“The Bachelor” had a surprise up its sleeve Thursday when the venerable ABC dating franchise announced that its Season 22 star will be Arie Luyendyk Jr. This was a definite curveball for viewers who expected that the show’s lead would likely be plucked from Rachel Lindsay’s recent stint on “The Bachelorette.”
Indeed, most fans found themselves scratching their heads that the network was dusting off Luyendyk Jr., the runner-up on “Bachelorette” Season 8 back in 2012, who has not been a visible part of the series in recent years.
His selection follows the just-concluded “Bachelorette” run for Lindsay, the franchise’s first African-American lead. It is typically customary for the Bachelor to be picked from the most recent “Bachelorette” season; Lindsay’s runner-up, Peter Kraus, was the top choice for many fans, although he was apparently reticent to sign on, following his unwillingness to propose to Lindsay, who got engaged to Bryan Abasolo during her finale that aired this summer.
The choice of Lindsay as Bachelorette was widely heralded as forward progress for the show, although some viewers accused producers of treating racism as entertainment during her season.
Another candidate with fan support was Eric Bigger, Lindsay’s second runner-up. He told TheWrap in late August that he was interested in getting a chance to hand out the roses but had at that time not yet been contacted by producers about the opportunity.
Given the out-of-the-blue nature of Luyendyk Jr.’s selection, was race a factor in the choice?
“I think race played a role in Eric not being chosen, though I don’t think it was the only factor,” Treva Lindsey, associate professor of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Ohio State University, told TheWrap. “The selection of someone from seasons ago seems misguided and perhaps partially responsive to a season in which race/racism were much more visible.”
Lindsey said that the true measure of how much impact Rachel Lindsay’s season had will be reflected by the level of diversity among Luyendyk Jr.’s group of women.
“Now that the franchise is back ‘on brand,’ will the contestant pool be less diverse?” she said. “I am as curious, if not more, about the contestant aspect of the show moving forward.”
The fact that Bigger did not appear to be a significant contender for producers raises questions about how soon the show might choose a black male lead.
“I think that’s a much more difficult concept,” Kristen Warner, University of Alabama associate professor of journalism and creative media, told TheWrap about picking a black male star. “I think a black Bachelorette, there’s something that feels like a much more accessible concept than a black Bachelor.”
She pointed out that while the show had a diverse group of guys on Lindsay’s season, accomplishing this required producers to change their typical selection process. That included the show announcing Lindsay as Bachelorette prior to her exit on Nick Viall’s “Bachelor” season, in order to have more time to get the word out.
“There’s just a lot of work that went into how to get her to the place where she could become the next Bachelorette,” Warner said. “If that’s the work that they had to do to get to the Bachelorette, I think there’s just going to have to be so much more labor for the Bachelor.”
For his part, Bigger told TheWrap that having a black Bachelor would be a great move, both for the show and the nation.
“I think having someone different would definitely open people’s eyes because it’s perspective,” he said. “I always think anything new is great because you haven’t seen it before, you don’t know what it is. Of course, anything new would be great because it’s a different side, it’s a different demographic, its a different experience, it’s a different outlook, it brings people together in a different way.”
ABC declined to comment for this story.