When I saw this morning that Elly Miles and her sister had been cast as the 2020 Bachelorettes, I was less than thrilled. It’s not that I have anything against Elly or her sister. It was just a let down to see another reality tv show choose more white people when there was a real opportunity for some diversity.
As I said in this piece about Bachelor In Paradise, the Bachie franchise has long been criticised for a lack of diversity. I really thought 2020 would be the year that changed.
The world is waking up. It’s no longer acceptable to ignore the fact there is a disproportionate amount of white faces on our screens. The Black Lives Matter movement turned into a bigger conversation around systemic racism, and we saw brands, shows and businesses make promises to move forward with more representation – from internal staffing choices to product offerings and casting.
Recently, a conversation started on Twitter around why there isn’t more LGBT representation in the Bachelor franchise. Host Osher Günsberg wrote this in response.
I say it every year –
If you can come up with a non-hetero dating show that actually works, that can hold a prime-time audience, with a compelling format that has enough jeopardy to hook over ad breaks,
I'll help you pitch it. #BachelorInParadiseAU https://t.co/phefLNm2Q6
— Osher Günsberg (@oshergunsberg) July 26, 2020
It’s a long convo between many people, but the gist to Osher’s argument is that the big production companies are nervous about moving the show format too outside of its audience’s wheelhouse, thereby losing them. It’s vibes of “we can’t fuck with a good product”.
Here’s the thing, though. I am the target market for the Bachie franchise. I’m a late 20s/early 30s, single, cis female. And not only am I upset for BIPOC and LGBT people who don’t get to see themselves represented on these shows, AGAIN, an experience I can’t personally relate to but understand is incredibly hard and belittling – on a base level, I’m just so bored?
It’s not just Bachie. The Bachelorette is just the latest in a long, long string of Aussie reality TV shows featuring few, if any, people of colour or queer representation. In the last few years, the only primetime reality TV show to really champion diversity has been Masterchef – which saw some of the biggest ratings in 2020.
I don’t want to see another white woman who has 117k followers on Instagram rack up another 117k followers, “find love” and then star in 4,000 teeth whitening ads with her new boyfriend. I don’t want to see another white man with a dream of being a TV host whittle a bunch of white women down to one, then break up with her in three months.
That’s the format, right? That’s what we’re all apparently so invested in? I’m just not anymore.
Do not get me wrong, I live and breathe Bachie. I wouldn’t sign up for recaps year on year if I didn’t froth the show. I love the premise – it’s fun, endearing, heartwarming, all the good stuff. It’s drama but it’s also vulnerability. I have loved some of the talent they’ve chosen. They’ve been fantastic-seeming humans who were funny, lovely and had me hooked. Angie Kent. Georgia Love. Honey Badger! Even when he yeeted himself out of the show with no girlfriend!
I just think at this point, some representation wouldn’t only benefit our country and the experiences of all the BIPOC & LGBT people in it, but it would also bloody freshen shit up a bit.
You cannot tell me that what is essentially a Bachelor in Paradise season, but every contestant is queer, wouldn’t be phenomenally entertaining and full of the drama we expect. You can’t tell me that watching a gay man find his perfect match wouldn’t fill your heart with the same joy any other romance does. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be the same, if not more interested if The Bachelorette was a proud Indigenous woman.
I just can’t get on board with the idea that we aren’t “ready” for that kind of diversity. Not only would it freshen up reality TV dating and pull it into modernity, making it more representative of our nation and the people in it, it would also be WATCHED.
I want to see hot influencers scamming each other’s partners on an island, sure! I want to see women gunning for a farmer husband or wife, too! I just feel like I’d want to watch these shows I love even MORE if they also included the true diversity of this country.
Look, for example, at the response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Online booksellers were seeing their entire top sales lists filled with BIPOC-written books as we all sought to diversify our own media consumption. Even as I write this, Booktopia has three out of ten top books written by people of colour. Netflix says it saw huge rise in people watching BIPOC-focused shows like Dear White People and I Am Not Your Negro. It’s clear that we ALL sat up and took stock of what we watched, listened to, and read – then made changes accordingly.
It would have been such a fantastic time for The Bachelorette to respond to the BLM movement with their own push for diversity. Lord knows The Bachelor in America did?
Yep, their first Black Bachelor. Something that has also been a long time coming for the American Bachie franchise.
So what can we do? I feel as a white woman, it’s about using my voice to demand change. Message production companies, tell them you want to see more diversity. It’s clear they are hesitant because of ratings and viewers – which is why it’s so important that we are vocal about WANTING diversity, not just tolerating it.
But it’s also about continuing to diversify your own consumption of media, just like we were pushed to do at the height of the 2020 BLM movement. Things like following BIPOC influencers, not just white women, on Instagram. Reading and watching more content by BIPOC people. As far as I understand it, a huge part of being an ally is using your position of privilege to demand change – we do that by where we channel our interests.
Here’s hoping the 2021 talent on Aussie reality TV is a new story.