'Bachelor' diversity lawsuit may bring the reality series down to earth

OPINION - For some reason 'The Bachelor' and 'The Bachelorette' producers are stuck in some strange bizarro world of all white everything...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Two African-American men say they are prepared to file a class-action lawsuit against ABC’s -cringe-worthy- popular dating competition shows The Bachelor and The Bachelorette for racial discrimination. Through 10 years and a total of 23 seasons, not one person of color has been selected as the title lead on either show. This is not the first time someone has criticized The Bachelor’s lack of diversity and there was recently hope that sportscaster Lamar Hurd could break the show’s ridiculous color barrier.

“Finally” making it onto a goofy dating show is not quite as prestigious or admirable as say a black man being elected as president of the United States or winning Brown v. Board of Education, but there is something very odd about a popular dating show utterly lacking diversity. Are we to believe that Americans in 2012 can only stomach the pairing of a white man to a white woman? None of the leads have been black and very few of the contestants vying for love have been a person of color either.

For some reason The Bachelor and The Bachelorette producers are stuck in some strange bizarro world of all white everything.

Remember when the “plight of the single black woman” was the over-hyped topic on every blog, talk show, study and evening news cast? Even all of that practically-guaranteed ratings gold did not entice The Bachelorette producers into casting a woman of color on the show.

Last year, Entertainment Weekly asked executive producer Mike Fleiss about the stark whiteness of the series and he responded: “I think Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there!” He went on to say that they try to be diverse, but other races and ethnicities just don’t come forward. Sometimes it’s better to not open your mouth if you know your foot will find its way there.

No one believes that people of color just don’t show up to casting calls and in fact two African-American men who did show up for auditions are the ones behind the forthcoming class action lawsuit.

Nathaniel Claybrooks, a linebacker for the minor league football team the Nashville Storm and Christopher Johnson, a former college football player with NFL aspirations, both contend that the lack of black men and women on the shows is not happenstance, but quite deliberate. Both men claim that they were not allowed to fully participate in the audition process and they are bringing the suit because they believe the snub was based on race.

On the face of it, the whole ordeal seems rather trivial, but the bigger picture is worth addressing. Television, movies, music and other types of media play significant roles in shaping our perceptions of reality, for better or for worse. People who make decisions in media must be cognizant of that and also must be in tune with what the audience wants instead of being stuck in their own personal preferences or limited views. This is not art for art’s sake, this is a dating competition series with an intended audience.

Is it just a silly show? Yes. But it should be more reflective of today’s United States, otherwise the names should be changed to The White Bachelor and The White Bachelorette. Truth in advertising. Those who are not fans of the show can at least appreciate the fodder it offers for Joel McHale’s The Soup.

Do you think this is an issue worthy of a class action lawsuit?

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope