Will Diversity on "The Bachelor" Really Make a Difference?
Loop 21 was on the phone for the lawsuit press conference
Remember Lamar Hurd? He started making waves online with a campaign he created urging ABC honchos to choose him as the first Black "Bachelor" on their hit reality TV show. Hurd has since taken a meeting with the network execs. However, in an ironic twist of fate, a lawsuit has been filed against the popular ABC chain for discrimination.
Two Black men, Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson (an All-American football player and an aspiring National Football League player, respectively) auditioned for the title role and are suing ABC on behalf of all other persons of color have done the same, but got denied equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race.
(The case alleges that ABC violated both federal and California laws intended to guarantee equal opportunity in business, commerce, and media regardless of one’s skin color. The men are also suing Warner Horizon Television, Inc., Next Entertainment, Inc., NZK Productions, Inc., and Michael Fleiss, the executive producer of the franchise).
I participated in a press conference yesterday on behalf of Loop 21 and listened to why these Nashville residents are suing ABC for the intentional exclusion of persons of color over the course of 23 seasons. Both men felt they were treated unfairly and denied a proper shot at auditioning for the show.
Claybrooks and Johnson applied during an open casting call for “The Bachelor” in August 2011. Claybrooks claimed that his interview process took less than half the time of white applicants in front of him, while Johnson alleges he didn’t get the opportunity to even make it to the second level. “I was stopped by a young gentleman about five feet into the door. He saw fit to ask me exactly what was I doing here,” Johnson said.
“Looking back at how I was treated at the casting call last year, it was clear that that wasn’t possible—I never even had a chance,” added Claybooks.
[ALSO READ: Will a Black 'Bachelor' Be Stereotyped?]
Attorney Cyrus Mehri and his colleagues believe that this will be a landmark civil rights case that will move social justice and economic equality forward. “They’re doing their small part in the Unites States’ journey to be a more inclusive country, to be a more diverse country, and to be a country that is far more tolerant than this series would suggest,” Mehri stated about his clients.
He added that ABC and the producers of “The Bachelor” are sending a message of exclusiveness — of denying people opportunity, which they feel has a negative effect on this country. “This is a case about hope and change. We believe we have concrete solutions about how to make this show… into a kind of show that will be inclusive, will be diverse, and will better reflect this country,” said Mehri’s co-counsel Byron Perkins, “Quite frankly, if we had one, we probably wouldn’t be here today — just one.”
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction requiring ABC to consider at least one person of color as a finalist for the role each season, in addition to nominal and punitive damages.
Here’s my take: I can honestly say that I have not ever seen one episode of “The Bachelor,” in all of my reality TV junkie life. It was never on my radar because nothing interested me about the show. The commercials never moved me, and while I’d end up on “The Bachelor” momentarily while channel surfing, I was just never intrigued. However, I did notice that there were never people of color on the show (based on seeing recaps and reading news about the show) but that wasn’t something that offended me considering that people of color who end up on shows where they’re the token end up looking like some exaggerated stereotype anyway. Plus, it’s not like “The Bachelor” is really doing anything worthwhile in terms of having a real impact on society. It’s mindless fluff entertainment.
This is obviously a big deal to the plaintiffs in this situation and admirable that they have the courage to move forward with this but I don’t see this case really going anywhere. Plus, would you want to watch a show that was forced to add diversity as opposed to having an organically diverse cast? I wouldn’t.