The second quarantined season of The Bachelor franchise premiered on Monday night, filmed at the Nemacolin Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania. Why has it taken producers decades to figure out they could film an entire season in an East Coast fall? The trees literally look like pumpkin spice lattes and “Christian Girl Autumn,” and someone should get a raise. While I could dive deep into the symbolism, there’s a much more interesting element at play: Matt James, this season’s Bachelor, is the first ever black Bachelor in franchise history—he’s also never been on the show before scored the lead spot, a franchise first; he’s biracial (he was raised by a single white mom in North Carolina) and he is acutely aware of what it all means (also a franchise first). Before even meeting the women in the premiere’s episode, he sat down with host Chris Harrison to discuss his concerns. “I want to talk to you about the pressure I’m putting on myself by being the first black Bachelor. People want you to end up with a certain type of person and I get that,” he continued:
“So, my mom is white and my dad’s black, and I experienced what it was like to be a product of an interracial marriage. And it’s tough, because you’ve got people who have certain views, old-school views, on what a relationship and what love looks like, and you’ve got people who are cheering for you to find love, and you’ve got people who are cheering for you to end up with a specific person, a specific person of a specific race. That’s something that kept me up at night. It’s like, I don’t want to piss off black people. I don’t want to piss off white people, but I’m both of those.”
I’m not sure what insight he was hoping to get from Harrison, a sentient stick of butter, but it was nice to see something reminiscent of a nuanced conversation surrounding race on this damn show for the first time in 20 years. That, however, quickly gave way to James meeting the women for the first time, who were much more sexually explicit than they have been in seasons past. (I’m trying really hard to chalk it up to post-socially distancing extreme horniness and not an expression of the way black people are overtly objectified and sexualized, but I digress.) Alana brought spaghetti and gave him a Lady and the Tramp kiss. Kali rolled up in lingerie—a black lace bra and panty set and robe—with a garment rack, asking for his opinion on what dress she should wear. “You gotta love that confidence,” he said to camera. Katie brought a vibrator and gifted it to James “because it got her through the pandemic.” She does take it back, but it is... a strange gesture. (Katie also interrupts another contestant, Mari, while she was in the middle of explaining to Matt her family’s experience post-Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, so I’m calling it—she’s one of the villains.) Unfortunately, Katie remains, but at least she didn’t get the first impression rose. That went to Abigail, the sweetheart with cochlear implants.
Until next week, Bachelor Nation.