(CN) – Television network ABC intentionally keeps minorities from starring as the next Bachelor or Bachelorette, endorsing a perception “that only all-white relationships are desirable and worthy of national attention,” a federal class claims.
“Never, [in] over 10 years and a combined total of 23 seasons of ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette,’ has either show ever featured a single person of color – whether African American, Latino, Asian, or any other minority race or ethnicity – in the central role of the Bachelor or Bachelorette,” according to the complaint filed in the Middle District of Tennessee.
Lead plaintiffs Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson say they applied for the lead role in “The Bachelor” but were never really considered because they are black.
They filed the suit against American Broadcasting Co., “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” creator Michael Fleiss, and the shows’ production companies, Warner Horizon Television Inc., Next Entertainment Inc. and NZK Productions Inc.
Though the show’s creators allegedly attribute the lack of diversity to a lack of diverse applicants,” Claybrooks and Johnson call that “patently untrue, and a pretext for racial discrimination.”
“The Bachelor,” which first aired in 2002, is a reality television show where, women “compete for the affections of a single man – the ‘Bachelor,'” according to the
24-page complaint. “The Bachelorette” is a spin-off that reverses the gender roles of the original format but is otherwise identical.
“Upon information and belief, the person selected to be the Bachelor or Bachelorette is paid a stipend for agreeing to be a part of the show,” the complaint states. “Their housing, food, and travel expenses are fully paid for by Defendants. Upon information and belief, the show’s producers exercise significant control over the Bachelor’s and Bachelorette’s conduct and words during filming.”
“According to ABC’s website for The Bachelor, ‘there has been an eclectic mix of bachelors over the years. We’ve seen a doctor, football star, prince, millionaire, [and a] single dad.’
“Despite this ‘eclectic mix,’ defendants’ selections for the Bachelor and the Bachelorette have led to an inexorable zero,” the complaint continues. “Over the course of 23 seasons, not one time has the show’s eclectic mix ever included a Bachelor or Bachelorette who is a person of color. Each of the 23 people who have filled the role of the Bachelor and Bachelorette-despite their apparent professional diversity-have all been white. Not surprisingly, Emily Maynard, the Bachelorette selected for the show’s upcoming eighth season, is white as well.
“Not only has every Bachelor and Bachelorette in the shows’ 23-season history been white, but nearly all of the ‘suitors’ are white as well. Females of color are few and far between on The Bachelor and, to the extent the show ever does contain non-white female contestants, they tend to be eliminated early on in the show. The same is true of males of color on The Bachelorette. The result is an almost all or entirely all white group of contestants featured on the shows every week that they air.
“The shows’ complete lack of people of color is no accident. As illustrated below, and upon information and belief, numerous people of color have applied to be the Bachelor or Bachelorette. These applicants were denied the same opportunity to become the next Bachelor or Bachelorette as white contestants not because they were unsuitable for the role or could not contribute to the show’s ‘eclectic mix,’ but solely because of the perceived risk that casting a Bachelor or Bachelorette who is a person of color would alienate the show’s majority-white viewership. Intentional discrimination, even if based on perceptions of customer bias, is prohibited by … the California Civil Code.”
Claybrooks and Johnson note that several media entities have pointed out the absence of Bachelors and Bachelorettes of color,” including the Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post and The Grio.
The complaint quotes an Entertainment Weekly interview in which creator Michael Fleiss said: “We always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.”
Claybrooks and Johnson say they were ideal candidates at the 2011 casting call for “The Bachelor.”
Claybrooks, a small business owner, investor and professional football player, says he noticed that his fellow applicants were interviewed for about 45 minutes.
“However, Mr. Claybrooks’ interview lasted for a much shorter time than the interviews with white applicants who went before him,” the complaint states. “Mr. Claybrooks felt that he was being rushed through the process and was not given the same opportunity as his white counterparts.”
This was more consideration than other non-white applicants received, according to the complaint.
Johnson, a teacher, volunteer, and aspiring professional football player and airman in the Air Force, says he was not to bring his application to the casting directors in person. Instead “he was immediately stopped by one of defendants’ employees,” who collected his application and told him it would be passed along, the complaint says.
“As Mr. Johnson handed the white employee his application materials, he noticed several other persons who appeared to be hopeful Bachelor applicants walking past him and the white employee and proceeding into the hotel,” the suit continues. “None of the other potential applicants were stopped by any of Defendants’ employees.”
“The absence of a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color over 23 seasons is not due to a lack of qualified applications from people of color,” according to the complaint. “Rather, minority applicants are purposefully provided less than an equal opportunity on the basis of race. Defendants have engaged in an intentional scheme to deny minority applicants the same opportunity to be seriously considered as the next Bachelor or Bachelorette. Defendants have continued to knowingly and intentionally deny people of color that opportunity despite being aware that the two shows have never featured a person of color in the lead role.
“Upon information and belief, by only hiring white applicants, Defendants are making the calculation that minorities in lead roles and interracial dating is unappealing to the shows’ audiences. The refusal to hire minority applicants is a conscious attempt to minimize the risk of alienating their majority-white viewership and the advertisers targeting that viewership. Nevertheless, such discrimination is impermissible under federal and state law.
Claybrooks and Johnson call the programs “examples of purposeful segregation in the media that perpetuates racial stereotypes and denies persons of color of opportunities in the entertainment industry.”
“Studies have shown that television is extremely influential in shaping the way people view one another and themselves,” according to the complaint. “The exclusion of people of color from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette sends the message – to whites and racial minorities – that only all-white relationships are desirable and worthy of national attention.”
The class seeks an injunction and damages for racial discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act and California law. It is represented by George Barrett of Barrett Johnston in Nashville.