No, I’ve Never Watched The Bachelor & Here’s Why

Photo: Craig Sjodin/ABC.
Almost every Tuesday morning, I get hit with a wave of déjà vu as I make my way to the coffeemaker in the office kitchen. It's the aftermath of Bachelor night and my coworkers will almost certainly be dissecting the episode within earshot — the best one-liners, who went home, and who got to stay. Their enthusiasm is contagious, but it's not something I can share in, because I've never seen even a single episode of the wildly popular series. And I never intend to. Go ahead. Gasp. You wouldn't be the first person: The odds that I would watch The Bachelor are high. I'm a reality-TV junkie and my DVR queue ranges from the pseudo-acceptable (The Real Housewives) to the brain-frying (I once binge-watched the entire season of Christina Milian Turned Up in one sitting). But I intentionally avoid The Bachelor and its spinoff series, because — over the course of 20 seasons — I have never seen a person on the show who looks like me or my friends. Or the real world, for that matter. My problem with The Bachelor is that it's way too white. Over two decades, the series has fielded an inpouring of complaints about its lack of diversity, dating back to the early days — and network executives have even acknowledged that they need to bring in more diverse characters. So far, that hasn't happened: To date, there has only been one non-white Bachelor, ever — Juan Pablo Galavis, from season 18. Out of 11 Bachelorette seasons, JoJo Fletcher is the only woman of color (she's of Persian heritage) to find herself at its center. Mathematically speaking, it means that out of a combined 31 seasons, only two of the leads have been non-white. Neither were Black. The whitewashing issue goes beyond the actual bachelor or bachelorettes, of course. Since I don't watch the show, a lot of my opinions have been formed by the stream of commercials and ads supporting the franchise, but even that limited exposure seems to confirm that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette appear to have a race problem. I did some informal research (i.e., talked to my Bachelor-watching friends and colleagues) and found out that my suspicions were on-point: The vast majority of contestants are, by and large, white. And while brown faces pop up from time to time, they're usually booted early on. Apart from Catherine Giudici — who won the heart of Sean Lowe in season 17 — there has not been a single person of color to reach the final round. That's pretty damn bleak. Network executives have blamed the diversity issue on the show's "farm team" style of casting, which means that a bachelor or bachelorette is typically cast from a previous season, which perpetuates and amplifies a cycle of ethnic homogeneity — one that could easily be broken if casting directors put in the effort to be more inclusive. Hell, it's not impossible: Last year, WE tv launched Match Made In Heaven, its own looking-for-love reality show that features Black bachelors and a very mixed crew of contestants. If that network can manage it, ABC can, too. What's more: The Bachelor's diversity issue has become so bold-faced that it's being satirized on Lifetime's UnReal, which put a Black bachelor at its center in its sophomore season. It's not a perfect series and it has a way of patting itself on the back for being an oh-so-progressive social critique. But that aside, UnReal does pose a question that anyone who feels like I feel has already asked: Why hasn't ABC cast a Black person as the star on either one of its reality-dating series? What will it take for us to see Black people doing normal, everyday things — like falling in love — on a major-network reality show? News flash: We want to find love, too. We'd like to have the opportunity to make out with a wealthy bachelor or gossip about other contestants on national television without it making a statement. I wish I could participate in the talk with my coworkers, but so long as I don't see myself in the series, I'm staging a one-woman protest — which translates to not watching. Maybe you're thinking: Hey, it's just a trashy reality show. Does this really need to be a political matter about race? I get that. I definitely watch plenty of shows that don't reflect my own life and the people in it (if I didn't, I wouldn't have much to watch). But the truth is, it's impossible to separate the series from what it reflects about race and culture. The Bachelor dominates headlines and newsstands. Imagine if that barrage of imagery represented all different kinds of love, between all colors of people. I'm hopeful for the day that a smiling interracial couple fresh off the final rose ceremony will show up on the cover of People. For the day that a Black couple finding love on national TV isn't an indicator of ratings falloff. So, I'm sorry, ABC. You have no excuse. It's 2016: There are dozens of casting tools at your fingertips. Yes, it's "just" reality television, but you have a responsibility to your viewers to make reality, well, real. And until you do, count me out.

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