Thursday, March 4, 2010

Forget Vienna, the real controversy on The Bachelor is...

Why is everyone white?  I have seriously just noticed this, mainly because I stopped watching Sassafras's favorite guilty pleasure after the tire guy (Andrew Firestone), but it turns out that after 14 seasons of The Bachelor and 6 seasons of The Bachelorette (Ali Fedotowsky was just announced as the latest one), our friends at ABC have been unable to locate a single non-caucasian man or woman to star.  As a result, 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.  We have a black president, people.  This has got to stop.  America is a mulit-ethnic nation, and if I don't see someone whose tan doesn't come from the california sun or a bottle on my TV, stat, ABC is going on the femonomics blacklist. 

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.

What do you think?  Does it bother you that The Bachelor and The Bachelorette haven't gotten the inclusiveness memo, or do we have way bigger things to worry about?


  1. I think you raise an excellent point. Actually, you raise a number of excellent points, one being about their lack of inclusiveness, and the other being about why they non-inclusive.

    Nevertheless, I don't think they should fix it. Why? Because race is not the only line along which they are discriminating. There is another group being excluded, too: ugly people.

    In fact, non-beautiful people are excluded almost universally from nearly every show on television, the exceptions being TV commercials where they want to make you believe that "real" people endorse their products, and a few game shows. I have never even seen "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette," but I can say with near certainty that everyone on that show is good-looking.

    Now, I could be wrong, and you might say, "Well, White_Tree, there was this one guy, a few seasons ago..." and I would respond, "Did he win?" And of course you would say "No," after which, my line of attack would simply change to "Why do they only allow shallow people on their show?" and my argument would proceed, unimpeded by the facts.

    There has been shown to be a significant wage premium for beautiful people (see Hamermesh and Biddle, 1994, AER). And in few places do the benefits of beauty seem more pronounced than in the entertainment industry. In movies and television, it seems nearly impossible for plain-looking people to even get a job, much less a good wage. And even without having seen the show, I can say with some confidence that they are also excluded from "The Bachelor."

    So my question for you is: Why do you take up the cause of racial minorities and not non-beautiful people, when evidence supports the claim that plain-looking people are discriminated against in the workforce, and particularly in TV? Femonomics should blacklist *all* TV and films until the networks and directors agree to include plain-looking people as recurring characters in all of their productions.

    But you won't do that, because that's silly. The reason only beautiful people get cast in visual entertainment media is because that's what attracts viewers. Similarly, ABC puts only white people on The Bachelor since that's what the majority of their viewers wants to see. And that's their business. Is it good? Or right? No! It's awful! And it damages our society, because it accustoms people to looking at beautiful, white people and reinforces restricted sensibilities about interracial relationships and creates distorted expectations about beauty and the human body in the real world... to name a few.

    But hey... that's their business.

  2. well, i don't know how contestants are picked, and i don't watch the show, but i am surprised to hear that there hasn't been any non-white participants at all. Even the argument about it being about beautiful people doesn't hold as there are many beautiful non-white people who seem to be excluded. it's a tricky subject though, because if it were a white male with a large number of asain females, they'd say he had a fetish. Where do we come up with these ideas?

    i do think though that society is getting better, at least younger generations seem to be okay with interracial dating. That was a big deal back in the day, now you see it all the time. Or i do anyways, but as someone in an interracial relationship i like seeing other couples and not feeling like a weirdo.

  3. Wow - so casting minorities on the bachelor is akin to casting 'ugly people'? Really?

    Derail much?

  4. Maybe not ALL Asians but I think she is saying mix it up at least a little the casting is starting to get old,bland,and stale. I mean I still watch but it's getting boring seeing the same old same old but I have a VERY sneaky suspcion that once ratings go down we will start to see more people of color.

  5. WhiteTree said: "Similarly, ABC puts only white people on The Bachelor since that's what the majority of their viewers wants to see."

    Do you have any backup data on this? I don't think it's accurate.

    Also, I disagree the discrimination based on looks is comparable to that based on race. It's a false analogy. Protected groups are based on immutable characteristics. Looks (like intellectual skills -- should Harvard stop discriminating based on those? are the Olympics discriminatory) are to some degree mutable. Most forms of competition discriminate in some way. All visual media have a looks component. It's not "fair" but it's the way it always will be.

    Race, on the other hand, is a completely different situation. Most white people, I strongly believe, find POC who are attractive in the standard conventionally-accepted ways -- trim, good facial features, etc. -- to be attractive and interesting to watch. I don't believe a more integrated cast would cut down on white viewership to a larger extent than it would incease POC viewership, and until we see data contradicting this, then the "it's their business" excuse doesn't wash.


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