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The Milton Measure

New Bachelorette Sets Precedent for Diversity in Reality Show

by Kalaria Okali on Friday, June 9th, 2017

Ironically, reality television is often under scrutiny for its failure to reflect a realistic and accurate depiction of real life. After 33 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette series, the show has, for the first time, selected a black woman for the lead role and cast a group of men whose diversity more accurately mirrors what is seen in the real world. Neither The Bachelor nor The Bachelorette has ever had a black lead, though several African-Americans and women of Asian and Iranian descent have appeared as contestants. One Latino man, Juan Pablo Galavis, was held the Bachelor position in 2014, and was the first Bachelor of color. Rachel Lindsay, a 32 year old civil defense litigation attorney from Dallas, Texas is breaking barriers as the program’s first black Bachelorette.

Because the cast often lacks diversity, race is something that is not often discussed on the show. Back in 2012, the show even faced a lawsuit which alleged that the roles of the Bachelor and Bachelorette on the hit reality series had failed to feature non-white cast members, and that civil rights law “plainly prohibits whites from refusing to contract with African Americans because of their race.” Rachel, who made it to the top 4 in Nick Viall’s season of The Bachelor, had a few discussions with Viall regarding race, comfortably addressing the topic with him on camera. In a recent interview with NPR, Rachel confessed, “I mean, I’ll be honest. When I was first approached, I couldn’t believe it. But I was also very nervous because to be the first at anything, that’s terrifying. And I was representing myself as a woman, as a professional, as somebody in their 30s and being black. But it was such a great opportunity. Just, the pros outweighed the cons,” when asked about her feelings on being the first black Bachelorette.

On top of being the first African-American to lead the show, she is also the oldest. Of the 13 seasons of the show, the median age of the Bachelorette has been 27 years old. Usually the program gives the Bachelor’s younger women as contestants, while the Bachelorettes typically choose from men who are older than them. The median age of the 31 men fighting for Rachel’s heart this season is 30 years old; generally, they are younger than she is, so this aspect offers another break from the show’s traditional patterns. Many fans have expressed that they find it refreshing to see ABC decide that 32 isn’t too late for a woman to find love, and that she’s not limited to men who are older than she is.

While many are commending Rachel for breaking the glass ceiling, some people have voiced concern about how her role as a trailblazer will likely also be accompanied by frequent microaggressions and uncomfortable comments. In a preview of her season, Rachel got to meet a few of her future suitors. One of the men, Dean, who’s white, introduced himself by saying “I’m ready to go black, and I’m never gonna go back.” Lindsay laughed off his comment along with the audience, however many fans of the show took to Twitter to express their frustration, claiming that the comment was “fetishizing” Lindsay’s blackness.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Rachel mentioned that the most common question she gets from African-American fans is whether or not she plans to choose a black man as her winner. She responded by explaining, “Honestly, I don’t want to go into this process with any preconceived notions or any pressures to do something for somebody else. I hate to sound selfish, but it’s my process. I’m not choosing a man for America, I’m choosing a man for me.” While much of the focus of this season has been fixed on Rachel’s race, she is also one of the most successful, intelligent, and down to earth lead’s that the show has ever seen, and fans are excited to see her finally succeed in finding the happiness that she deserves.

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Posted by Kalaria Okali on Jun 9 2017. Filed under Arts & Entertainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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