There was something I intended to say about season thirteen of The Bachelorette. But it took me a few weeks to write it down and even then, a lot remains unsaid. This is what I ended up with:
To me this season hasn’t been about me liking one relationship over another, but how a network took an attractive, successful, and relatively well-adjusted Black woman (Rachel) and used her to present a false social commentary for ratings and ad dollars. To understand what I mean, you must look between the film flickers to the cigarette burns and ask, what was this season about? Was it about Rachel Lindsay finding a husband among 30 eligible suitors or something else?
My critique of the show rests in the optics and their intent. To me, this season was less about creating a romantic and fantastical environment for the first Black Bachelorette to find love, and most about the dismissal of recent and past charges regarding the franchise’s unapologetic lack of intent when it comes to creating a diverse environment for this social project to thrive. Because, though on the surface its main goal is to entertain and wrangle advertising dollars, the medium is too powerful to deny its social and cultural influence. The network and the show’s producers know this all too well.
As the show progressed, I began to see evidence that this historic season was about propping up the franchise’s next White Knight at the expense of its first Black Princess. But many long-time viewers object to this assertion. They insist that this is par for the course within the series. That the trend is to tear down the lead, to set up the story line for the next lead. I could concede that point if the unevenness weren’t so blatantly obvious. If the franchise didn’t have such a sketchy history. If they had not cast a person like Lee.
Lee is this season’s Achilles heel and if I’m being truthful, it’s the franchise’s gotcha moment. That is, if the audience is paying attention. Because if we are, the question then becomes why was Lee cast in the first place? What and who decided to cast a suitor like him during this season and what does that mean to the overall story line the producers were attempting to convey? In my opinion, that decision said more than anything anyone said during that two-hour Men Tale All episode. Rachel’s journey to matrimony became an afterthought; a faux progressive statement that the network wasted no time patting themselves on the back for, while at the same time contradicting themselves. What resulted was a progressive statement that held no weight. Some might call it an empty gesture. In the end, whether intentional or by happenstance, it only proved to validate the show’s steadfast formula of leading with white knights on metaphoric steads looking for their (white) damsels in romantic distress.
Rather meandering, but somewhere between the lines, the point remains.