TV Features

"The Bachelor" Casting Its First Black Star Doesn't Correct the Show's Racist History

Matt James is ABC's first Black bachelor in nearly two decades.

After a grueling 18 years on the air, ABC's Bachelor franchise has accomplished a long-overdue milestone: casting its first Black bachelor.

Matt James, a 28-year-old real estate broker from North Carolina, was announced this week as the first Black star of The Bachelor in its 25 seasons. Hardcore fans might recognize him as the best friend of Tyler Cameron, a recent Bachelorette contestant competing for the heart of Hannah Brown. James has a perfect TV smile and likes to goof off making TikToks with his friends—what's not to love? He was originally selected to be a competitor on The Bachelorette this year, before production was shut down for obvious reasons. Here's to hoping we get our trashy reality TV back as soon as possible!

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CULTURE

Teen Victim of Slender Man Stabbing: "I Still Sleep With Scissors"

Payton Leutner has spoken out for the first time since she was stabbed as part of attacks inspired by Slender Man.

In 2014, after a night of roller-skating at the local rink, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier took their friend Peyton Leutner to the woods.

They stabbed her 19 times, leaving her to crawl out onto a path, where a cyclist found her. All three of the girls were twelve.

Geyser and Weier had apparently been planning this for months. It was all inspired by Slender Man—the infamous tall, thin, child-eating demon who started as a concept on Creepypasta and later ingrained himself into a generation's minds through a series of Photoshopped images and gory Internet threads.

Yesterday, the now 17-year-old Leutner spoke out for the first time since the attack. She appeared on ABC's 20/20 program, which airs this Friday night, and she apparently said that she still sleeps with broken scissors "in case someone tries to murder her again."

The Verge

As for why she's decided to speak out, she said, "I feel like it's time for people to see my side rather than everyone else's."

Most of the information that exists about the Slender Man stabbing concerns Morgan and Anissa, both of whom are currently in mental institutions. But this story really began over a decade ago, in the darkest and most infected laboratory known to man: the Internet.

The first mentions of Slender Man appeared on Creepypasta's Something Awful forum. It was 2009, the era of MySpace and early Internet, and a user named Victor Surge responded to a request for spooky photos by submitting an image of a tall, thin man without a face. It was captioned, "We didn't want to go, we didn't want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time. — 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead."

From there, Slender Man became a viral meme, the modern equivalent of a popular folktale. Evading fact and authorship, Slender Man instead seemed to exist only in echoes and whispers. Always skeletal, thin and faceless, usually seen in the woods, he fit into the old, monstrous archetype of the children-snatcher, being the kind of specter used to discourage children from running away into the night. But unlike the cryptids and stringy-haired witches that are so common in horror movies, he has no precise precedent in folklore.

Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier

What happened to Peyton Leutner is an absurd, random tragedy, one that evades logic. It is evidence that the things the Internet dreams up can come to life. It plays into the deepest fears of every parent who has allowed their children to go out at night or go online (regardless of the fact that very few people actually are moved to violence by what they read about online). In that, it's a tale that feels particularly resonant in 2019, when it's becoming clearer that we have far less power over the Internet than we imagined, and when we know that powerful men wearing suits have been stealing children away for quite a long time.

But maybe sometimes, all this violence can become a catalyst for healing. Inspired by what happened to her, Leutner has decided to become a doctor. When asked if there's anything she would say to Morgan Geyser, Leutner said she would thank her.

Leutner said, "I would probably, initially thank her," Leutner said.

"I would say, 'Just because of what she did, I have the life I have now. I really, really like it and I have a plan," she said. "I didn't have a plan when I was 12, and now I do because of everything that I went through. Without the whole situation, I wouldn't be who I am. I've come to accept all of the scars that I have. It's just a part of me. I don't think much of them."

'Slender Man' stabbing survivor describes horrific ordeal | Nightline youtu.be


TV

Luke P. Resorts to Gaslighting Through Christianity

In their blowout last night, he fell back on the same pattern: confront, manipulate to gain power (occasionally lying), and then backtrack to save face.

We've all had enough of Luke Parker.

ABC

It's a general truth that a majority of the Bachelor Franchise's contestants are Christian.

There have been virgin contestants, a born-again virgin Bachelor, and then a straight-up virgin Bachelor. Yet, over the past two decades, the show has refrained from airing discussions of touchy topics like religion or sex. Participants on the show have disclosed that many deep conversations regarding such matters go unaired.

Then, last season, one contestant, Caelynn Miller-Keyes, disclosed her sexual assault to the Bachelor, Colton Underwood. The heart-stopping moment became a revelatory scene in reality television. Viewers everywhere could hear, relate, and connect to the moving story. Powerful moments like those are more common now that participants are breaking away from the show's traditional boundaries, storylines, and rules. In turn, production has begun to re-shape the show; while the series has become more sex positive, religion has remained a taboo subject—until last night.

Throughout this season, Bachelor Nation has witnessed an emotional abuser remain on their TVs for far too long—even by the standards of reality TV, it's been alarming. Luke P.'s concerning behavior, from aggression to excessive lying, has prompted viewers to question, "What in the hell are we not seeing?" Hannah Brown and Luke P. have had a connection that viewers cannot not wrap their heads around, but it turns out that viewers were missing half the story. While Luke P. has stirred the pot by repeatedly disrespecting Hannah and his fellow contestants, viewers have questioned if an inexplicable spiritual connection has been drawing the two together.

Finally, the other half of the story was unveiled during Fantasy Suite week. After the two made-out during their day touring Santorini, Luke P. began their dinner by gaslighting Hannah:

"I am very confident that we're on the same page with our morals, and I just want to hear it from your mouth. I've heard people proclaim their faith, but yet they've said things like, 'I'm excited for Fantasy Suites. I want to explore this relationship on a sexually intimate level, and that's what I'm looking forward to.' And to me, that's like whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa excuse me? What? There's something I'm missing here. Like I don't believe that's something you should be doing, and I just want to make sure that you're not going to be sexually intimate with the other relationships here. Like, I totally have all the trust in the world for you, but at the same time I just want to make sure we're on the same page. Like, if you told me you're going to have sex or you had sex with one or multiple of these guys, I would be wanting to go home 100 percent."

Hannah Sends Luke P Home After Fantasy Suite Warning! | The Bachelorette US www.youtube.com

If delivered differently and with more tact, his concerns could've been reasonable. Instead, he began by aligning the other contestants against him and weaponizing his connection with Hannah to make assumptions about how she should act. Then, he backtracked by asserting that he had faith in her and finally threatened their relationship if she didn't live up to his standards. The loaded speech demonstrates his continued pattern of emotional manipulation. When Hannah disagreed with what he said, he continued to backtrack by claiming that he would work with her through anything, even a "slip-up." Similarly, earlier in the season, he informed Hannah that he would stick by her even if she made a "boneheaded mistake."

Time and time again, Luke P. has utilized gaslighting as a way to maintain control in his relationship with Hannah. Whenever he's felt confident in their relationship, he's directly addressed his concerns with Hannah, but when he's felt their relationship was in jeopardy, he's used manipulation tactics to assert what he wants out of the relationship. However, whenever he's "slipped up," the responsibility hasn't fallen on him because he's protested that he was just "misunderstood"—after lying straight to Hannah's face.

Overall, every time Luke P. has been in the wrong, he's asserted his needs, manipulated the truth, and then backtracked whenever Hannah responded poorly. In their blowout last night, he fell back on the same pattern: confront, manipulate to gain power (occasionally lying), and then backtrack to save face.

Whatever good Hannah saw in Luke P. prior to Fantasy Suite week has been washed away. When Luke P. tried to wield religion against Hannah to shame her, she called him out on it. The Bachelorette proved that she had her Biblical receipts, retorting, "You know the story in the Bible when the woman was called out for adultery, and she was stoned in the village, and Jesus said, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. You're holding your stone up at me and asking me what I've done."

Unfortunately, gaslighting in the Christian community isn't anything new. Too many self-righteous believers still condemn, shame, and utilize their beliefs to shame sinners and preach a narrow way of life. Hannah aptly addressed Luke P.'s hypocrisy by informing him, "Sex might be a sin out of marriage, but pride is a sin too." She continued, "It's like you're holding other people to a standard that you don't even live by."

Faith is meant to spread love and light. Like Hannah said, "I know that I have God in my heart, so I know that everything I do and who I am is light. I am light. Do I make mistakes? I'm not Jesus." Her commentary shed light on the stark contrast between more progressive, inclusive Christians who have embraced the modern world and others who stick to their outdated, hypocritical agendas (like those who are pro-life but don't care about keeping children in cages).

For the formerly apolitical show to air their conversation is a sign that the genre of "reality" TV is still expanding its social consciousness; in particular, it displays that the Bachelor Franchise has solid potential (even after 17 years) to spark new conversations and highlight important narratives. Unfortunately, as portrayed in the previews for next week, the producers seem to allow Luke P. to come back, undoubtedly to exasperate Hannah and continue the toxic drama that is Luke P.'s existence.

ABC's production seems to take a positive step forward by airing their candid conversation, but they still kept around an emotional abuser and then brought him back to let him try to manipulate his way back into Hannah's heart. At least Hannah Brown finally gained clarity and found her way out of a controlling relationship (for now). Hopefully, like other leads who have been forced to endure harmful, disruptive, racist, and misogynistic contestants, Hannah can come out on top, with continued love and respect for herself and her relationship with God.