I’ve got conflicting feelings regarding the recent class-action lawsuit — led by two African-American former college football players who say they got brushed off at an open casting call — alleging that ABC “knowingly, intentionally and as a matter of corporate policy refused to cast people of color in the role of the Bachelor and Bachelorette.”
I did a little non-scientific research — perusing the full cast photos for the last four seasons of The Bachelor and last two seasons of The Bachelorette, and didn’t see a single African-American or Asian-American person in the cast. (Yeah, a few people looked vaguely beige, but these singletons may have come from Spraytanikstan.) That 0-for-156 strike rate is like a roaring jet engine drowning out producer Warner Horizon’s self-defense: “We have had various participants of color throughout the series’ history, and the producers have been consistently — and publicly — vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs. As always, we continue to seek out participants of color for both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.” Seriously? Where are you seeking these folks? At a whites-only country club?
But here’s where it gets tricky. I remember when I met my husband — who happens to be black — on Match.com. We had a good laugh about all the people on the Web site who would very conspicuously check every box except for the one marked “African-American” on their “What are you looking for?” questionnaires. The thing is, though, you can’t rationalize or sanitize people’s romantic attractions — even if on paper, their criteria might look comically awkward and/or narrow.
So let’s say you’re Warner Horizon and ABC: Once you’ve cast your ivory-skinned Barbie or Ken (or Skipper) — usually a rejected cast member from a prior season, so yeah, they’re gonna be white — you pretty much need to fill the room with 25 opposite-sex fameosexuals that fit his or her tastes. Maybe Ben, Brad (pictured, with his lay-dees), Jake, Jason, Ashley, and Ali only checked the “white” or “white” and “Latino” boxes on their “What am I looking for?” questionnaires. Would it somehow make the casting process less offensive to throw in a “token” African- or Asian-American person just for the sake of pretending to appear culturally diverse? The franchise used to do this in earlier seasons, and it was almost a running joke how often the sole person of color would last two or three rose ceremonies — the better to make the Bachelor or Bachelorette look “open-minded.”
Personally, I’d welcome a more diverse Bachelor/Bachelorette cast — who knows, maybe a little diversity would open up conversations beyond the lovebirds’ “journeys” and “feelings” and “qualities”? — but I’m not sure this is a battle that belongs in a courthouse. Should Modern Family be forced to add an African-American branch of the Pritchett clan? Should Cougar Town be legally mandated to invite an Indian-American to the cul-de-sac crew? And is casting for The Bachelor — which, at least in my mind, is as fictitious as any scripted program — all that different?
At the end of the day, if I don’t like The Bachelor franchise’s snow-white idea of love — if it really bothers me that this grim, sexist, soul-sucking, Cinderella-fantasy-on-Oxycontin, horror-show casting call for Bachelor Pad doesn’t reflect the diversity in my own home, or the idea of what I want to see on my television screen — I can always tune out. And in the world of commercial broadcasting, that might speak more loudly than any possibly dubious lawsuit.
What do you think? Does the lawsuit against the Bachelor franchise have merit? Would you be more interested if ABC finally (finally) cast a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color? And would it really be a civil rights victory for the African-American community if it was easier for them to enter the hellmouth portal to Bachelor Pad? Take our polls below, then hit the comments to expand on your feelings! And for all my reality TV news, commentary, and recaps, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV!