Quick Hit: Can a lawsuit bring some racial diversity to The Bachelor and The Bachelorette?

Jennifer Pozner has an interesting piece up at the Daily Beast on the class-action racial discrimination suit against The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.

That calculus has governed casting on The Bachelor since its 2002 debut on ABC. Ten years, one spinoff (The Bachelorette), and 24 seasons later, every star of TV’s oldest reality romance franchise has been white. So were 22 of the 25 hopefuls on The Bachelorette’s Season 8 premiere last week. With that history, it came as no surprise that we heard almost no dialogue from the lone black contestant, Lerone, or that Southern blonde Emily Maynard sent him packing at the end of the episode. (On Twitter, one viewer suggested a #MenOfColorCountdown to see how long the Brazilian grain merchant and Colombian mushroom farmer will last.)

Now, a racial discrimination lawsuit aims to prove that this casting math isn’t only faulty—it’s illegal.

On April 18, two African-American men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, filed a class-action suit alleging that ABC; the shows’ production companies, Warner Horizon, Next Entertainment, NZK Productions; and the shows’ creator, Mike Fleiss, “knowingly, intentionally, and as a matter of corporate policy refused to cast people of color in the role of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette.” The complaint charges that this “intentional scheme” of “deliberate exclusion … underscores the significant barriers that people of color continue to face in the media and the broader marketplace.”

The case rests on the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and claims that producers cannot deny non-white contestants contracts based on “perceived racial biases of members of their television audience or their advertisers.” Of course, as Pozner notes, producers’ fears of audience and advertiser resistance to interracial relationships are probably overblown. While one exec insists it would “destroy the franchise,” these days 83 percent of Americans approve of interracial dating, and Americans of all races seems to have a weakness for truly shitty reality TV–especially if they can relate to it. As TV critic Eric Deggans said, “People of color should have the right to suck, too!”

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director in charge of Editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has previously been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard. Before become a full-time writer, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008.

Maya Dusenbery is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Editorial.

Read more about Maya

Join the Conversation