” The women stated they are “deeply disappointed” and “denounce any defense of racism.”
Lindsay has used her platform to be publicly outspoken about the franchise’s diversity problems ever since she starred as “The Bachelorette” in 2017. In wake of the current scandal, she has said she does not want to renew her contract with Warner Bros., for which she hosts a podcast about “The Bachelor.” In the aftermath of her interview with Harrison, Lindsay has been the target of widespread bullying and online harassment to the point of deleting of her social media accounts, which she recently re-activated.
The producers of “The Bachelor” released a statement taking a strong stance against all bullying, in support of Lindsay. But the network and studio have not released any official statement regarding anything relating to the escalating scandal.
Harrison announced he was stepping aside for a period of time, in wake of the controversy. The longtime host is being temporarily replaced by Emmanuel Acho for the finale episode, “After the Final Rose,” which will air next week.
In an interview with Michael Strahan on “Good Morning America,” Harrison said he plans to return as host of “The Bachelor” to which Strahan said, “His apology is his apology, but it felt like I got nothing more than a surface response on any of this…only time will tell if there’s any meaning behind his words.”
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