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July 29, 2015

Why Is 'The Bachelor' So White?

by Scott Harris, posted Jan 4th 2010 1:30PM
The 14th season of ABC's popular reality dating show 'The Bachelor' airs tonight, and fans will be seeing some familiar faces -- white faces, that is.

Jake Pavelka, who previously appeared as a rejected suitor on the show's sister series 'The Bachelorette,' will be starring as the man in command this year, vying for the affection of 25 attractive women. But while the network's strategy of bringing back popular contestants form one series to star in the next has proven successful in the past -- the first season finale of 'The Bachelorette' snagged over 30 million viewers -- it has also helped contribute to the impression that the series is uninterested in courting minority viewers.

That's because, just as the 19 lead bachelors and bachelorettes have all been white, the candidate pool as a whole has also been startlingly homogeneous. This year's group of women, for instance, is devoid of African-American contestants, as was last season's, which has led some in the media, including The LA Times, to question ABC's casting policy.

While there have been some notable exceptions -- Cuban-American Mary Delgado was chosen by season 6 bachelor Byron Velvick, for instance -- the lack of diversity on 'The Bachelor' is especially noticeable compared to other high profile reality shows, which generally feature greater representation for minorities than scripted television. 'Survivor' and 'The Amazing Race,' for instance, regularly feature some of the most integrated casts on network television, while cable shows such as 'Rock of Love' have highlighted minority contestants with great ratings success.

By those standards, then, it's clear that 'The Bachelor' is coming up short. The question is, why? The simple answer would be to lay the blame at the foot of network television in general, which continues to underserve America's ever-growing minority population, as highlighted in this 2008 report from the NAACP.

Yet considering the success other reality shows have had featuring minorities, it's possible other factors may be at play here. Does the network feel that some viewers are still not ready to support a high profile interracial romance? Are sponsors less interested in buying advertisements for a season that they may feel will appeal to fewer viewers? Or are the bachelors themselves to blame? After all, the few minority contestants who have appeared on the show have frequently been among the first rejected, which may suggest that the men and women who star on 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' are forcing the producers to cast hopefuls who are potentially more suitable to their tastes.

"There may be two things at play here," said Angela Bronner Helm, Senior Editor at BlackVoices.com. "One, the country is still in its heart conservative and feels most comfortable dating intraracially. White Americans, statistically, when dating online, do prefer dating one another. Another issue may be that ABC/Disney, like many movie studios, fears a backlash from 'middle America' and frankly thinks that people will not watch a Black guy dating either black women or white women or vice versa."

Whatever the reason, it seems clear that as long as ratings remain high, the network will be under no real pressure to make changes. Because no matter how loud voices may grow in protest, one thing speaks louder than all: the advertising dollar.

"I'm not sure if revolution is what corporations are looking for these days," Bronner Helm added. "It's more like advertising and ratings. The path of least resistance. Thank God for cable."

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Ernest DeBrew III

I guess if most viewers want to see just white people, then there's really not that much minorities can do.

November 06 2011 at 5:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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