The Bachelor Franchise: Why Tayshia’s Season Shouldn’t Be the Last We Hear About Mental Health, Race, & More
The recent 16th season on The Bachelorette was like no other in the Bachelor franchise. Whether the pandemic (and not being able to be extravagantly wooed every day) had something to do with the tone shift, or because it was the most mature cast we’ve seen in years — this time was different because no one was afraid to talk about the uncomfortable topics. The season starring Tayshia Adams, the first biracial Bachelorette, included discussions on police brutality, substance abuse, eating disorders, and mental health; topics that are rarely (if ever) even uttered about on any of the 4+ shows a part of the franchise. With the premiere of the 25th season of The Bachelor happening the first week of welcomed year 2021, it has me wondering whether or not these types of open conversations will continue within the rest of the franchise.
In teasers and previews for the latest season of The Bachelor, Matt James goes on a “whirlwind” journey with a group of women with a median age of 24 and one job description as “The Queen”. Already, the aura of the season seems very different and reminds us of previous casts. As a fan, I hope that the season won’t just be a huge dish of childish drama with sides of indecisiveness and a doomed relationship. Because it comes immediately after Adams and her group of contestants who’ve started the important conversations and has the first Black male lead of the franchise during a time where racial injustices are being massively highlighted, continuing the discussion is necessary for the show’s growth. If topics like this are ignored now, it will be clear that the well being of people on the show and around the world are not a priority.
Making Uncomfortable Topics A Mainstream Conversation
Ben Smith, the Army Veteran who made it to Adams’ final two, unknowingly did something groundbreaking for the show and extremely essential for the audience. When asked why he tries to appear perfect at all times, he revealed his struggle with body image issues and bulimia, both of which eventually led to depression and two suicide attempts. Such heavy subjects have never been talked about on the show before, let alone all in the same 10-minute conversation that was aired.
In addition to winner Zac Clark’s confession about checking into rehab for substance abuse, Ivan Hall, who is Black and Filipino, opened up about his brother being in jail and how the entire Black Lives Matter movement affected him and his family. Mentioning George Floyd brought both he and Tayshia to tears.
This season hit on a lot of deep points and did so in an in-depth and informative way for the first time in the history of the franchise. Although late to the party, these conversations happening on one of the most popular television shows (and during a global pandemic) goes a long way because millions of people have had a difficult time this year. For many, the difficulty is in addition to what they were going through before COVID-19.
“Look, it’s not political that these lockdowns have unbelievable damning effects on our community. Suicide is up 200% and these are issues we need to talk about,” said host Chris Harrison in an interview with Variety. “I’m glad that we’re having these discussions.”
The response to these open conversations was immensely positive. Unshockingly, people actually want to hear about the problems they go through themselves and they want to see people who have dealt with or are dealing with their own mental health issues overcome them. Finding love, at this point, is the cherry on top. And since then, each of the mentioned contestants have become advocates and informants for mental health, suicide prevention, and other topics close to their heart.
Hope For the Future of The Bachelor Franchise
Now, it’s out there. Fans know that it’s possible to have these hard, adult conversations on the show and have a positive relationship come out of it. If the franchise retreats to its old ways of only having mediocre drama and full blown discussions on surface-level subjects, it will be distasteful to say the least. It’s The Bachelor, so of course some of that is always good for entertainment, but with the platform that they have and the knowledge that they have acquired over the past year or so, they have to step it up for season 25. They have to or they will fail a huge portion of their audience who is struggling.
At no point will I call what I hope to see on the new season “expectations”. This is still a cheesy reality TV show about finding love that has a history of ignoring the problems of the world and problems within the franchise itself. However, I am hopeful. In their recent attempts to do better (appointing Tayshia and Matt as leads, for example) I can tell the franchise is at least listening to fans that urge for more. But will they continue to use their platform to spark important conversations that are relevant to us today? We’ll see.
Although we’re finally in a new year, our problems don’t just disappear. When entertainingly dramatic shows like The Bachelor aren’t enough, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The NAMI Helpline (National Alliance on Mental Illness) can be reached 24/7 at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or firstname.lastname@example.org.
–Amanda Davis, Content Creator