UnREAL, the Emmy nominated show from Lifetime, was supposed to be a hyper-dramatization of The Bachelor. The formula was to take all of the cynical extremes of ABC's hit reality dating show, from the doublecrossing and backstabbing to the meddling producers, turn them up to 11, and then go back in and add even more shots of shirtless dudes flexing their lats just to be safe. Everyone is embroiled in ridiculous scandals at all times and, if going on The Bachelor is smoking pot, then UnREAL is Reefer Madness telling you that even just one puff might be enough to get you jumping off a building to your death.
But this current season of The Bachelor doesn't make UnREAL seem like a scripted satire. In fact, The Bachelor is caught up in so much controversy with regards to race right now that UnREAL, hilariously, might have been giving it too much credit. So here's what happened:
This is the first season that The Bachelor cast a Black lead for the show. Things seemed to be sailing smoothly enough until it was discovered that contestant and the current frontrunner, Rachel Kirkconnel, engaged in all sorts of racist behavior prior to the show. On TikTok, she was accused of bullying classmates in high school for dating black guys, and her social media was littered with, according to Vanity Fair, "QAnon-adjacent conspiracy theorizing, and racist Halloween costumes." Then it all came to a head when pictures surfaced of her at an antebellum plantation party in 2018.
So it's not a good look for Kirkconnel, and it's not a good look for the show that they didn't properly vet her before having her come on the season (or intentionally had her come on the season if we're watching with our UnREAL goggles). But it became a disastrous look for the show when Rachel Lindsay (the first Black Bachelorette) interviewed Bachelor host and executive producer Chris Harrison on Extra. He defended Kirkconnel by blaming the outrage on "the woke police" and asking, "Where is this lens we're holding up, and was this lens available, and were we all looking through it in 2018?"
Lindsay responded by asking Harrison who she would have represented if she were to have been at that party, and Chris just gapes at her dumbfounded as he attempts to do the mental math. Chris Harrison has since stepped away from the show, but it's unclear if he plans to do so permanently.
Again, it's all wild and not just because the producer of a hugely popular tv show in 2021 tried to defend a party that celebrates slavery by saying the equivalent of, "Well, we didn't know better three years ago." It's wild, too, because even the fictional producers on UnREAL aren't that shitty. UnREAL had their first Black Bachelor in their second season, which was in 2016, a full five years before The Bachelor did, and a full three years before the supposedly totally cool-to-go-to plantation parties of 2018. (For the record, Kirkconnel's sorority banned "old south" parties in 2016.)
UnREAL even gave their Black Bachelor a happy ending, which isn't to say much of the actual Bachelor because it looks like Kirkconnel might win. (Why else would Harrison defend her so vehemently? Is he that racist?) It makes you wish that the fictional producers of UnREAL were in charge of The Bachelor. Yeah, it'd still be a horrible, toxic mess, but at least they're self-aware. The Bachelor, meanwhile, is still living in another era, and I'm not talking about 2018.
Top Image: ABC Studios, Lifetime