It’s Monday evening, the only evening in which I reserve two hours strictly for TV time. While most of America is settling down for their 7 p.m. dinner or, for those over 60, possibly settling into bed, my night has just begun. With the remote in my hand, popcorn in my lap and flashing television screen in front of me, I am ready for the two most dramatic hours of my week: The Bachelor.
In-between the catfights, confessionals and crazy dates, I have constantly noticed a detail that may seem small to many, but is very important to me. Of the previous 21 bachelors and 12 bachelorettes starring on the show, all have been white. There are many races represented in the contestants, but in almost every season, more than 80 percent of the entire cast is white. This is an overwhelming disparity.
This white prevalence will be challenged next season when African-American and current contestant Rachel Lindsay, an intelligent lawyer with an enchanting smile, debuts as the first non-white to star in a show in the Bachelor franchise.
It’s about damn time.
Diversity is a topic that has forever been of-discussion in our society and isn’t going away anytime soon. Some may not realize that it affects all of our lives every day, and the entertainment industry is no exception.
A study conducted by the University of Southern California found that in the entertainment industry, only 28.3 percent of all speaking characters are from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, such as black, Asian, or Middle Eastern. This is 9.6 percent below the proportion of these minority groups in the United States population, which is 37.9 percent. With entertainment having such a major influence on our nation, if this industry can break through these boundaries holding minority groups, society as a whole can fluctuate.
For a program watched by nearly 9.5 million every week, it’s impossible to believe that “white” is the sole racial category that all viewers can fall into. The Bachelor franchise is fueled by the idea that each season, the bachelor or bachelorette will find true love. If finding true love is a universal concept, it’s appalling that nearly 40 percent of our nation, those who fall into minority racial and ethnic groups, aren’t represented on a show that is meant to appeal to every American.
Rachel’s season will be a step in the right direction towards diversifying this franchise, but this current season of The Bachelor has already set the stage for increasing diversity. Rachel is a contestant on this season and is the first woman of color to make it to the top 3, as well as the first to introduce te bachelor to her family.
The topic of race was directly addressed for one of the first times in the franchise’s history two weeks ago, when the current bachelor, Nick Viall, met the Lindsay family.
For those unfamiliar with this season of The Bachelor, tan, toned and unattached 36 year-old Nick Viall is looking for one woman, out of 30, to win his heart over. Two weeks ago,the show followed the couples on what they call “hometown dates.” The bachelor, in this case Nick, travels with each woman to the place where she grew up to spend a day in her life and meet her family.
In most cases, this hometown date includes a family dinner with the standard “meet the parents” scenario. When Rachel and Nick visited Rachel’s family, the conversation was different than usual. Instead of the typical “How do you plan to make it work living in separate cities?” or “Do you really care about her and why?”, Rachel’s mother and sister decided to speak with Nick about an important topic that affects our society and the lives of Rachel’s family everyday: racism.
This conversation opened up a very important question about race within our society that most television shows won’t address. They talked about the racial divide and lack of diversity on The Bachelor, how their relationship may be viewed by society and whether Nick had ever been in a relationship with a black girl.
Topics like these are what need to be addressed on shows that appeal to so much of our nation, especially shows with such seemingly-indifferent views on diversity. It’s 2017, a year of acceptance and equality, and it’s time for the entertainment industry to embrace it. Rachel’s season will lay the groundwork for increasing diversity in this franchise and will hopefully allow the topic to arise in other shows like this.
Above all, I hope that in our society, diversity becomes the norm. A black bachelorette shouldn’t be a big deal; it should be normal. Change won’t happen overnight, but when it’s time for Rachel’s season, you bet I’ll watch every minute of it a smile on my face.