- ABC has cast its first Black Bachelor, Matt James, after 24 seasons of the show, airing since 2002.
- This comes as fans, as well as former stars of the show, have been demanding that it correct its lack of diversity.
- Network executives claim this pressure did not impact their decision, but not everyone believed that.
- Rachel Lindsay, the franchise’s only Black Bachelorette, said that while she is happy the show has finally cast a Black male lead, she thinks the timing is bad and that their intent may not spark the meaningful change she has been calling for.
ABC Casts First Black Bachelor
After producing 24 seasons of “The Bachelor” since 2002, ABC has finally cast its first Black lead: 28-year-old Matt James.
This is a major announcement for the hit dating series, which sparked one of the biggest reality franchises in television history, spanning over 40 seasons of shows including “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in Paradise.” James was originally going to be a contestant on the new season of “The Bachelorette,” which was supposed to be airing now but has been delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Throughout its 15 season run, “The Bachelorette” has only had one lead of color, Rachel Lindsay.
James is known to fans of the show for being good friends with Tyler Cameron, a previous contestant. The two have regularly appeared in social media posts together, which fans often follow closely. He made his debut as the upcoming Bachelor during a Friday segment of “Good Morning America,” where he said he was honored to be taking the role.
“Hopefully when people invite me into their homes on Monday night they’re going to see that I’m not much different from them and they see that diverse love stories are beautiful,” he said on the show.
Recent Calls for More Diversity
The decision to hire the first Black Bachelor comes as the show faced mounting pressure, both from fans and former contestants, to prioritize diversity. Over 85,000 people have now signed a petition calling for a more diverse cast. Lindsay recently wrote a blog post vowing to leave the franchise if the show did not bring on leads of color, contestants willing to date outside of their race, producers of color, and if the show did not stop making problematic storylines for people of color on the show.
While this pressure has been building up over the last few weeks as most aspects of American culture are beginning to grapple with systemic racism, network executives claim this had nothing to do with their choice.
“Matt was somebody who was on our radar and we were thinking about him,” Rob Mills, ABC’s top unscripted executive told Variety.
“It wasn’t a response to that. We could have made this announcement earlier or later,” Mills said. “Certainly no one is blind to what is happening in the world, so hopefully this announcement serves as a bit of optimism during a time that we can really use this. But I don’t want this to look like we’re patting ourselves on the back or taking a victory lap.”
Lindsay Calls Casting a Band Aid Solution
However, not everyone is buying this. Traditionally, “The Bachelor” is announced after the previous season of “The Bachelorette” concludes, which is usually around August. “The Bachelor” then begins airing in January. The lead is often chosen from the pool of men who did not win.
Some think the choice to select and announce who the upcoming Bachelor would be six months in advance is not a coincidence, including Lindsay. She believes that regardless of what statements are being made by network heads, this is a direct response to the calls for change being made by herself and the fans.
“It’s a bandaid. It’s the easiest thing, to me, that you could do,” she said during a Friday episode of the popular podcast “Bachelor Party.” “It seems like it’s a knee-jerk reaction in response to what happened in our society. To what happened with George Floyd and the pressure that you’re getting from society. It’s almost like a man had to die in such a gruesome and public way for us to get a Black Bachelor. That’s what it feels like.”
While she says she is happy that the show has finally cast a Black Bachelor, she also thinks that the timing feels wrong, the process feels rushed, and the intent does not seem meaningful or heartfelt.
“The whole point of calling them out was to say ‘We don’t feel valued. We don’t feel heard. We don’t feel included.’” Lindsay explained. “And you are saying ‘Okay, well, here’s a Black person to step into this role.’ It’s great to see it, love to see it, but it doesn’t make me feel as if you’re really taking it into consideration what it is we say, when I say systemic racism. The internal, embedded, deep-rooted issues within this franchise where it needs to change structurally.”
She also criticized ABC for its segment announcing James as the Bachelor. He spent much of his interview time talking about his mother, who they showcased during the segment. It is not commonplace for a Bachelor’s mother to be such an integral part of their introduction to the role. Lindsay thought they focused on this because James’ mother is white.
“I think they wanted everyone to know his mother was white,” she said. “I will say it.”
Bachelor Alumni Express Support
Still, she has shared her support for James online, calling it “a step in the right direction.”
Elsewhere in Bachelor Nation, many other veterans of the franchise’s various programs also expressed congratulations to James, including former Bachelor Nick Viall.
Cameron, who appeared on Hannah Brown’s season of “The Bachelorette,” also wished his close friend good luck.
“This is all a testament of who you are as a person,” he said in an Instagram post. “Now the world gets to see the person you are and the heart you have. You can change the world.
View this post on Instagram
Congrats to my brother @mattjames919 on being named the Bachelor. This is all a testament of who you are as a person. Now the world gets to see the person you are and the heart you have. You can change the world. Proud of you and so excited for you. Not excited that somebody will be taking my spot as your snuggle buddy 😢 . PS peep the drool 🤤
Brown, who recently started a separate conversation about racism within the Bachelor Nation when she said the N-word while singing on Instagram live, congratulated James as well. Through Cameron, the two have also become friends.
“I cannot contain my excitement for this amazing human making history as the first Black Bachelor,” she wrote.
View this post on Instagram
Matt James is the Bachelor. I cannot contain my excitement for this amazing human making history as the first Black Bachelor— to God be the Glory! 🙌 This man is as good as it gets y’all, and that’s coming from a previous skeptic (lolz). I am so blessed to now call you friend. You’ve supported and encouraged me in some of the hardest moments lately and I’m so freaking pumped to support and encourage you as you get ready to go on an adventure of a lifetime! #1 Matt James fan right here! 🌹@bachelorabc
Right now, James’ season of the show is still slated to air in January, though that is all subject to change because of the coronavirus. The show usually involves up to 25 people in close quarters traveling together, so it is unclear what changes will be made going forward. It is also unclear what will happen to Clare Crawley’s season of “The Bachelorette,” which some executives hope can still film this summer.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (People) (Good Morning America)
Priyanka Chopra Jonas Says “The Activist” Reality Series “Got It Wrong”
The controversial series is now being reworked into a documentary, which Chopra Jonas hopes will better “highlight the actions and impact” of global activists.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas Apologizes For “The Activist”
Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas responded to controversies surrounding “The Activist,” a CBS reality competition series she was slated to co-host that is now being reworked following widespread backlash.
“The Activist” was going to show real activists competing against one another in various challenges in an effort to promote their philanthropic causes. After many expressed disgust at the premise, CBS said it would scrap the footage already shot and turn the idea into a one-time documentary special highlighting the work and impacts of different activists.
“The show got it wrong, and I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you,” Chopra Jonas wrote on Instagram. “The intention was always to bring attention to the people behind the ideas and highlight the actions and impact of the causes they support tirelessly. I’m happy that in this new format, their stories will be the highlight.”
“I’m proud to collaborate with partners who have their ear to the ground and know when it’s time to hit pause and re-evaluate,” she added.
Chopra Jonas closed her post by thanking the “global community of activists” for their hard work, which often goes unacknowledged.
Controversies Surrounding “The Activist”
Musician Usher and dancer Julianne Hough were cast to host alongside Chopra Jonas. After a release announcing the show and their casting went out last week, it was slammed online by activists and journalists alike.
Actress and activist Jameela Jamil wrote that the network would have been better off donating the presumably large production costs to charity instead of “turning activism into a game.”
Women’s activist Gina Martin thought turning charity into a competition was counterintuitive, arguing “the whole *essense* of activism is solidarity and community.”
Writers from The Verge, The Washington Post, Essence, and countless other outlets likewise published pieces slamming the program. The Post’s Michele L. Norris accused CBS of “trying to capitalize on the current avalanche of doom in the daily news cycle.”
Norris added that the show’s “prize,” which was to attend the G20 summit in Italy, boiled down to activists fighting “merely for the right to crash an international conference and try to shake down world leaders for cash.”
Responses From Those Involved
Chopra Jonas is not the only host to address the criticism. Before the idea was canned, Hough wrote a lengthy Instagram post saying she was listening to the dialogue regarding the program.
“There is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt,” she wrote.
“I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge,” she added, though she stopped short of actually stepping down from the gig.
CBS ended up releasing a joint statement with Global Citizen and Live Nation acknowledging the failings of the concept.
“It has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day,” the statement said. “The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort.”
The statement said the new documentary will “showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in” without any competitive element.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vanity Fair) (BBC News)
Health Officials in the U.S. and Trinidad Shut Down Nicki Minaj’s Vaccine Claims
After the rapper claimed her cousin’s friend had severe side effects from the vaccine, Dr. Anthony Fauci said she should be “thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis.”
Health Officials Condemn Nicki Minaj’s Vaccine Statement
Health officials in the United States and Trinidad and Tobago are refuting claims rapper Nicki Minaj made this week suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines can lead to testicular swelling.
“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent,” Minaj tweeted Monday. “His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied.”
The symptoms Minaj described in the tweet about her cousin’s friend fall more in line with those of various sexually transmitted diseases. The CDC has repeatedly noted that there is “currently no evidence that any vaccines, including COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems in women or men.”
International health officials doubled down on this after Minaj’s remarks went viral. Dr. Terrence Deyalsingh, the Health Minister for Trinidad and Tobago, said his department takes every claim of this nature seriously and found no proof that Minaj’s anecdote was true after spending hours thoroughly researching it.
“Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim,” he said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“As we stand now, there is absolutely no reported side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad, or, I dare say anywhere else?” he continued. “None that we know of anywhere in the world.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s leading infectious disease expert, likewise debunked Minaj’s story while speaking to CNN.
“She should be thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis, except a one-off anecdote, and that’s not what science is all about,” Dr. Fauci told Jake Tapper this week.
Nicki Minaj Claims She Received Invite to Discuss Vaccines at the White House
As vaccine misinformation continues to spread and elongate the pandemic, the Biden administration has unveiled several efforts to instill trust in the science behind it. Minaj claimed Wednesday she was invited to the White House to discuss the vaccine and ask questions on behalf of those who need convincing.
A White House official, however, claimed that she was not offered a trip but rather a call with “one of our doctors to answer questions she has about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.” Minaj slammed the White House on Instagram Wednesday night for undercutting her claim.
“Do you think I’d go on the internet and lie about being invited to the fucking White House?” she said in a 14-minute video. “Like, what?!”
“You know what the request was? ‘We’d like to offer Nicki an invitation to come to the White House to speak with two people,” she continued. “With, what is that man’s name? Dr. Fauci? And with the Surgeon General.”
Minaj said that when she expressed concerns about traveling, they offered the chance to also do a live chat on the social media platform of her choice. Throughout the remainder of her video, she repeatedly made startling claims suggesting the media was targeting an attack on her to make her look dumb so people would stop asking questions about the vaccine.
By Thursday, that video had been viewed over 1.6 million times. “I Stand With Nicki” trended on Twitter Thursday as some claimed the media has twisted her words, while others slammed her fanbase for supporting the rapper as she promoted misinformation.
See what others are saying: (Complex) (New York Times) (The Guardian)
Julianne Hough Responds to Criticism Over “The Activist” Reality Series
Many slammed the show for belittling activism efforts all over the world, and Hough said their feelings of “insult, dehumanization, insensitivity, and hurt” are justified.
Julianne Hough Responds to Criticism
Julianna Hough, one of several hosts on the upcoming CBS reality competition series “The Activist,” said Tuesday that the growing outrage against the show is “rightfully felt.”
According to Deadline, the series will follow six real activists that are “teamed with three high-profile public figures” as they fight for three major global causes: health, education, and the environment. Those activists will “go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics, and hosts’ input.” Musician Usher and actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas will serve as hosts along with Hough.
The activists’ goal is to amplify their message and then advance to the G20 Summit in Italy so they can raise funding and awareness for their causes, but the premise left a sour taste in many peoples’ mouths. Some argued that it was degrading to make activists compete on a stage for resources and attention, while others thought the celebrity hosts were not suited for a show about philanthropy.
On Tuesday, Hough acknowledged those complaints in a lengthy post on Instagram. She said she is listening to them “with an open heart and mind.”
“There is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt,” she wrote before admitting that she is not an activist and is not qualified to host the program. Hough stopped short of stepping down from the series.
“I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge.”
Hough mentioned the controversy she sparked in 2013 after wearing blackface as part of a costume. She noted that this likely added “insult to injury” regarding her casting and apologized again for the incident. Still, she said that she felt compelled to join the series so she could “be a part of something that highlights and is centered around sharing activists’ work on a larger platform.”
“I felt it would help educate, mobilize, and inspire people around the world to get involved in activism because so many worthy causes need attention, funding, and most importantly, the power to effect real change,” she added.
Hough is not the only person to respond to the outrage the show sparked. A spokesperson for Global Citizen, an international advocacy group co-producing the show, released a statement to Deadline defending the series.
“The Activist spotlights individuals who’ve made it their life’s work to change the world for the better, as well as the incredible and often challenging work they do on the ground in their communities,” the spokesperson said. “This is not a reality show to trivialize activism. On the contrary, our aim is to support activists everywhere, show the ingenuity and dedication they put into their work, and amplify their causes to an even wider audience.”
Backlash Against “The Activist”
Criticisms against the show started rolling in on Twitter after a press release announcing the series and its hosts was published on Sept. 9. Many, including real-world activists, were quick to express their concerns over the series.
“Couldn’t they just give the money it’s going to take to pay this UNBELIEVABLY expensive talent and make this show, directly to activist causes? Rather than turning activism into a game,” wrote activist and actress Jameela Jamil.
British women’s activist Gina Martin slammed the decision to cast Usher, Chopra-Jonas, and Hough as the hosts.
“Why the hell is there a TV show that turns activist into a competition when the whole *essense* of activism is solidarity and community?” Martin added. “This is the absolute worst.”
Others called the series “performative” and “horrific.” Nabilah Islam, a progressive organizer and former Georgia congressional candidate, argued that activism is difficult enough “without having to dance and sing for a bunch of millionaires while they decide who’s worthy of their crumbs.”
“The Activist” is currently slated to debut on October 22 and air for five weeks. It is unclear if CBS will be amending the show’s rollout following the ongoing criticisms.