Let me start by saying: I love love. Love can open new doors, help you see things in a different light, and completely change your world. I believe that everyone deserves a shot at experiencing true love, and finding the partner that makes them feel like the best possible version of themselves. And I’m all in—my entire career is built on helping others find their person.
So yes, I’m a romantic. But when it comes to Asian dating in the U.S., I’m a frustrated romantic (though, not a hopeless one). As a longtime fan of The Bachelor franchise, I’ve tuned in every Monday (now, Tuesday) to watch live love in action. I love the romantic gestures, the fantastic dates, the proposals, and even the friendships that develop between contestants. But after nearly 20 years of watching the show, I’ve got to ask, where are the Asians at?!
Even though Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the United States, Asian contestants are rarely seen on dating shows. And when they are, they’re disqualified early on or made out to be drama-seeking villains. Tammy Ly, perhaps the best-known Asian franchise contestant, was continuously framed as a pot-stirrer by the editors and producers, despite being there for the same reasons as everyone else—to look for love.
The phrase “reality TV” in and of itself is an oxymoron. We all know that what we see on screen is not a true reflection of life. There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes and in the editing room that turns normal interactions into the dramatic, tension-filled scenes we love to watch. It’s easy to brush it off like it’s completely unimportant, but what we see on TV and in movies matters, even if it’s not completely true to life.
In a period of time when Asian hate crimes are at an all-time high, we cannot stand by and ignore how the things we see on the screen perpetuate the real and terrible things happening to Asian people in the United States—on the street, in office buildings, and yes, on dating apps.
How many Asian women have been reached out to on Tinder with fetishizing, dehumanizing pick-up lines? How many Asian men have been told, “sorry, I’m just not into Asian guys”?
The true, lived experience of Asian people in the United States cannot be viewed as separate from the storylines we see on TV. Positive media representation alone cannot solve every problem, but it’s a critical first step in ensuring that Asian people are seen as human beings, who are deserving of respect, empowerment, and love, just like everyone else.
It’s why I founded my company. I know what it’s like to be a member of the diaspora: I am so proud of my Japanese heritage and the beautiful culture that comes along with it, but it can be a challenge not to feel othered when living in the United States. I believe so strongly in the power of love, and am empowered by the amazing community of other diasporic Asians that I have been able to connect with.
I am proud that the community I have been able to cultivate runs counter to so much of what we see on television. My friends and colleagues are not the side characters we are relegated to on television, nor are we the self-hating characters who turn their backs on our culture and resent their parents’ accents and upbringing. We bring together the best parts of our cultures while remaining whole and proud.
So this is what I ask: Let’s think critically about the media we consume. Are the Asian characters on your favorite show playing into harmful, dangerous stereotypes? Are they purposefully villainizing female Asian characters, or emasculating their male Asian characters? We’re no longer settling for crumbs when it comes to Asian representation.
And to my Asian community: Don’t give up hope on finding your person. Find ways to build your community and find friendships. Not only will that make you feel more fulfilled, but opening up your network can help grow relationships with people who value your culture, and have morals that align with yours. We’re fortunate to have such a strong community here. Use that to your advantage when dating and seeking out relationships.
Bachelor Nation, if you want to talk about casting, I’m happy to help find your next Bachelorette. And Tammy, if you’re reading this: We’re in your corner, don’t let the haters (or the Bachelor editors) get you down.
Image: ABC/Craig Sjodin
As much as we love talking about The Bachelor, it’s no secret that the franchise has some major issues when it comes to diversity. As it’s been discussed far and wide, The Bachelor has never done an adequate job of promoting diversity and racial equality across its shows. From a lack of diversity on screen (just one Black lead in FORTY seasons), to repeatedly casting people with a history of insensitive social media behavior, these issues have been around for a long time, and ABC is finally starting to addressing them, beginning with their announcement today for the next Bachelor.
Earlier this week, a Bachelor Diversity Campaign was launched, along with a petition that called on ABC and Warner Bros. to take 13 specific actions to address the issues within the franchise. The petition has garnered over 85,000 signatures in less than a week, and today demand number one has officially been met. On Friday morning, Matt James was announced as the next Bachelor, becoming the first Black man to lead the show in its 25-season run.
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This morning, Matt James appeared on Good Morning America, where he was introduced as the next Bachelor. James, who is best friends with Tyler Cameron, was initially cast as a contestant on Clare Crawley’s allegedly-still-happening season of The Bachelorette, but after they butted heads publicly on Twitter, maybe it’s for the best that he’ll be skipping that.
Of course, it’s exciting to see a Black man at the helm of The Bachelor. It took way too long to arrive at this moment, and for once, ABC did the right thing. But make no mistake, if the network is serious about addressing the issues within the franchise, this needs to be the beginning of the changes. In a statement, Karey Burke, the President of ABC Entertainment, said, “We know we have a responsibility to make sure the love stories we’re seeing on screen are representative of the world we live in…we will continue to take action with regards to diversity issues on this franchise.” Burke added, “we feel privileged to have Matt as our first Black Bachelor.”
In an interview for GMA, Rachel Lindsay cautioned against celebrating ABC for putting “a band-aid” over the larger issues, saying that she wants to see larger changes like producers of color and leads that are “interested in dating outside of their race.” In his GMA interview, Matt James agreed that his casting is “a step in the right direction,” and that he hopes to be the first of many Black men in his position.
FIRST ON @GMA: The new @BachelorABC is Matt James.
Season 25 of “The Bachelor” is scheduled to premiere in 2021. https://t.co/c1NVcVkkpS #TheBachelor #BachelorNation pic.twitter.com/VEpDJMIlR2
— Good Morning America (@GMA) June 12, 2020
Bachelor Nation spoke out loud and clear, and ABC was forced to listen. But there are still 12 other points on that petition that also should be addressed. Will we get a diverse cast? Will ABC commit to thoroughly vetting their contestants, so we don’t have known racists appearing on their shows? Will they commit to fostering an actual conversation around diversity on their shows? Hopefully, yes! But we don’t know any of those things yet, so today’s announcement should be seen as an important milestone, not the final destination. That’s the whole thing about being an active ally—there is no final destination, but you can always keep going in the right direction.
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Images: ABC/Craig Sjodin; bachelorabc / Instagram; gma / Twitter
If you’ve ever paid attention to the Bachelor, even a little bit, chances are you’ve seen a whole lot of white people. In 18 years and 40 seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, only once has a Black person been cast as the season lead. It’s an upsetting statistic, but one that points to a greater pattern of complicity in the franchise as a whole. Now, with conversations about race taking center stage in every corner of our lives, it feels like ABC can’t figuratively (or literally, IDK how they work) put their hands over their ears and yell “LALALA” about The Bachelor‘s longstanding lack of diversity anymore.
It’s not like issues with diversity on The Bachelor and The Bachelorette haven’t come up before. Actually, Chris Harrison, the host of all the Bachelor shows, has repeatedly been asked about diversity in the franchise, and some of his comments have been quite troubling. In 2017, when describing Rachel Lindsay’s contestants, he remarked, “It’s a very diverse cast, but at the same time, very professional.” This comment raised eyebrows at the time, with many pointing out that he almost certainly wouldn’t make the same comment about a white cast. Last year, when speaking to a group of USC journalism students about diversity on The Bachelor, he said, “You have to take it as it comes … because then it’s organic and then it feels right,” adding that you can’t “force things.” Just last month in a radio interview, he acknowledged that the franchise has lagged on diversity, but insisted that “we’ve done much better in the last few seasons for sure.”
Whether or not you buy what Chris said in May, the last two weeks have been a disappointing time to be a Bachelor fan. The franchise’s official social media accounts have remained completely silent about the Black Lives Matter movement, and the wider conversation on racial justice. Chris Harrison has posted nothing but a black square last Tuesday. Mike Fleiss has shown his support for BLM on Twitter, but hasn’t tied that in to any issues in his own franchise. Last week, Rachel Lindsay, the only Black lead in Bachelor history, slammed the lack of diversity in the franchise, calling it “embarrassing,” and noting that a Black person is nearly as likely to be elected President of the United States as they are to be chosen as the Bachelor.
Chris Harrison: when we come back… more white people! #TheBachelorGOAT
— The Betchelor🥀 (@betchelorpod) June 9, 2020
And on Monday, The Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons – Ever!, the franchise’s solution to coronavirus production delays, premiered. This eight episode special was supposed to be a celebration of the franchise’s greatest moments, but given the current climate, it instead served as a disturbing reminder that The Bachelor has always had a race problem. Kay Brown and Chris Burns, who host The Betchelor podcast, did some calculations, and in Monday night’s three-h0ur premiere (seriously, why are these shows so long?), Black people were shown speaking on screen for only 14 SECONDS. Think about that. 14 seconds. If you don’t think this is a problem, then you’re part of the problem.
But if there’s ever been a time to fix these problems, it’s right now. Over the weekend, a Bachelor Diversity Campaign Instagram account was launched, and on Monday, they launched a petition calling on ABC and Warner Bros. to commit to concrete actions to combat racism in the Bachelor franchise. The petition outlines 13 specific points, starting with casting a Black lead for the next season of The Bachelor. Considering most of us wanted Mike Johnson last season, this one should be easy for ABC. The petition also asks for a commitment that each season will have at least 35% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) contestants.
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IT’S TIME. Join us in asking ABC for a #BIPOCBachelor. Bachelor Nation is ready for change. Link in bio to sign our petition asking for active anti-racism within the Bachelor Franchise, both in front of and behind the camera. Screenshot your signed petition, tag @bachdiversity, and use #BIPOCBachelor. For a quick overview of the petition and our asks of ABC, follow along in our stories.
In addition to specific 0n-screen measures, like a “zero-tolerance policy for racism on-air” and giving “equitable screen time to BIPOC contestants,” the petition extends to off-screen measures that will help to combat racial inequality in the franchise as a whole. These include hiring a BIPOC diversity consultant to oversee all aspects of production, vetting potential contestants more thoroughly (to avoid situations like this), and “providing resources to help viewers learn more about BIPOC stories and organizations supporting BIPOC causes.” Really, none of these things should even be controversial, so I hope ABC and Warner Bros. do the right thing.
The final point in the petition, which I imagine might cause some discomfort, asks that ABC and Warner Bros. “Issue a public statement apologizing for enabling systemic racism within the franchise,” along with establishing a specific plan to do better moving forward. People usually don’t like admitting that they’ve been a part of the problem, but in this case, it seems like the only way that true change and growth can begin. In less than a day, over 50,000 people have signed the petition, and it has gained support from many Bachelor alums, including Rachel Lindsay, Tyler Cameron, Ben Higgins, and Kaitlyn Bristowe. After years of frustration and disappointment at The Bachelor’s handling of race, it’s time for some meaningful change.
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Images: ABC/John Fleenor; betchelorpod / Twitter; bachdiversity / Instagram