As of Nov. 30, Clayton Echard is officially the new Bachelor. Although most of Bachelor Nation already knew that (thanks to a major hint from newly-appointed Bachelor host Jesse Palmer and Reality Steve spoilers), many people reacted to Echard’s pick with deep disappointment. Typically, the Bachelor producers choose their next lead from the previous season’s final four, but Echard placed eighth in Michelle Young’s season. Producers do make exceptions, of course, for contestants with huge fanbases, engaging storylines, and memorable personalities — but Echard doesn’t fall into any of those categories (sorry, Clayton!), whereas the men making up Young’s final four do.
So, why was Echard picked to be the next Bachelor? How could producers snub Young’s top four — all men of color (a first in franchise history) — especially considering the show already has a bleak history when it comes to race and representation? They missed an opportunity to showcase an exciting lead’s ~ journey ~ to finding love. (Elite Daily reached out to ABC for comment on its casting decisions and did not hear back in time for publication.)
Echard’s storyline throughout Young’s season was... underwhelming. He wasn’t a villain by any means, but he didn’t make his way into fan favorite territory, either. Throughout the show, he seemed kind, reflective, and genuinely interested in winning Young’s heart. All good things, but nothing that marked him as a standout. Arguably, his biggest moment was when he built a fort with some of Young’s students (though his open conversation with Young about working on loving himself does deserve an honorable mention).
After his elimination, he received a letter from Young’s students, who encouraged him to not be “too sad” about going home. Echard tearfully told the camera, “It just shows me, like, I want kids more than anything... I want a family. I just want to find love so badly.”
Don’t get me wrong, Echard definitely had some sweet moments. I have nothing against him, per se, but one pillow fort does not a Bachelor make. At least, I didn’t think so, and neither did many of the show’s viewers. Apparently, the producers had a different opinion.
There’s always a chance that Echard will surprise us in his season. And even if he doesn’t, casting a boring Bachelor isn’t exactly a crime. But it’s definitely eyebrow-raising, considering the popularity of Young’s final four contestants: Rodney Mathews, Nayte Olukoya, Joe Coleman, and Brandon Jones. In the franchise’s history, this is the first time that the final four has been all people of color... so what could possibly explain their exclusion from The Bachelor?
Young Had An A+ Final Four
Young’s top four suitors are very popular with fans, and there’s no shortage of reasons why. Rodney Mathews is considered the season’s underdog, a title he gave himself during one of his early conversations with Young. According to Mathews, he’s never the tallest, biggest, or most handsome guy in the room, but he always brings a big smile and plenty of heart. Whether he was streaking through a hotel lobby or mislabeling apples, his playful energy was a hit. Young said Mathews made her laugh the most of all her suitors, but ultimately, she eliminated him after hometowns.
From episode one, Joe Coleman had the aura of “the one that got away.” In the beginning, Young pegged him as her type (even though he ghosted her after a few back-and-forth Instagram DMs a couple of years ago). As a fellow basketball player from Minneapolis, Coleman and Young have plenty in common, and it’s helped them build an undeniable connection. Plus, as a handsome real estate developer with a talent for three-pointers, Coleman is quintessential Bachelor material.
Brandon Jones might be Young’s most passionate contestant. He has had no problem expressing himself and his feelings toward Young. He even asked for Young’s parents’ blessing to marry their daughter. If that doesn’t scream “ready for marriage” to you, IDK what will.
Nayte Olukoya is a total heartthrob, from his charming smile to his signature piercings. But he’s also shown his more sensitive side, especially as the season has progressed. During hometowns, Olukoya and his step-father actually said “I love you” to each other for the first time. Not only is that a huge step for him personally, but it’s significant in the context of the show: Young has been encouraging him to embrace his emotions. (I mean, talk about Bachelor material.)
All in all, Young’s top four have proven they would each make fantastic leads, making the producers’ decision to cast Echard even more puzzling and potentially problematic.
Bachelor Alumni Weigh In On The Choice
Nick Viall, a former Bachelor, talked about the choice during a Nov. 24 episode of The Viall Files, and he seemed just as lost. “Clayton seems like a lovely guy, but it just doesn’t make sense. There wasn’t a compelling story,” he said during the podcast. “[It’s] just a really bad look to cast Clayton, knowing he gave us nothing, knowing he’s been outshined by virtually everybody ... You have your first all non-white final four. Four incredibly charismatic and charming [men]. All four characters I’m personally invested in, and individually want [them] to find love ... Somehow, Brandon [was deemed] not good enough? Rodney? Nayte? Joe?”
Not to mention, Andrew Spencer from Katie Thurston’s season of The Bachelorette — a Black contestant who became a fan-favorite for his romantic antics and occasional British accent — was also passed over. In a Nov. 30 tweet, Spencer noted the similarity between him and Mathews. And although he could have been talking about the fact they both came in fourth, there’s one other huge similarity between these two contestants: fans really wanted to see them as the Bachelor.
With this incredible lineup of men, it’s hard to understand what distinguished Echard from them... except the obvious. Derek Peth, another former Bachelor Nation favorite, made his thoughts on the situation clear on Twitter. On Nov. 30, he tweeted, “ABC making Bachelor decisions” alongside a photo of a headline that read, “Scientists created the whitest paint ever.” And he’s not wrong.
Bachelor Nation Responds To Echard (And His Promo)
The promo for Echard’s season only makes this worse. Every season, Bachelor producers choose a tagline for their new lead: Thurston, who famously exited a limo with a vibrator in hand, was given, “See what all the buzz is about.” Clare Crawley, the oldest Bachelorette at age 39, had, “It’s about time.” But Echard’s read, “Everyone loves an underdog.”
Um, not only was Echard not the “underdog” of Young’s season, Mathews was. Even in Young’s goodbye speech to him, she mentioned how Mathews thought of himself as the underdog, reminding him that he is “enough.”
Not to mention, ABC went live with this promo the same night Mathews faced his heartbreaking elimination. Is there no justice in the world?
Is This A Pattern?
On Nov. 24, Justine Kay and Natasha Scott, the hosts of the podcast 2 Black Girls, 1 Rose, weighed in on Echard becoming the Bachelor. They compared the situation to when Peter Weber was chosen as the lead over fan-favorite Mike Johnson after Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette. “If Rodney doesn’t win, I feel like we’re looking at another Mike Johson situation where they robbed a perfectly perfect Black man the rightful spot of Bachelor over a regular-degular-a** white man.”
So, why? One Twitter user guessed that production has a “clear aversion to having another Black lead.” And their assumption might be right on the mark. The show has had a history of being very, very white. It was only in August 2021 that the franchise hired Jodi Baskerville, its first-ever Black executive producer. Not to mention, The Bachelor didn’t cast its first Black lead until the show’s 25th season in 2021. Should we even get into Rachael Kirkconnell and Chris Harrison’s incidents of racially insensitive behavior? What about Hannah Brown’s?
The show has made some (small) strides in the right direction in recent years. But Echard’s casting may be a sign the franchise is reverting back to its astoundingly homogenous roots. As much as I wish the best for Echard, I’d rather see ABC give out roses to men who deserve them.