The Bachelor franchise has gotten some flack lately when it comes to diversifying the casts of its shows. While we're seeing more and more diversity among the suitors who vie for the heart of the appointed Bachelor or Bachelorette, the leads have been overwhelmingly white season after season (with the notable exception of Rachel Lindsay's Season 13 Bachelorette). If you've been wondering why it's taking so long to cast non-white leads on a regular basis, franchise host Chris Harrison believes he has an answer for you.
In case you're unaware, Chris Harrison has been the face of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise since the very beginning of each show, so he does know quite a lot about the inner workings of this reality dating empire. Harrison was recently asked if fans can expect to see greater representation on the shows in the future, and while he admitted the show did a poor job of that at the start, he added:
It was incumbent on us to change that narrative, and we have done that. Over the last several years, we have taken great strides in … trying to make you feel more represented. While I would love to only make great social statements and really change the world, I can’t just do that because we have to stay on the air … or I’m not making a social statement to anyone.
Well, I have to say that this is something I expected as the reason that the Bachelor and Bachelorette have pretty much always been white, but wasn't thinking I would hear so succinctly from anyone associated with the franchise (who was willing to have their name and face stamped on the comment, anyway). What I'm basically hearing from Chris Harrison is that the producers of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette at least feel like the country isn't ready for more diversity in the leads.
I think it's probably not, necessarily, even true that the producers don't want to cast more black leads, or Asian American, Latino, Indian American, etc. leads, but according to what Chris Harrison said when he spoke at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California (via Daily Trojan), they're just not sure if enough of their regular, long-time viewers would stick around for such a thing season after season.
During the most recent season of The Bachelorette with Hannah Brown leading the way, fans began to campaign for three of her suitors to become the next Bachelor. People went crazy for Tyler Cameron (who ruined his chances by leaving Brown's season and quickly beginning to date supermodel Gigi Hadid), Peter Weber (who is currently filming his season as the Bachelor) and (surprise, surprise) Mike Johnson (a black man with an extraordinarily captivating smile).
Shortly after Hannah's season ended, Chris Harrison talked about how the producers choose the leads and noted that it mostly comes down to who they think will have a good story, be able to lead their season of the franchise in a compelling way, and who's right at the time that they cast. Diversifying the leads isn't really a part of the decision, and while that makes sense from a financial, "we gotta keep this romance ship sailing" angle, it does suck for people who enjoy the shows and are dying to root for someone who looks like them to find love on ABC every Monday night.
Another topic that's come up with regards to diversity, even more prominently after the franchise saw its first ever on screen same sex couple with Demi Burnett and Kristian Haggerty this summer on Bachelor in Paradise, is whether or not fans would ever see a gay Bachelor season. Chris Harrison was asked the same thing at this event, and honestly responded that he didn't know if that would happen or when it might. But, he does believe that the show is slowly evolving:
You have to take it as it comes … because then it’s organic and then it feels right. When you try to force things is when it backfires on you … We took that step in that we had our first African American, but I didn’t look at her and go, ‘So happy she’s Black.’ I’m happy that she’s a badass woman, and oh by the way she also happens to be African American.
So, it sounds like all of you who are mourning the fact that Mike Johnson isn't the next Bachelor might have quite a long wait ahead of you when it comes to seeing the leads of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette represent the makeup of the country more. The Bachelor will begin airing Season 24, with Peter Weber and a parade of young ladies, on January 6.