Earlier this month, Michelle Young made history as The Bachelorette.
At the same time, executives in charge of this franchise went ahead and did the exact opposite.
Young, as you likely know by now, became the first series lead to select four people of color as her finalists, as suitors Brandon, Rodney, Joe and Nayte all went on quasi hometown dates with Michelle last week.
And then as soon as this special episode concluded?
ABC aired a promo for The Bachelor, officially confirming Clayton Echard as the Season 26 anchor.
Echard, of course, did NOT advance to the hometown date portion of Young’s season.
Over the years, at almost every turn, producers had either chosen a runner-up or maybe a second runner-up from the previous Bachelorette or Bachelor season to serve as the next franchise star.
Why did the show therefore break from tradition in the case of Clayton Echard?
The answer isn’t really a mystery, according to members of the Bachelor Diversity Campaign, a collective of fans who want to see the show step up its commitment to diversity.
"It’s a tired choice for a tired audience that is craving and demanding more," this coalition said late last week to Yahoo Entertainment.
"We have seen this show before, quite literally over 20 times.
The group made a point of adding that this beef wasn’t related to Echard directly.
Continued the statement:
"This is not a knock to Clayton, who seems like a nice guy from our very limited introduction to him.
"But frustration that producers ignored more visible, impactful and diverse contenders from this season and last in order to show us the same tired formula."
Back in 2020, this same group started a Change.org petition to push for the first-ever Black Bachelor.
They said at the time it was "unacceptable" that every single lead to that point had been white, calling in their petition for a number of changes to "combat racism" in the show’s future.
Shortly afterward, Matt James landed the role of The Bachelor.
He, of course, selected Rachael Kirkconnell as his winner — only to then learn she had a history of racially-insensitive social media posts.
James dumped Kirkconnell in response (although the two have since gotten back together) and Chris Harrison was forced out as host due to the terrible way he handled this scandal.
It was a mess.
And it’s hard not to think the controversy did play a role in producers wanting to make a "safe" choice for Season 26 with Echard.
"The criticism of choosing Clayton as the next Bachelor has nothing to do with Clayton himself. It can’t be personal actually, because viewers don’t know him," added the Bachelor Diversity Campaign.
"He was not a primary contender on the show and we weren’t given a chance to learn his story.
"So the fact that he was chosen as the Bachelor over BIPOC contestants who went further in the process, and therefore had more screen time and audience exposure, highlights once again that ABC makes the show it wants to.
"The question really is, why does ABC continue to want to make a show with a white lead when there are multiple Black contestants they had to pass by to do so?"
ABC doesn’t need to cast a Black Bachelor every season, of course.
But, as cited above, it’s impossible here to not notice that higher-ups ignored their "own established pattern" of selecting series leads, the group said to Yahoo.
"Breaking their own loosely-created rules to make exceptions for white contestants at the exclusion of BIPOC contestants only highlights how far we haven’t come," reads the message.
Concludes the Bachelor Diversity Campaign:
This choice of a lead, who the audience barely got to know over the course of the season, continues to perpetuate the idea that to be a white lead on the show you simply need to be likable and look stereotypical of what is supposedly ‘attractive’ to the audience demographics;
Whereas, to be a BIPOC lead you need to be full of qualifications and highly regarded, someone who won’t make mistakes.
Neither anyone associated with Warner Bros. nor ABC has yet commented on this line of criticism.