The Bachelor’s Stale, Male & Pale Recipe Is Beyond Its Expiration Date

Image courtesy of Channel 10
Felix Von Hofe, Jed McIntosh and Thomas Malucelli are the stars of The Bachelor Australia 2022
Nine years after The Bachelor first aired in Australia, producers are pulling out new stops to keep the dating show fresh and compelling.
On Monday, the Channel 10 program announced that in a "world-first" move, the 2022 Aussie season will feature not one, not two, but THREE bachelors looking for love. Production has decided to change things up — except they really haven't, in my opinion.
The three eligible bachelors, Felix Von Hofe, Jed McIntosh and Thomas Malucelli, are three white men. And in Australia's Bachie history to date, we've already seen seven white men handing out roses during their respective seasons, with Blake Garvey (Season 2) and Jimmy Nicholson (Season 9) being the exceptions. What's so different this season besides straight white male energy raging through the mansion, ramped up to the power of three?
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Since the casting announcement, social media has been abuzz with mixed reactions, many of which also express disappointment at the lack of cultural diversity amongst the bachelors. Some people have also questioned whether any of the men are from the LGBTQIA+ community, while others have joked that the main points of diversity between the three guys are their tattoos.
Australia's history of cultural representation on The Bachelor and Bachelorette has always been sparse. It's a franchise that has tried — for example, Brooke Blurton was the first Indigenous and bisexual Bachelorette last year. In 2014, Blake Garvey's casting meant Australia beat the US series to it with a Black man at the helm (America only had its first Black Bachelor, Matt James in 2020). And last year Jimmy Nicholson, of New Zealand and Fijian heritage, was chosen to front the show.
Sadly, each of these seasons has been met with some form of outrage or dismal reception. Garvey faced viewer backlash after ditching Sam Frost for Louise Pillidge after the finale, while Nicholson and Blurton's ratings were at all-time lows for the show. I believe these circumstances aren't a result of their cultural background, but it makes me wonder, have these scenarios deterred networks from trying again? Have these unfavourable (and very unlucky) situations somehow convinced networks to go back to what they're used to — to play it safe with the same old whitewashed formula they began with in 2013?
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We've previously heard networks claiming it's difficult to find POC to participate on the show. Last year Beverley McGarvey, who's the Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer, Paramount ANZ, said The Bachelor is "certainly not the easiest show to cast" and that "it's a particular type of show, and there are certain cultural groups that don't want to be part of that."
"That is absolutely fine and it is disrespectful of us to try and encourage particular groups to be part of something they don't want to be part of," she told TV Tonight.
"This year's cast are a great mix of young ladies from a range of backgrounds. It's obviously not as representative as a show like MasterChef or perhaps even Survivor or Amazing Race. But we have worked very hard to cast the right show, and also ensure that the cast is representative of the audience that will be watching it."
As a Fijian Indian woman myself, I understand that perhaps a lot of people of colour don't want to audition for dating shows due to familial pressures and stigmas, or the fear of being tokenised on telly.
Former Bachelorette Australia contestant Niranga Amarsinghe migrated to Australia from Sri Lanka when he was three years old. He previously told news.com.au that "from experience, there are less POC auditioning for reality TV", explaining "very strict cultural backgrounds" could be one of the reasons for that.
"For the ones who do and are successful, there is another hurdle an individual has to conquer to actually make it to the filming stage. They have to convince their families they are happy for them to go on reality TV," he said.
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Then there's the conversation about how POC who do audition for these shows are portrayed. Is their inclusion merely a box-ticking exercise?
In an interview with HuffPost Australia back in 2020, Carlos Fang (aka Carlos Jay F.), who appeared on Georgia Love’s season of The Bachelorette in 2016 said, "I knew going on a show like The Bachelorette there would always be a ‘token’ guy.
"It’s your advantage because you know there’s always one person cast to represent that mix but it’s likely to be a disadvantage for the final outcome of the show. Rarely is there a person of colour standing there at the end of the season."
In an interview with Refinery29 Australia last year, 2021 Bachelor contestant Ritu Chhina claimed at times she felt as though she was the token queer South Asian woman.
"I wouldn't say I had any major concerns around racism but as to be expected, I did feel tokenised purely because I was one of the only few queer POC (people of colour) actually involved with the show," she said. "Sharing the parts of myself that are more Indian-centric seemed to become a focus but I didn't initially see this as a concern."
In a statement to Refinery29 Australia at the time, a Network 10 spokesperson said the TV channel is committed to diversity.
“Eligible contestants on all Network 10 shows are considered regardless of race or background. Network 10 takes its commitment to diversity seriously and we cast as broadly as possible across our entire slate,” read the statement.
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This makes me wonder, is it better to have all-white representation as opposed to what could be seen as tokenistic representation? If that were the case, perhaps having three white bachelors is the way to go.
However, the collective outrage I've seen from Aussies overnight assures me many of us do want to see (authentic) representation on screen. There are people of colour who want to find love on TV, and when they eventually get a chance to shine on TV, we'll be there to cheer them on.
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