No Black Bachelor For You (Legally, At Least)

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You may have sat back in your couch, after leering at that dangerously watchable combination of desperation, sex, and Chris Harrison that ABC calls The Bachelor, and thought to yourself: There's something wrong with this picture. At least, we hope you saw something wrong. See, throughout their history, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have yet to feature an African-American as the starring target/victim of the many "hopefuls'" affections. Indeed, very few of those "hopefuls" have been anything but white themselves.
Recently, a couple of fairly handsome, yet rejected, applicants to The Bachelor addressed this imbalance by suing the show's producers, claiming that they weren't cast because they were — you guessed it — African-American. The claimants made sometimes valid, sometimes overstated claims of active racism against the show. Various defenders responded with rather the spurious argument that a predominately white audience wouldn't tune in to see a black bachelor, and thus, the producers were protecting their business interests. It's not the show that's racist, said some, it's society.
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But as interesting as all that is, those weren't the issues before the court. Legally, the question was whether casting choices do or do not have protection under the First Amendment, or whether they are akin to normal employment, in which case federal antidiscrimination laws would apply. The claimants forwarded the argument that the "reality" aspect of the show meant it did fall under those protections. But, today, the judge soberly decided that, yes, The Bachelor retains full creative control of its content under the law, casting included. As distasteful as it is to justify what appears to be racism on these grounds, it was still the right legal call.
So, yes, the producers of The Bachelor can make whatever casting choice they wish — but we can't say they've been making good ones. To us, the absence of non-white contestants perpetuates the regressive notion that to be desirable, one must be (or at least look) caucasian. But we also don't think anyone should appeal to The Bachelor for moral or social direction — trust us, you won't find it there. The casting by itself is just another sad missed opportunity for our popular culture to mirror our real culture (see Friends, Sex and The City, Girls, etc.). But the subsequent, gritty fight against ethic inclusion seems downright nasty and backward, particularly considering that the producers were one bold, potentially ratings-grabbing casting choice away from making the suit (and the controversy) disappear.
So, where does that leave you, oh loyal Bachelor viewer? Well, it's really not for us to say: The clicker is in your hand, after all. Use it well. (NPR)
Photo: via Facebook.
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