The moment I saw Mike Johnson, the 31-year-old portfolio manager vying for Hannah’s heart on Season 15 of The Bachelorette, I screamed. My body has not been attracted to a body of this stature since Peter Kraus circa Rachel Lindsay’s season. His face is the dreamy amalgamation of tWitch, Ellen DeGeneres’s resident DJ/hunk, and real life fire emoji Michael B Jordan. Don’t @ me, these are simply facts. Mike’s voice—as my mother confirms—has already cleared my skin and replenished my vitamin intake. ARE YOU TURNED ON YET? Same.
— Atlanta (@houseatlantas) May 28, 2019
But I must admit, the fact that I even know Mike’s name (and his zodiac sign) is an extreme rarity. In 15 years of Chris Harrison pointing to roses in disdain, people of colour seldom get air time, let alone make it past week two. In 38 seasons of Bachelor Nation history, there have been three POC leads: Venezuelan-American faux-hawk disaster Juan Pablo Galavis, JoJo Fletcher, who is half Iranian, and the series’s first Black lead, Rachel Lindsay. If those stats aren’t jarring enough, by my count, out of the roughly 145 coveted hometown dates in the 37 completed seasons of Bach Nation history, only a handful of hopefuls have been non-white suitors.
Translation: ABC giveth and ABC taketh. Which TBH is why I’ve always faced an internal struggle supporting a franchise that so blatantly does not support me.
By week four of Miss Alabama’s road to becoming less awkward, a top-six situation had already been established: Pilot Pete, Vocal Fry 1 Tyler C., Vocal Fry 2 Connor, Garrett, Jimmy Neutron Jed and Magic Mike. But despite his winning smile, and even brighter personality, Mike got brutally cut during a 1-on-1 date during episode eight, right before hometowns. It was hard to watch, but frankly, I didn’t *actually* want Mike to be Hannah’s final rose recipient. Instead, he needs to become our next Bachelor, not only because he is the definition of a thirst trap, but also because it’s about damn time we break up the stream of white contestants in The Bachelor‘s title role.
Can we *not* with these excuses
Show creator Mike Fleiss told Entertainment Weekly in 2011 that, “We always want to cast for ethnic diversity… It’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward.” But blaming minorities as part of the problem ain’t it, Fleiss. While we can’t control what happens behind the scenes—or who people fall for on the show—it’s clear that the production process is short on minorities to begin with. The selection of contestants rarely gives POC a fair chance to become the series lead since, alas, when you’re the first to go, you’re no longer a viable contender in the next iteration of the show. This is a problem Bachelor producers created, so why expect POC to come forward and fix it?
This lack of inclusion has been a long standing issue for the reality cash-cow, so much so there was a racial discrimination lawsuit filed in 2017—a suit which seeks structural solutions to a pattern of bias AKA problematic whitewashed casting.
In a recent interview with Variety, ABC reality chief Rob Mills claimed, “What the show has done really well is adding diversity and it happened gradually. I don’t think you hear about it as much as you did before when it was like, ‘They put in one or two people to check a box.’ Now, it isn’t like that.” He went on to say that with The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, “We want to make sure that the lead is someone who is open to all different types of people because it just makes the show more interesting… Mike… isn’t someone that you say, ‘He’s a great African American cast member’— no, he is one of the greatest cast members this season.” Again with the notion that the franchise was in any way developing a diverse storylines and they just didn’t ~happen~ to have a standout POC until now. Let’s slow those self-congratulations. Get real Mills.
Casting has remained persistently pale since the show first premiered back in 2002. The franchise seems to play by the notion that if it’s not broke, why fix it? But it needs to be fixed, because the series continuously refuses to reflect the world we live in. With Mike in the running, maybe we can finally have our first Black Bachelor and call it a day. Magic Mike is the first POC Bachelorette contestant that truly stands a chance in becoming the next Bachelor because he ticks all the show’s checkpoints. Charming, looks good in a shower and vulnerability on lock. All of which is giving my body, mind and soul the hope that this could become reality.
If big Mike is around for a few more weeks, then I don’t know how he’s not the next bachelor #TheBachelorette
— Nick Viall (@viallnicholas28) June 4, 2019
They owe it to Rachel Lindsay
When Lindsay got a chance to shoot her shot at L-O-V-E as the first Black person to front the franchise in 2017 she couldn’t just be another Bachelorette like her 12 predecessors. Instead, her “journey” focused almost entirely on race, leaving little actual romance on the docket. From announcing her as the next Bachelorette before Nick Viall’s season was even over (ABC’s premature self pat on the back) to the problematic casting of Lee Garrett, who had a history of racist tweets and was put into direct conflict with one of Rachel’s Black suitors, Kenny, race became the dominant storyline of Rachel’s season, which only proves that when a POC does eventually get their chance, the stakes are that much higher.
Recently after taping a reunion special featuring the ghosts of Bachelorettes past, Rachel told Us Weekly, “It was sad for me to look around the room and [see that] no one else looked like me. It was sad for me to be the sole representation for women of colour.” Yet regardless of this declaration of disappointment, she doesn’t predict another Black bachelorette anytime soon. Even though Lindsay was straight up one of the most entertaining and real leads in franchise history (lest we forget that eyelashes literally fell off mid-Peter breakup), her ratings did not agree. When asked whether America would buy into a more inclusive show, Rachel noted that the show’s existing fandom holds the power. “It’s not America it’s Bachelor Nation,” she told Us Weekly.
On a scale of 0 to "I walked by her eyelashes for two days," how bad was your last breakup? #TheBacheloretteFinale
— Kristen Allyson (@wildcannonball) August 8, 2017
So, to recap: ABC did Lindsay dirty and she deserves to see that what she went through was worth it, because it opened a door for more inclusion in Bachelor Nation. It’s time the network puts in the work and advocates for a more inclusive cast, one that’s reflective of America.
#MikeForBachelor is about more than Mike
But this is not just a diversity play. Mike would be a legit great Bachelor. He’s tall, has an emotional backstory and most-importantly, he actually listens to Miss Hannah Banana’s slow-as-molasses southern banter. It’s clear that he respects women (shout-out to him calling the ladies in his life QUEENS) and has the intuitive capacity and depth that I’ve not seen since dream hunk Sean Lowe.
More than that, Mike would *hopefully* open the door for more POC casting and set a new standard for producers to actively participate in diversifying the Bach franchise trajectory. Because I (like most of North America) host a slew of peeps from all walks of life every Monday night where we collectively shake our heads at the “desirable” bros we are force-fed, yet honestly can’t tell apart.
Don’t get me wrong, the show is ultimately trash, but who we cheer for is meaningful. Rooting for love is human nature and to see a POC reflected in mainstream media is *important*. Take the impact of Crazy Rich Asians and Black Panther, both of which had storylines that required diverse casting, and hello sold out theatres worldwide and expanded our definition of who gets to be considered desirable. Racial representation is not a new concept. Shonda Rhimes seems to get it, so what’s up ABC?! Make #MikeForBachelor or mark my words, I will burn the mansion to the ground. Something to think about, Harrison…