For the past few months, I shamelessly sat in front of my TV, waiting to see who The Bachelor would give out his final roses to. Yet, all of a sudden it dawns on me: there are not many women of color on the show who represent individuals like me or some of my friends and family. The truth is, even when people of color have been participants on the show in the past, most only make it to the second or third round.
Not only does ABC’s The Bachelor fail to have a diverse racial/ethnic group of participants, but it also depicts sexist and heteronormative ideals. For now, I’ll focus on the former though. As far as diversity goes, it is truly detrimental to portray a majority of White participants on a show such as The Bachelor, when the reality is that people of color watch TV just as much as the mainstream audience.
Jennifer Pozner, author of Reality Bites Back and Founder/Executive Director of Women in Media & News, weighed in on the conversation. According to Pozner, The Bachelor (and The Bachelorette), portrays that “love is a possibility only for pretty White people.”
“It’s really important, if we’re talking about diversity in dating shows, that we not only talk about the intentional exclusion from The Bachelor, which is the longest running dating show on television, but that it’s intentional, that it’s absolutely possible to find diverse casts to participate in any reality shows, especially dating shows. The Bachelor just doesn’t want to do so. They’re scared to do so.”
Pozner said that there is this false belief that Americans, or White viewers, will be uninterested in watching stories in which interracial dating is centered. Yet, even though this is far from the truth because interracial marriage and its support have both increased, this notion continues to drive conventional media production.
Looking ahead, the big question is, will there ever be a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color in the future?
Pozner predicts “It’s very unlikely that you’re going to have a new Bachelor of color or Bachelorette of color. Because it’s a numbers game, and numbers aren’t in diversity’s favor, unless they start to make a concerted effort.”
As of now, The Bachelor has been on the air for about 10 years, and has yet to have a Bachelor (or Bachelorette) of color. This includes the most recent season of the show, which just ended recently in the usual controversy and drama. What Pozner means by numbers not being in diversity’s favor is that the formula the franchise has created continues to work and attract high numbers of viewers, so in the creators’ eyes, there is then no need to change the structure.
Yet, if the show continues to rely on this “formula,” there may be detrimental effects as a whole. Whether we would like them to or not, the images we see, or don’t see, have an impact on how we essentially view ourselves. If people of color cannot see themselves represented in shows like The Bachelor, as unrealistic as these fantasies may be, we may start to feel as though something is wrong.
As Pozner alluded to, shows like Flavor of Love were revolutionary through portraying a diverse cast of participants, but the roles these women were depicted in were nothing short of stereotypical. And while so many other reality shows do portray individuals of different races and ethnicities today, what will it take for The Bachelor to catch up to reality?
The images we see on the screen continue to send society certain messages. “All these stereotypes combine to give people an extremely flawed and regressive idea of not only who the people around them are, but also what they should value for themselves,” Pozner said.
If people of color are not shown in roles such as leaders, professionals, and successful in some way, stereotypes that exist about our communities will prevail. In other words, communities of color should not solely be relegated to being depicted in stereotypical images on reality television, because the reality is that people of color represent more than what TV leads society to believe.