The Bachelor justifies itself—its retrograde premises, its gleeful misogynies, its blithe rejections of the moral underpinnings of “diversity”—by way of the same excuse that many similar shows proffer: ratings. Eight million viewers can’t be wrong, you know? And so, bolstered by the mandate conferred by so many weekly eyes and hearts and minds, the show cheerfully pits bikini-clad women against each other in the fight for one man’s affections. It operates so far outside the constraints of “reality” as most people experience it as to list, without irony, a guy’s professional occupation as “hipster” and a girl’s as “chicken enthusiast.” It creates situations that treat romance—obtained, in its universe, through hot tubs and Fantasy Suites and candle-lit Darwinian struggle—as something that is available only to the hot and the straight and the young.
Those are all reasons to mock The Bachelor (and, to an only slightly lesser extent, its sister show, The Bachelorette, which is currently at the start of its 12th season). The reason to resent The Bachelor, though—to treat viewership of the franchise not just as a guilty pleasure, but as participation in something that might be more actively pernicious—is the show’s terrible history with race. The franchise, in its 21 seasons, has never featured a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color. And the contestants of color who have participated in the show over the years, vying for a rose from the season’s appointed Hot Person, have generally not made it very far in the competition. “I’ve heard appalling things about race all the time,” Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, a former producer for The Bachelor, told Variety of her behind-the-scenes experiences of the show. It was an admission that, given the show’s weekly output, would come as a surprise to precisely nobody.