At last, The Bachelor producers are ready to really make amends to Clare Crawley. Sure, she appeared on both Bachelor in Paradise and The Bachelor Winter Games after competing for notoriously horrible Bachelor Juan Galavis’ heart back in 2014—but after what Juan Pablo put Clare through, there was only ever one way to really make things right. And sure enough, on Monday morning, Clare confirmed on Good Morning America that she will be our next Bachelorette.
But Crawley’s selection hints at a broader state of flux within Bachelor Nation. On Monday night, just after former Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay appeared on The Bachelor’s “Women Tell All” special to speak out about the racist bullying she and other women have received from the show’s fans, the Associated Press posted an interview with Rachel in which she questioned how much longer the franchise can survive without some changes. The franchise’s cast does not reflect the real world, Rachel said. “You’re just now having in Bachelor in Paradise your same-sex relationship and they had to bring someone who wasn’t a cast member on the show in to make that happen. The girls all look the same way.”
“I would have women of all ages,” Rachel said. “I mean, there has to be a cut-off point, but I’d have women of different shapes, sizes, backgrounds, ethnicities. I would change it completely... The show is either going to have to change or it’s gonna end.”
As the first black Bachelorette, Rachel has been candid in the past about the negative experiences she had on the show. And she’s right about the franchise’s casting; even when people of color make it onto the show, as Rachel noted, they do not typically make it far, with a few notable exceptions. Meanwhile, other networks are providing more diverse options: Netflix’s Love Is Blind, which debuted in February, featured an interracial couple from beginning to end—and MTV’s Are You the One released a queer season last year. The Bachelor is no stranger to accusations of being retrograde—but in this case, it would behoove them to listen.
Enter Clare. At 38, she is the oldest Bachelorette in the show’s history—and will be a relief to anyone who has grown a little tired of listening to the inner struggles of 23-year-old sexy babies. Clare’s selection confirms what we already knew about Peter’s season: It has failed to produce even one emotionally compelling, viable runner-up. And if we’re feeling optimistic, producers might also be hinting that they’re ready to loosen some of the show’s stricter conventions. (Let’s not overstate it, though; most of Clare’s contestants are rumored to still be in their twenties—so there will still be young beefcakes shipping off to Bachelor in Paradise, lest we contaminate the dating pool with Olds.)
More than anything, though, it’s worth considering Clare’s narrative within Bachelor Nation—and what her selection means in that context. During Juan Pablo’s season, Clare and the Bachelor went into the ocean, where many assumed they’d had sex. During a later rose ceremony, Juan Pablo told Clare he regretted what they’d done, calling it “a mistake.” But as Clare later clarified, she and Juan Pablo never had sex in the ocean.
Asked about the way the scene was edited, Clare said, “I think it left a lot for people to interpret it any way they wanted to. I don’t think a lot of things were made very clear, which in the moment of it all, everything was very clear. It was definitely surprising that things were taken out of context.” For the most part, fans defended Clare; Juan Pablo was, it’s worth remembering, spectacularly unpopular. Still, the ambiguity around that moment should not have existed in the first place.
But Clare didn’t hold a grudge anyway; she appeared on both the first and second seasons of Bachelor in Paradise, where her most memorable interaction was with a raccoon. Then came The Bachelor Winter Games in 2018—where she met her eventual fiancé, Benoit Beauséjour-Savard. The engagement never panned out, but Benoit has already congratulated Clare on being Bachelorette.
So, what might Clare be like as a Bachelorette? Let’s all remember that when Juan Pablo finally broke up with Clare during his season, she showed him no mercy. “I thought I knew what kind of man you were,” she said. “What you just made me go through? I would never want my children having a father like you.” That was back in 2014, and the intervening years have hardened us all. So if the stars align, prepare for a spectacular season of The Bachelorette—in which the heroine knows exactly what she wants and has the guts to say it. Or, you know, at the very least, maybe she’ll befriend another woodland creature.