I was ready to swear off all things related The Bachelor franchise at the conclusion of Rachel Lindsay’s season of The Bachelorette. I am not ashamed to admit that I was one of the people who tuned into the show for the first time ever because the lead was a Black woman. Like many others, I was excited about what the first Black Bachelorette meant for the franchise in terms of shifting the love story narrative. But I was pretty quickly let down when I realised that meaningful conversations about race were not on the table. And then to add insult to injury, Rachel chose Bryan. If Monday night’s Bachelor in Paradise premiere is any indication, the franchise is still struggling to fit Black women into its version of love. Out of the 20 contestants (12 men, eight women) that kicked off BiP last night, Jasmine Goode is the only Black woman.
The Bachelor franchise has struggled with diversity for all of its nearly 20-year history. In 2012, a class action lawsuit was brought against the show for under-representing people of colour. Although the case was dismissed, the small number of Black contestants throughout the show’s history is still troubling. On the one hand, the lack of diversity on BiP — which picks contestants from past cycles of The Bachelor and Bachelorette — is simply a symptom of this unfortunate trend. But, Jasmine being the lone Black girl on this season has deeper implications.
Black women are forced to find love in a world that considers them to be at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of attractiveness. At sporadic intervals — like when a Black woman becomes the first Black Bachelorette — the fact that we are less likely to get married and date outside of race becomes sensationalised news. Both of these things are par for the course on all these versions of The Bachelor. Only recently with the help of visionary creators like Shonda Rhimes and Issa Rae has mainstream media resisted the narrative that Black women are ratchet, unprofessional, and stupid. Because this franchise doesn’t exist in a vacuum absent of socio-cultural context, these are all factors contributing to the lack of representation.
At best, Jasmine’s role on BiP fulfils an exceptionalist narrative that the Black women who make eligible partners are few and far between. (This was absolutely the case with Rachel on her season of The Bachelorette, just saying.) At worst, Jasmine perpetuates the existing stereotypes about Black women. Her stint on Nick Viall’s season of The Bachelor and the trailers from this season of BiP imply that it’s the latter.
The only reason I was compelled to watch BiP is to get some clarity on what happened between Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson after production on the show was shut down following allegations of sexual misconduct. These accusations also had some problematic racial undertones. But if the tone on race set by players like Rachel and Jasmine are any indication, I’m not going to get the answers I’m looking for.