For those of you not keeping count, every single one of the eight bachelorettes on ABC's ode to dysfunctional dating, The Bachelorette, have been white. Given the racially unbalanced state of affairs in entertainment, it's not that hard to believe — but it's still a real fucking bummer. And before anyone says boo about how what a gross and loathsome brain-rotting garbage-fest reality TV is, your disgust doesn't erase the fact that millions of people watch these shows religiously and it still matters that the diversity on television doesn't reflect the world we live in. It matters because these bizarre, artificial worlds send damaging messages to the millions of women who don't see themselves reflected on the screen. It breeds exclusion, alienation, and worst of all — it's a whitewashed snapshot of society that couldn't be further from actual reality.
It matters that there hasn't been a black bachelorette.
There's a woman who's seeking to change all that. Misee Harris, a 28-year-old pediatric dentist from Tennessee, has launched a social media campaign to become the first black bachelorette. Other than the fact that she's a woman of color, her resume is very similar to former bachelorettes. Conventionally beautiful? Check. Bubbly? Check. Sporty? Check.
In fact, her qualifications are past the point of exceptional. Check this out:
Additionally, Misee Harris is filled with a desire to give back to under-served communities. She does just that by engaging in medical mission trips to the Appalachian mountains to provide children with dental care, mentoring young women in her community and working with autism-related charities.
She's basically an Earth angel, which is something the first black bachelorette would most likely have to be. She has to be better, smarter, and pretty close to perfect to even compete.
She also recognizes the issue, and is tackling it head-on:
Harris is also a die-hard fan of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. When she heard of a casting call in Columbus, Ohio in June of last year for The Bachelor, she thought to herself, "I have nothing to lose, why not?" After attending the casting call and various call-backs, she was eventually invited to be one of the competing women on that show. But after much thought, Harris decided not to be the "token black girl" on The Bachelor, and to instead begin her own campaign to be the bachelorette.
"I realized that being the bachelorette would give me a better opportunity to find love and a stronger platform for all of my creative dreams and charity work," Harris told [the Grio] in a phone interview. "It also would allow me to inspire other black women and girls to dream big and know their worth."
I'll admit, I'm a fair-weather viewer of The Bachelorette (except for Ali's season — I couldn't turn away), but I would tune in to see this woman.
Harris' one major roadblock is that all the previous bachelorettes are former fan-favorite contestants from The Bachelor. That's a hurdle, but it's not insurmountable. Plenty of bachelors weren't contestants on The Bachelorette first, why can't the bachelorette also feature a fresh-faced contestant with plenty to offer? Harris has all the qualities the show's producers look for in their stars — a great job, outgoing personality, good looks — so why does their bachelorette always have to be a woman from a previous season of the Bachelor? A show that's so white, coincidentally, that it's been sued for racial discrimination and repeatedly questioned about the issue.
When Entertainment Weekly asked The Bachelor/ette creator Mike Fleiss if we'd ever see a bachelor or a bachelorette who isn't white, he had some
interesting predictable things to say:
I think [Season 7 bachelorette] Ashley is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity, it's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would.
Yes, this is the sort of dismissive bullshit the first woman of color bachelorette is up against. The creator of the show is genuinely confused as to why black women don't audition for something they don't see themselves represented in. Anyone who watches a single episode can tell you that casting prerequisites appear to be white, thin, and young. Nobody is interested in tokenism here, but an accurate reflection of the diversity of the American people would be nice.
Fleiss needs to realize that the past exclusion isn't going to encourage women of color to put themselves out there. He has to reframe his thinking about the whole thing, and make more of an effort to see and meet women of color. He's a very powerful man in Hollywood; he has the tools at his disposal to make it happen.
That said, there appears to be some hope.
As The Frisky notes about the latest season of The Bachelor:
Dare I say it? I'm actually starting to seriously like and actually crush on Bachelor Bronze and it's not just because if I close my eyes he sounds like Channing Tatum! I honestly think Sean may be, as Chris Harrison would say, the most sincere "Bachelor" in the history of the show, but also, gulp, the most openminded. I'm serious! He may be the most Aryan-looking "Bachelor" of all time, but it certainly seems like he's not necessarily looking for the same in his eventual bride. This is by far the most diverse cast of bachelorettes ever - the women still on the show in episode two include three Black women, an Asian woman and a Persian woman - and while producers may have been more inclined to cast that way after receiving so much flack for the whiteness of previous casts, these women seem to reflect the variety of women Sean is genuinely attracted to.
This isn't mind-blowing stuff; it's not surprising that Sean is attracted to women of all races. And it's not like he's some fucking hero — please keep in mind, these women are still incredibly conventionally attractive; nobody is swapping out blonde models for Shrek.
No, what's actually weird here is how long The Bachelor/ette's producers have been pretending there's one type of attractive, and forcing that vision onto millions of viewers every week. This world of white people isn't representative of my (or most people's) reality, and it's a disingenuous representation of how dating and mating works today.
Pretending that women of color don't exist in the real world (or are rare like the unicorn) is wrong, and it needs to end. The monotony doesn't mirror the world we live in; it's ugly, it's antiquated, and it's time for it to go. The Bachelorette needs a new look, and it seems like casting the charismatic Harris (or maybe Robyn from season 17 of The Bachelor??) could be an important step.