'The Bachelor' racial discrimination case: Much ado about nothing?
Dear black fans of ABC’s The Bachelor,
It’s not exactly that show producers don’t care about you, it’s just that they’re not legally obligated to care.
In the pending class-action suit against The Bachelor for failing to cast people of color, the network and the show’s producers plan to defend their casting choices as a First Amendment right. According to the defendants, it’s their right not to cast people of color, and they won’t be forced to feel bad about that.
When did things get so tense over a reality TV show? A few months ago, two Tennessee men filed a class-action suit against ABC for racial discrimination, based upon the fact that, to date, there have been no Bachelor or Bachelorette individuals cast in the leading role. They say the show’s refusal to cast people of color violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which protects every person to experience the same contracts as those enjoyed by white citizens.
I couldn’t have been the only one who at first glance thought the case was laughable. Though the series has enjoyed a combined 21 seasons, and hundreds of heartfelt rose ceremonies, it’s not exactly appointment TV — not only is the series unbearably formulaic, lacking all credibility (Marriage by game show? Please.) and boring, it also seemed to have a very niche audience: white women. That there were no black, Asian or Latin characters on a bland reality TV show seems of no consequence.
Bemoaning that The Bachelor doesn’t feature any lead characters of color feels like a first world problem, and yet that the producers are responding in kind with a substantial plan of defense forces all to take this seemingly harmless and laughable lawsuit more seriously.
Defense attorneys are citing cases like Ingels v. Westwood One Broadcasting Services in support of their argument, a case in which a California appeals court ruled that a radio broadcaster had the freedom of speech to exclude a caller from participating in their show who they believed was too old. This, along with other precedents, indicate the network has a good chance of winning the case. Ultimately ABC and the show producers have no legal obligations to diversify their show. If they want to do a completely blonde season of The Bachelorette it would be well within their right and will — it seems only the concern of their audience and ratings could possibly influence their casting decisions.
Which brings us back to the black fans of The Bachelor, those few of you out there, and the many other minorities who tune in weekly for this tepid trip down lover’s lane — how will the network’s defense of their actions affect them? It’s become clear over the past 21 seasons of the two series that neither ABC nor production company Warner Horizon Television give a thought to their “othered” audience. But in a time when racism is such a passé taboo and interracial dating is mainstream, that the network didn’t even try to pander to the argument against their whitewashed casting by throwing more color into the dating pool seems callous and alarmingly capitalistic.
I guess their thought is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It’s the white fans that matter, PR, political correctness, and minority fans be damned.
Follow Kia Miakka Natisse on Twitter at @miakka_natisse