The most racial diversity The Bachelor franchise has ever seen is happening right now — behind the scenes. There has never been a rose-giver of any other color but (spray-tanned) white in 16 seasons of The Bachelor and 8 of The Bachelorette. For 10 years, the lack of ethnic diversity has been a running joke that creator Mike Fleiss has previously dismissed due to lack of willing non-white contestants: “They don’t come forward.” Well, two guys who did come forward for Bachelor casting are now suing the show for “intentionally” excluding people of color. This lawsuit follows the ongoing, but unrelated, campaign of Portland’s Lamar Hurd to be the first black Bachelor.
The Bachelor franchise has been in a recycling loop since 2008, where past contestants end up tapped to be the next Bachelor or Bachelorette. Since the last black contestants on the show were Jeffrey Harris on DeAnna Pappas’ Bachelorette 4 (rejected the first night) and Marshana Ritchie on Matt Grant’s Bachelor 12 (one of the top six), there hasn’t been much chance of a black contestant being tapped to be the next rose-giver. However, it sounds like the show may be ready to go back to casting “fresh faces,” which would allow America to possibly have a Bachelor or Bachelorette who doesn’t look like Ken or Barbie.
BUT IS AMERICA REALLY READY FOR CHANGE?
Last year we had a poll asking if there should be more diversity on The Bachelor and 60 percent of voters said yes, 25 percent said no, and 15 percent didn't care either way.
In February 2010, Joshua Alston wrote a piece for Newsweek called “A Black President Before a Black ‘Bachelor’?” He found himself watching Jake Pavelka’s Season 14 and wondered, "Why are all of these people white?" then decided he already knew the answer:
People still overwhelmingly date and marry within their own race. White people are the majority in this country and, therefore, the best audience to target from a ratings standpoint, and there's risk in alienating viewers who may have less enlightened views on interracial couples. Could they cast a black man? Sure. Would it be smart to? Probably not. The Bachelor is one of many pop-culture artifacts that highlight the uncomfortable gap between the way we'd like to think of racial integration and the way it actually is. Just as people of different races don't often date each other or worship together, we also don't read many of the same books, or like many of the same movies, or adore many of the same celebrities. Certainly not as much as we'd like to believe.
Over on Topix, the question "Is America ready for a Black Bachelor" was posted in the African-American Forum. As Joe Spago from St. Louis, Mo., wrote:
American is not ready for a black bachelor. The reason is essentially that America (white Americans) still are very much threatened by black sexuality. Imagine a that black bachelor is chosen. His potential mates would have to be all-black, all-white or mixed. There is no way in hell Americans would sit still while a black man courted 25 or so white women. Americans would still feel threatened by black sexuality if the women were all black (plus it would point out the racial divide that white Americans are always trying to deny exist.) Lastly, if the women were mixed you would still have the issue of black male sexuality plus black women would be pretty pissed off if the black bachelor picked a white woman over a black woman (that's not assuming he would). VH1 with it's Flavor of Love, in a very cynical and frankly racist move has tried to resolve these issues with it's quasi-black bachelor show. They picked an untalented, extremely unattractive buffoon so as to defuse the threat of his sexuality. So in short, no there will not be a black bachelor (or bachelorette). There will only be token black male or females sprinkled into the pool of choices for the white male bachelor.
To be fair, ABC has cast its own share of "untalented, extremely unattractive buffoons" who happened to be white. There are enough disappointing men to go around!
However, perhaps unintentionally illustrating Joe's point is Samantha Levey of Ben Flajnik's Bachelor 16. When we posted our story about the Bachelor discrimination lawsuit, she tweeted in response, "that its complete bullshit. ... AND while the Bach isn't the classiest of shows it sure doesn't need to turn into for the love of ray j..."
Maybe The Bachelor should go out of its way to cast a funny, sexy, smart, accomplished black man or woman to be the next rose-giver specifically to disprove the idea that white people find fake love on ABC and black people find fake love on VH1. We can all find fake love together!
But isn’t it funny how everyone is fighting to be ABC’s next star when we all know the Bachelors and Bachelorettes end up ripped apart by the fans and tabloids and wish they had just watched the show from home like everyone else. Does anyone REALLY want that gig?