The Bachelor Franchise Still Has A Rocky Relationship With Race

The current season of The Bachelorette (the almost literal sister show to The Bachelor) ran a two-night split episode a few weeks that was odd in a number of ways. And not just because of Daniel the goofy Canadian. The second night featured a rose ceremony at essentially the beginning of the show. Fans of The Bachelor franchise (a phrase I will use to encompass both shows) know that the rose ceremony is the most dramatic part of the show, so it’s typically held for the end of an episode. During this particular rose ceremony 2 of the remaining 3 minority suitors were sent home. In our weekly write-up, The Renaissance Fan’s own Frank Anderson softly speculated that the odd timing of the rose ceremony might have been so that the elimination of some of the few remaining minority suitors (they started with 6) would not be the last thing viewers saw. While this may sound like a conspiracy theory, such a decision by the show makers really does not seem far-fetched given recent race-based controversies surrounding The Bachelor franchise.

Saying The Bachelor franchise has a race issue is not a new take. It’s an observation that has been out there for years and continues to bubble up. That conception is largely driven by the fact that during the combined 32 seasons of The Bachelor franchise, there have been a total of two minorities (both men) left standing at the end of a season. The first was Roberto Martinez who was picked by bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky. The second was the infamous Juan Pablo who was the bachelor in season 18. In the most recent season of The Bachelor, the race discussion heated up surrounding the break-out performance of Jubilee, a black woman and military veteran. She was bold, funny, and she was developing some chemistry with Ben H., the bachelor that season. But she did not last as long as fans would have liked, and was eliminated relatively early in the show. But not until after some uncomfortable run-ins with the other suitors and some comments that seemed racially charged. Bowing a bit to the racial controversy, the producers of The Bachelor made some half-hearted promises that the next bachelorette would be “more diverse”. They proceeded to pick Jojo who is white (and lovely by the way, not saying it wasn’t still a good selection), making it seem very disingenuous that they made such a promise. Perhaps they thought people would forget the events of the past season. But regardless, it brings us to the point we are at now in the current season, where Grant remains the sole minority suitor for Jojo. Consider that to start the season about ¼ of the suitors were minorities. Now we have 1 minority among the remaining group of 11, making it appear extremely likely that this season of The Bachelorette will once again end with an all-white couple. If you want a visual of how white The finalists on The Bachelor franchise have been over time, take a minute to scroll through this page.

People choosing to date in their own race is something we should actually expect at this point in our society. Demographical studies show that only 1 in 7 U.S. marriages are interracial. This alone is evidence that our society (along with our dating shows) is not post-racial. But it’s also a pattern that has been changing through time. Interracial marriages are considerably twice as common now as they were 30 years ago. So we are definitely heading in the direction of race being less of a factor in how people pick their mates. And perhaps someday not too long from now, all suitors on The Bachelor franchise will have an equal chance at winning.

What compounds the lack of success by minority candidates on The Bachelor franchise is the fact that the next bachelor or bachelorette is often one of the suitors who did well in the previous season. Considering that white people typically do better and go farther on the show when it’s a white bachelor/bachelorette, white people typically wind up as the next bachelor/bachelorette. And the cycle continues.

Is there a problem with two white people finding each other on a dating show and trying to start a relationship (even though there is not much good news for the other couples who started that way)? No! Of course not. We don’t care at all who any individual person chooses to be with, quite the opposite, we support anyone’s right to be with whoever they want. That’s entirely up to them and nobody else should dictate that decision and nor should social pressures. What we are trying to say, is that when you look at the cumulative body of this silly reality dating show franchise we get a pretty clear demonstration that even in the U.S., one of the most socially progressive countries in the world, race is still a factor. Black suitors tend to not do very well with white bachelor/bachelorettes, nor has a black person ever been selected as the bachelor or bachelorette (hint hint ABC). Hispanic suitors have done only slightly better. And Asian people rarely appear on these shows period (this season introduced us to Jonathan who was half Chinese half Scottish, he was gone in week 1). Who knows, maybe there will be a surprise and Jojo will pick Grant. But the way this season has been going, the outcomes of 30 of the past 31 seasons, and demographical statistics all indicate that’s not likely to be the case.

We do not live in a post-racial society, and The Bachelor franchise is stark public proof of that. The good news is we are getting closer, and maybe someday down the line minority candidates may have a truly equal shot at entering the same, largely unhappy, relationships as the rest of the “winners” of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette.

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