Fans were more than excited about Matt James‘s season of The Bachelor, but lately, they’ve been left wanting more. To be fair, there were a lot of high expectations. Matt’s season featured an extremely diverse cast, takes place in a lovely fall setting, and followed an extremely dramatic season of The Bachelorette.
But, Matt’s season has already become drenched in drama and controversy. Additionally, one very questionable contestant has rubbed fans the wrong way, and we’re wondering if this is the beginning of the end of the popular dating show.
ABC is now responding to the backlash from the first two episodes of Matt’s season.
Last week, Matt James decided to open his season with a prayer. Although The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are secular dating shows, fans are used to contestants discussing their religion. It would be no surprise that someone would want to find love with someone who has compatible interests and beliefs, but the show has increasingly featured more religious content than it had in the past.
ABC exec, Robert Mills, made an appearance on Nick Viall’s podcast to discuss the beginning of James’s season.
“Episode one I always view as the pregame show,” Mills said. “There’s a lot of root-ability, but there’s some ridiculousness [this season] as well.”
He then acknowledged that he did not expect the first episode to be as inflammatory as it was.
“I didn’t expect [the prayer] to be such a hot-button [topic] of interest. And I actually understand some of it, [when people ask], ’What if this had been someone of a different domination?’” Mills continued. “I have heard somebody say in the prayer, like, ‘Please either bow your head in the manner you’re accustomed to or whatever.’ But this is a guy, he just met 32 women. … The fact that he didn’t tell people, like, ‘Hey if this is not OK with you.’ … He didn’t mean —”
“It’s just a prayer, it’s not going to burn you,” Viall added.
The opening prayer did spark an internet discourse about whether or not The Bachelor franchise was overtly a Christian dating show. The show and network is not formally affiliated with any one religion, and contestants should feel comfortable expressing themselves, many fans wondered if the prayer was explicitly alienating to non-Christian and agnostic contestants.
This is the second time religion has been a question on the show. On the previous season of The Bachelorette, Tayshia Adams decided to send Ivan Hall home due to disagreements about religion. During the episode, it was not clear what those disagreements were.
Mills agreed that Hall’s departure was not handled well on the show.
“That’s on us for not clarifying that as much as we could,” Mills told Viall.
Later, fans learned that Hall is agnostic, whereas Adams has a strong Christian identity. Hall explained what happened on Kaitlyn Bristowe’s podcast, Off the Vine.
“Agnostic is strictly saying, I don’t know, basically,” Hall said. “I’m gonna tell our kids, I don’t know what there is, and then you can tell the kids whatever you want, and you can take them to church, that’s completely fine with me.”
He added that for Adams, she exclusively wanted to marry someone with the same religious views.
“For Tayshia, it’s something different, where she, I guess, actually wanted to date someone who is Christian. And that’s completely fine, and that’s how a lot of people are.”
As for James, he might have the same religious requirements as Adams.