I would love to see a black Bachelor. I’d love to see an Asian, Latino, Eskimo, Middle Eastern, or Wolof Bachelor. Hell, I’d even watch a Canadian Bachelor. It is absurd that in 10 years there has never once been a Bachelor or Bachelorette who isn’t white. And if the past few seasons are any indication, Team Bachelor has all but given up on casting even a few “token” minority contestants to compete for the Bachelor/Bachelorette’s love. The show is embarrassingly white, and — as so many of you have commented on my Bachelor recaps — the audience has long been ready to see someone other than a Ken doll (or Ben Flajnik) in the leading rose-giving role.
Still, I was dismayed to hear that two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, recently filed a class-action lawsuit against ABC and the producers of The Bachelor for racial discrimination. And I’ve got to ask Nathaniel and Christopher one question: Are you sure this is the battle you want to pick?
The suit brought by Claybrooks and Johnson — who attended a Bachelor casting event in Nashville, Tenn., and were not chosen for the show — alleges that “by discriminatorily refusing to cast people of color in the lead roles (as well as in the role of suitor), [ABC and The Bachelor] play into the perceived racial fears of their audience and perpetuate outdated racial taboos.” (Warner Horizon, which produces The Bachelor and its spinoffs, says the lawsuit is “without merit.”)
Perhaps there is some truth in that claim. However, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette also perpetuate sexist stereotypes about women, propagate outdated gender roles, and commit heinous crimes against evening gowns. Would taking the producers to court over these injustices advance the cause of feminism and equal rights for women? I could sue Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club on 12th Avenue for age discrimination and small-boob bias if they refused to hire me as a pole dancer, but I won’t — because I in no way want to be associated with Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club on 12th Avenue.
The suit also asserts that because ABC’s non-romance reality shows — Dancing with the Stars, Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition — frequently feature minority contestants: “The presence of people of color in ABC programming is acceptable so long as there is no exhibition of actual romance between non-whites or whites and people of color.” Whoever wrote this document has never seen ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy…
At a press conference on April 18, Cyrus Mehri, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, insisted that while his clients are seeking punitive damages from ABC and Bachelor producers, the lawsuit isn’t about money: “This case is impact litigation… it can be a vehicle for change.” No question, change is sorely needed in today’s whitewashed TV landscape, but if that’s all Claybrooks and Johnson want, couldn’t they simply ask for reimbursement of their legal fees and nothing more? And more importantly, what exactly is their vision of change? The suit — which requests that “an injunction be issued requiring Defendants to consider persons of color as finalists for the role of the Bachelor and the Bachelorette”— also cites Flavor of Love, I Love New York, and Rock of Love as proof that “a large number of people of color are willing and interested in participating in television shows like The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.” Call me crazy, but I think these guys would have a really hard time finding black people who would hold up Flavor of Love as a step forward for the African-American community.
If Claybrooks and Johnson achieve their goal, what will they have to celebrate? Hooray! You’ve now legislated diversity on an idiotic reality show that shows humanity — regardless of color — at their vain, attention-seeking, insecure, shallow worst. I’m guessing that this civil rights “victory” would do little to alleviate the problems of the thousands of men and women in this country who have more significant race-related grievances.
No matter what happens, though, these guys have already won — we’re talking about them, aren’t we?