If The Bachelor is loved for one thing, it’s the drama onscreen. If The Bachelor is hated for one thing, it’s the drama offscreen. Most recently, it’s been the controversial casting of Matt James, contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s past racist incidents, and host Chris Harrison’s comments on the entire matter. Unfortunately, none of this is all that surprising, as the fan–favorite reality show has never deserved praise for its diversity.
Since the series’ start in 2002, audiences have only seen two–and–a–half seasons with Black leads: Rachel Lindsay was the first Black Bachelorette in 2017, and Matt James is currently the first Black Bachelor. Tayshia Adams, who got the 'half–season' screen time, took over as the Bachelorette in 2019, after original lead Clare Crawley left mid–season. There have been more women named Lauren in a single season than women of color—seriously, Bachelor Arie Luyendyk had four Laurens to choose from.
The few token Black leads that have been on the show aren't a reason to praise the franchise. Diversity on The Bachelor is a deeply rooted issue that can’t be fixed easily. Season 15 contestant Mike Johnson described its disappointing lack of racial representation as atrocious. Where are the Indigenous contestants? Where is representation of other people of color, like Asian Americans or Latinx contestants? Sure, there have been BIPOC contestants, but rarely do they make it to the infamous hometown dates.
Memes and other pop culture elements show how The Bachelor's reputation beyond the show itself is ultra–white. Saturday Night Live pokes fun at almost every season, but their parody of Colton Underwood's run highlights the typical fate of Black women on the show: "Anyway, I'm Black and I have short hair, so I just wanna say goodbye!"
In 2019, avid viewer of The Bachelor Suzana—@bachelordata on Instagram—began to create spreadsheets based on the show in order to practice using Excel. Now, she uploads visuals tracking contestants’ follower counts and screen time, as well as race representation for each episode. In an interview, she shared a question with viewers that she often asks herself: “What are we seeing on our screens, and how are we reacting to it as a society that watches the show?"
Keeping up with @bachelordata’s statistics will continue to be one of the best tools to hold the show accountable for its historically empty promises of diversity. It’s about more than just the number of BIPOC cast members. Though the current season is the most diverse yet, white contestants still dominate the screen.
Interestingly, Latinx leads haven’t been nearly as celebrated as Black leads. Most fans don’t know that Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams are both half–Mexican, meaning their shared season featured the first two Latinx Bachelorettes ever. There was no hype, rollout, or acknowledgement by the franchise, and their heritages weren’t depicted on screen at all. Yet again, the franchise settled for a lackluster missed opportunity.
Back in 2014, The Bachelor did give attention to the first Latinx lead, Juan Pablo Galavis. Unfortunately, Galavis is perhaps the most hated Bachelor in the show’s history. He was rude, uncooperative, manipulative, and stubborn, and his Twitter has proven to be quite problematic. This only demonstrates that the show needs to include more Latinx leads, so that Galavis isn't the only representation of Latinx Bachelors on the show.
Along this vein, Latinx contestants tend to fall into one of two categories: They either fit a certain stereotype or don’t address their background at all. In the 22nd season, contestants Bibiana Julian and Bekah Martinez reflected this dichotomy. Julian, the hot–headed "dramatic" one, was eliminated in week three, and Martinez, the “white–passing” one, left just before hometowns. Latinas who don’t “play nice” typically don’t last nearly as long on the show.
The series is also seriously lacking when it comes to casting Asian men and women. The franchise had the opportunity to cast Caila Quinn, a half–Filipina contestant from Ben Higgins’ season, as the Bachelorette—but instead elected “southern sweetheart” Jojo Fletcher. Before the anticipated announcement, creator Mike Fleiss took to Twitter to tease fans—in a highly insensitive manner, posting, "After 5 years of BBQ chicken as our Night One dinner, I'm thinking of mixing things up this year. Maybe a little Thai food... Yum!"
Not to mention that Quinn isn’t even Thai. Shortly after Fletcher claimed the spotlight, Fleiss tweeted a follow up, saying, "I chickened out and went with BBQ chicken. If it ain't broke... #Bachelorette."
There has yet to be an Asian Bachelor or Bachelorette, and unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there will be in the near future. Truthfully, this pattern is symptomatic of a greater entertainment industry that regularly overlooks people of color, but fans of the franchise and alums alike must continue to push for these necessary changes and inclusions. A person’s cultural background can certainly impact their relationships, and viewers of all races have the right to see themselves as worthy of love. The Bachelor is an American reality show, but the reality of the United States is far more diverse than the show chooses to depict. If it wants to remain relevant, it's going to need to step up.