On the Whiteness of “The Bachelor” and Depictions of Black Love on Television

by Tyler Young

For those of you that watched Monday night’s premiere of ABC’s “The Bachelor”, how many people of color did you notice? If you counted zero, you are indeed correct. Usually there are one or two “fillers” in the cast for diversity’s sake but from the clips I watched, this season lacks melanin.

After 19 seasons, should this be a concern for black viewers? Depends on who you ask. Some would argue that having a black single as the main event wouldn’t garner high ratings. Others would contest that it is merely coincidental that the network has never had a black bachelor or bachelorette and that love isn’t about color, rather finding your soulmate. Okay. Call it what you want. In the franchise’s nearly 13 year history, this goes beyond helping singles fall in love.

During the most recent season of “The Bachelorette,” we were introduced to Marquel. He was a 26-year-old black guy in the house competing for the love of Andi, a white woman. Marquel made it through a few episodes before Andi ultimately chose not to move forward with the charming, tall, dark, and handsome bachelor. Was it Andi who wasn’t digging Marquel—or was it the behind the scenes folks? Unfortunately, Marquel was there to be little brown eye candy and was sent packing. Even he knew the deal. We later saw him in “Bachelor in Paradise” but no such luck in winning the game.

Now, I would be negligent if I did not mention past dating shows with predominantly black audiences. You may remember VH1 began the trend with installments of “Flavor of Love” which spawned “I Love New York,” followed by “Real Chance of Love” and more recently, “For the Love of Ray J.” Hopeless singles fawned for the affection of show’s host while other contestants had hopes of launching their own careers—just as those do on ABC.

What do all of these shows boil down to? The answer: buffoonery. This is partly because VH1 has a little more flexibility with what it airs. There is indeed a market of viewers that enjoy watching black women pummel each other just to have sex with a man at the end of the night. Or at least, I learned that on “Black Twitter” through “Love & Hip Hop.” I doubt the executives at ABC would take too kindly to loud sex, booty clapping, and endless girl fights. VH1 is known nowadays for showcasing ratchet and broad generalizations of blacks.

WEtv is even dabbling into dating shows with an urban twist. In February, the network is set to launch “Match Made in Heaven” featuring a black bachelor, 22 diverse women, and his mother. What could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, none of the other dating shows with diverse casts in terms of color have the longevity of “The Bachelor.”

There has been a lot of talk about the fact that this year, ABC cast two black women (Kerry Washington and Viola Davis) as the leads in their Thursday night primetime dramas, the biggest night on TV for ratings. Never mind that both of their love interests on the shows are white men. That is another day’s topic. Shondaland is a cash cow for the network, but it's still only on one night of the week. “Black-ish” has even become the network’s #1 comedy, yet they still don't see the need to add true diversity to “The Bachelor."

ABC has established its fan base for both franchises. Changing things up in terms of casting could cause loyal and valuable viewers to flip the channel and protest at the sight of a reality-based cast dressed in different hue. The argument for ABC not featuring people of color on its highly rated reality shows offers a variety of conclusions. Could ABC’s decision derive from a former belief that blacks aren’t worth as much to advertisers? Money can make big decisions. If that is the true motivation for the execs, then by all means, keep your bachelor and bachelorette. Black love will have to just live elsewhere.

Tyler Young is an On-Air Morning News Producer and blogger in Charlotte, N.C. She is a proud country girl from a small town in South Carolina. In Tyler’s free time you’ll catch her giving back to the community, writing or watching A Different World reruns. Follow Tyler on Twitter: @sheistyler and at sheistyler.blogspot.com.

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