After a summer of turmoil, ‘The Bachelorette’ finally let reality in, and it points to a promising future for the show

tayshia adams ivan bachelorette

  • On the most recent episode of "The Bachelorette," Tayshia Adams and Ivan Hall had an emotional discussion about the events of this summer, including the protests related to George Floyd's death.
  • The "Bachelor" franchise usually shies away from current events, but this season's COVID-related delays made it impossible to pretend the show exists outside of reality.
  • For many viewers, the conversation was a welcome change — part of dating in the real world is discussing issues and making sure your priorities align.
  • Additionally, as Tayshia is the second Black lead ever, her conversation with Hall was one of the first times many fans were able to see themselves represented on screen.
  • The conversation, as well as the show's decision to finally let reality in, signals a new era for the "Bachelor" franchise.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

"The Bachelor" and its adjacent spin-offs claim to provide people with fairytale endings — and they do. At the end of almost every season, someone gets down on one knee and proposes marriage after knowing the other person for around two months. It's essentially the timeline of a Disney movie.

But that's not necessarily the bedrock of a stable relationship. While there are couples from "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" who are still together, the overwhelming majority of winning couples have broken up. For "The Bachelor," just one of the leads is still with his original final pick (hi, Sean and Catherine) out of 24 seasons. "The Bachelorette's" stats aren't much better: Out of 16 seasons — and 17 leads — four women are still with the recipient of their final rose.

The idea that their real relationships actually begin after they're engaged and living off-camera is a common thread among "Bachelor" couples. But the franchise's insistence on keeping their leads and contestants inside this perfect bubble might finally be starting to waver, and that's a good thing.

The contestants are finally able to speak about real issues

After Clare Crawley departed midway through the current season with her fiancé Dale Moss, Tayshia Adams was brought in to "save" the season, and during the November 24 episode, she was part of one of the most emotional and honest conversations in the show's history.

Adams, who is Black, discussed issues with one of her suitors, 28-year-old aeronautical engineer Ivan Hall (who is also Black), that had never before been raised on the show. Hall explained his younger brother had fallen into addiction and been in prison for four years, and had even missed the birth of his daughter.

The discussion then shifted to current events — namely, the death of George Floyd, the national protests his death sparked, and police brutality towards Black Americans. Both Hall and Adams discussed the effects Floyd's death had on them, how they had both experienced racism in their hometowns and at college (both subtly and overtly, as Hall shared he had been called the N-word in college), and how they felt connected to each other through these shared experiences.

Adams and Hall earlier in the season.
Craig Sjodin/ABC

This conversation about major issues in the real world — not "Bachelor" fantasy-land — was met with emotional reactions from Bachelor Nation.

This summer, it became clear that the franchise needed to change

The conversation between Tayshia and Ivan took place against the backdrop of the summer's events. People across the US and the world were forced to reckon with their own implicit biases and relationships with race, and "The Bachelor" was part of that reckoning. The show, over a combined 39 seasons of television, had only one Black lead before Adams: former "Bachelorette" star Rachel Lindsay.

Rachel Lindsay.
David Becker/Stringer/Getty Images

Lindsay has spoken at length about how she hasn't felt protected by the franchise, and that she feels frequently put-upon to educate other members of Bachelor Nation simply because she was the only Black lead in the show's history. During an episode of her podcast, "Bachelor Happy Hour," Lindsay spent a significant amount of time and emotional labor trying to explain racism to her white co-host Becca Kufrin. She also made it clear that if things didn't change within the franchise, she would distance herself.

Many former contestants and fans supported Lindsay, and a petition to make the show more diverse and explicitly anti-racist organized by the Bachelor Diversity Campaign has over 163,000 signatures.

Even Chris Harrison, the longtime host and godfather of Bachelor Nation, admitted to Insider that the show can do better in terms of race.

Adams and Chris Harrison.
Craig Sjodin/ABC

"At the end of the day, 'The Bachelor' and 'Bachelorette' have always been above love and relationships," the host told Insider's Anneta Konstantinides in October 2020. "And the whole point is you want to see yourself represented. You want to see your love represented on screen and to not do that is a failure," he added. "And that's something we aim to be better at and do better at."

Insider also spoke to another member of Bachelor Nation, Mike Johnson, earlier in the year. Johnson was one of the favorites to be named the Bachelor instead of Peter Weber, which would've made him the first Black lead in "Bachelor" history. How did he think the show should become more diverse and representative of the "real world"? "By just doing it."

The show finally appears to be doing just that: Matt James will become the show's first Black lead in 2021.

As well as discussing racial inequality, the conversation between Hall and Adams also reflected a more 'real-world' relationship

The conversation between Hall and Adams could not have happened on any other season: There's never been an opportunity for two Black contestants to have this space. And that's including Lindsay's season — she's spoken about how she waited to have conversations about political and social issues until after the cameras were turned on, and multiple former contestants during Nick Viall's season spoke to Refinery29 about how producers steered them away from speaking about politics. (ABC has yet to respond to Insider's request for comment.)

By failing to allow contestants to speak about their real, lived-in experiences or political beliefs, "The Bachelor" is doing its own contestants a disservice. Just look at Kufrin and her (controversial) final rose recipient Garrett Yrigoyen.

Kufrin and Yrigoyen.
ABC

The two called off their engagement this summer, after it became clear that their opinions regarding police brutality, politics, and other issues were not compatible. Over the summer, Kufrin posted pro-Black Lives Matter content while Yrigoyen posted a "Thin Blue Line" graphic supporting the police and Instagram stories endorsing Trump. While they both stated it was not due to one specific issue, Kufrin became more vocally opinionated after the break-up, posting pro-Biden content.

If Kufrin or Yrigoyen had been given all the information — or had engaged in these frank discussions before getting engaged — they might've saved themselves this heartbreak back in 2017.

'Knowing where your partner stands on crucial political ideology is incredibly important, and should be a deal-breaker'

Relationship expert and clinical psychologist Monica O'Neal told Insider she was "thrilled" to see the conversation on "The Bachelorette," and expects we'll see more of these types of conversations going forward. And that spells a more stable future for the relationships on the show.

"Knowing where your partner stands on crucial political ideology is incredibly important and should be a deal-breaker," she said. "The issue of racial justice and Black Lives Matter has become something that really is more of an indication of personal values and beliefs around equity and justice."

She added, "Those things are crucially important when it comes to raising children and thinking about the kind of ideology that you foster in your home. Therefore, it's important to have a clear understanding of where your partner stands on these issues before you go forward with the relationship and building a family."

Between the franchise choosing four back-to-back POC leads (Crawley and Weber are both Latinx, Adams is Afro-Latina, and James is biracial, as well) and breaking the fourth wall in terms of current events, it's clear the franchise is changing ever so slowly to be more reflective of 2020.

Hopefully, this reality TV behemoth will continue to let actual reality in.

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