Reflections on Katie's Season
I haven’t written much about Katie’s season, and that has been intentional. Initially, I was pretty open that her selection was off-putting to me, and that’s because the franchise ignored several Black women and women of color to make her the lead. And while Tayshia was cohosting and the franchise also announced Michelle, I still was hesitant to join Team Katie. It felt like they gave us that as a consolation prize to shield from any genuine criticism for making her the lead.
I tried to set that aside as I watched the show, and I was able to compartmentalize for the most part. I wanted to look at Katie objectively and watch her season with a clean slate. Katie enjoyed her role as Bachelorette, and she used several critical moments to touch on serious issues. She used social media in a way that allowed her to control the narrative and story, even when it went at odds with the show’s edit. Katie broke show norms with her decisions throughout the process. She tried to uplift the men on her season and offer alternative viewpoints and space for some of them that the show and the fans relegated to the sidelines.
She also found a good match. Blake and Katie have similar energies, and he will be a supportive partner. I genuinely hope the relationship is fulfilling.
My biggest issue is that she was able to control her edit and narrative in a way that so many Black women and other women of color are not. I kept thinking about how the general audience would view some of her on and off-screen behavior differently had it been Rachel or Tayshia. She was able to take up space and be largely unquestioned and unchecked for some of her behavior this season, particularly off-screen.
There has been a pattern of her involvement in conflict with contestants of color where her privilege and position allowed her to shift the control of how the story gets told. She called Matt’s beard nasty. She addressed Magi’s video about her lack of knowledge of African countries with open hostility. I am sure that Katie received unjustified hate for many things throughout the show. Still, when called out on problematic behavior, she retreats to defensive mode instead of issuing a genuine apology.
I do not care to get into the Greg discourse because so much has already been said that I don’t feel like I can add anything productive to the conversation. Ultimately, they were mismatched. However, I want to address how many fan accounts and forums attacked Bri for appearing in an unauthorized photo with Greg to the point where she had to go on her Instagram story to address the rumors. This attack against Bri was similar to how I’m sure Magi’s DMS were flooded with people asking her to respond to Katie’s comments on the Viall Files. Bri’s mother even got harassed to the point where she issued a statement. And while I loved Bri’s cheeky reel on Instagram, she should have been excluded from this narrative in the first place. My most significant criticism of this fan space is how all women support women until a Black woman is involved. Then it is attack first and ask questions later. Black women always have the burden of proof.
You see this in how the audience is mainly receptive to Katie’s anger towards Greg but still holds a grudge against Rachel Lindsay. It’s not that I’m upset that Katie is allowed to be vulnerable, angry, and expressive of her full range of emotions. It’s just that the show (and our society) consistently doesn’t give that space to Black women. It makes me nostalgic for a fully happy After the Final Rose that we did not get for Tayshia and Zac. It makes me hurt for Rachel as she’s said on multiple occasions that the show robbed her of her on-screen happy ending. It makes me deflated to think about how much more progress the show has to make in this regard.
I’m nervous about how the show will portray the Black women and women of color on Paradise and what will happen when racial dynamics are a factor in the conflicts on our screen. It makes me protective of Michelle as I brace for the discourse that is sure to come. It makes me sad for the Black women who have been selected for this role of Bachelorette that have had to be composed, perfect, and saint-like at every turn. I am glad for Katie that she could be funny, silly, messy, angry, hurt, and ultimately happy. I know part of her appeal to the audience was that she was the most relatable Bachelorette. Still, this season did not resonate with me because that same space isn’t given to Black women and other women of color in the Bachelor franchise (and society at large).
I’m also fearful that her runner-up Justin will get relegated to the sidelines, who was only made into a meme or barely shown on screen. We all know that he is likely not a Bachelor contender in the same way the franchise ignored the women from Matt’s season to choose Katie. I know they haven’t made any Bachelor announcements yet; however, to promote a diverse season yet again only to prioritize the storylines of white contestants and give “just enough” screen time to a select few men of color feels a little like we’ve been here before. Only one of five of the most followed men from this season are Black, so it’s not just the show that is part of the problem.
I want to believe that the Bachelor franchise is actively working to create an inclusively diverse and feminist space where BIPOC women are seen, acknowledged, and celebrated. Still, if that feminism isn’t intersectional, I don’t want it. Finally, hiring a Black executive producer is the first of MANY necessary steps. The franchise, fans, and forums still have so far to go.
I truly enjoyed the hosting skills of Tayshia and KB, and I’m excited to see them return to our screens on October 19th for Michelle. They have a genuine connection and dynamic, and several important moments from this season were elevated by their presence. I believe Katie’s heartfelt thanks to them for their support during her journey.
I wish Katie the best, and she does have a wonderful and loving partner in Blake. Like Tayshia and Zac or Rachel and Bryan, she has someone in her corner that can fully support her, and I’m glad for her that she gets a happy ending.
As we move forward to Bachelor in Paradise and Michelle’s season of The Bachelorette, I hope more BIPOC women get their happy endings and the ability to control their narrative, too.