The Bachelor/Bachelorette’s White Elephant


Why is everyone The Bachelor and The Bachelorette white? It’s a question that needs to be both asked and answered.

Over at Femonomics, Coca Colo raises the issue:

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are two of the whitest shows on television. Not only is the star always white, but so is the host, and so, by nature of our society’s continued discomfort with interracial dating, are almost all of the suitors. The all-white star phenomenon then becomes a self-perpetuating cycle, because the newest star is usually picked from one of the nearly rejected contestants, who are all themselves white…
Now, simply choosing a black (or Hispanic, or Middle Eastern, or Asian, or South Asian, or mixed race) star would certainly not remedy the problem. In fact, it would likely only highlight it, since naturally ABC would never reverse the formula and stock this cast with all people the same race as the star (that would make The Bachelor a “niche” show, they would say). Nonetheless, at least we would have taken a small, token step toward inclusiveness. I know The Bachelor is ridiculous, that the formula of trying to find love in a couple months with 25 strangers is nonsense, and that we have bigger representation problems than television. You can tell me all that, and yet it still enrages me how white this show is. So ABC, you’re on notice.

I get Femonomics’ exasperation on this -– as a race and pop culture blog, one of Racialicious’ biggest problems actually is poor representations of people of colour on TV. But the Bachelor/Bachelorette’s myriad problems aside (like the heteronormativity and the bizarre power dynamics), the consequences of a bachelorette/bachelor of color could equally be heartily positive, or completely negative. Indulge me in some baseless what-if-ing – coloring the Bachelorette/Bachelor: what could go right (or wrong)?

Let’s imagine a bachelorette/bachelor of color. It would be just lovely to see people of color pursuing love in their own way and taking charge of their sexuality, especially when you consider that people of color are usually portrayed as asexual (Eddie Murphy in Beverly Hills Cop 1), comically hypersexual (Donna on Parks and Recreation or Long Duk Dong in Sixteen Candles), sexual vessels for someone else’s fantasy (any number of East Asian women playing bit roles in white vehicles), or the perpetual wingperson (any number of black women playing sassy black best friend roles in white vehicles). It could be our (sexy) time to shine!

Then again, there are just as many things that could go wrong. Imagine if we had, say, a Korean bachelorette. I doubt we would make it through a single episode without references to said bachelorette’s exotic beauty and delicate hands. Or what if we had a bachelor of color pick a white suitor? We’d have another disastrous portrayal of white beauty being selected over nonwhite.

Before you accuse me of hating on interracial lovers and their offspring, let me just say that it is not individual interracial white/nonwhite couples that trouble me. It is rather the constant movie/televisual representations of mixed race couples and their corollary that tires me out: which is that white folks are always portrayed as more lovable and desirable than people of color. Whatever the actual context of a mixed race white/POC bachelor(/ette) pairing, the mere optics would simply reinforce a demoralizing message that people of color are sick of hearing: we are never as dateable as white folks, or if we are dateable it is in a weird-ass creepy fetish way that we’d rather go without, thank you.

Ok, so let’s imagine there are (more) suitors of colour on the casts of the Bachelor/Bachelorette. That would be nice for representation figures alone, and breaking up the wall of whiteness Femonomics identified. It would do wonders for the dating self-esteem of men and women of color all over North America (even though vying for white folks’ approval ain’t that healthy). Yet what are the odds we’d just see our brethren getting rejected? I don’t know, but they might not be good, and that could be mighty demoralizing.

More positives and negatives accompany a scenario whereby a white bachelor(ette) chooses a suitor of color. It could be portrayed as just your run-of-the-mill miracle of love thing. Which would be good. But it could also turn into something nauseatingly post-racial, with the couple getting back-pats for being so brave and courageous; missing the point that you should date someone just because you like them, and not out of some twisted desire to end racism by humping someone of another race.

A potential positive that has few potential negatives – at least from an anti-racist point of view? The casting changing on the Bachelorette/Bachelor to the point that we get to see a POC/POC couple on the Bachelor/Bachelorette. But it may be a while before we see something like that.

What do you think? Would you like to see a bachelor/bachelorette of color no matter who they choose? Would you be happy to see more suitors of color, or does the risk of seeing yet another man/woman of color get rejected on international television outweigh the positives of modifying the love demographic?

Or should we just continue whittling sailboats out of twigs and shooting marbles until there’s better POC programming on TV?

This post first appeared on the blog Racialicious. Republished by permission.

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