If you know me well (or even casually), you know that I am fan of The Bachelor. In fact, I hosted a watch party for the past season’s finale (see my friend Emily’s write up of our fun night watching The Bachelor: The Final Rose here). However, there is one thing about the show I do not love. Okay, there are many things about the show that I don’t exactly love, but tolerate because the cheesy, ridiculousness of it is too fun not to watch. But this one I can’t ignore — and you shouldn’t either. Each season before the cast is announced, I hold my breath. Is this going to be the season that one of my favorite shows finally introduces some diversity to the cast? Sadly, that answer has always been…no. And now, two potential black bachelors from Tennessee have decided to do something about it. The men are alleging that they have been denied an equal opportunity for consideration for the show based on their race. They are filing their lawsuit today and I think it will be very interesting to watch how this plays out, both legally and socially.
Once the complaint is filed, I may follow up with some legal analysis, but I’d like to discuss the other things going on here. As a loyal Bachelor watcher, I am (as are many of my friends) constantly bothered by the lack of diversity — both for the actual Bachelor / Bachelorette and the potential suitors. But I do recognize that it’s a complex issue. According to a 2010 Pew Center Study, 14.6% of new marriages in the United States in 2008 were between spouses of a different race.¹ While this is a large increase in interracial marriage, this means that 85.4% of new marriages were between spouses of the same race. On a show like The Bachelor, where (don’t laugh) marriage is the end goal, what do these statistics mean? Is it reasonable to assume that the average Bachelor or Bachelorette wants to date folks that look just like them? I don’t know.
What I do know is that it seems beyond ridiculous that of the 25 or so potential suitors, the closest recent seasons of the show have come to casting a person of color is the orange, over-tanned women of last season. Is it so implausible that perhaps the Bachelor / Bachelorette might be more interested in a great, attractive, successful person of color? It is not. Especially when you consider some of the absolute duds (and I’m being kind here) the show casts. The reality is the Bachelor / Bachelorette doesn’t connect with most of the potential suitors. Typically, at least half are sent home the first night. Certainly, the producers and casting agents could easily introduce some diversity. But should they?
I’ve tried to imagine what “diversity” might look like on The Bachelor. Yes, we have come a long way from Loving v. Virginia², but as some recent events have made clear, race is still a major issue in the United States (and of course, other countries). For example, how would black women respond to say, a black bachelor who only had white women as his potential suitors? I think it’s fair to say that there would be some pushback. Which is why what “diversity” would look like on The Bachelor is so important. No one wants to see someone they consider just a token. So what’s the right answer? I think that the show should reflect reality — which is to say, my reality (yes, this is selfish but it’s my blog and my vision :)). In my mind, the cast would reflect my life: colorful and awesome. That may be a pipe dream. But while I don’t know how much traction the law suit will get, if it brings about some change to one of my favorite shows, that won’t be a bad thing.
What do you think?
2 The seminal Supreme Court case that declared laws against miscegenation (interracial marriage) unconstitutional.