Love, Inc

The intersections of emotion and capitalism.

A New "Not White" Bachelor

The long running Bachelor has always had only white contestants.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, ABC's long-running reality show the "Bachelor" is finally featuring a non-white bachelor after eighteen seasons. Although there have been a few non-white men and women to appear as contestants on the shows, no bachelor or bachelorette has been anything but lily white. 

Perhaps the new Bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, is a response to a lawsuit brought by 

"A group of Nashville residents led by Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson brought a class-action lawsuit last year, alleging that the roles of the Bachelor and Bachelorette on the hit reality series have failed to feature non-white cast members and that civil rights law "plainly prohibits whites from refusing to contract with African Americans because of their race."

Of course Mr. Galavis, a former soccer player from Venezuela who now lives in Miami, is creating quite a stir in the blogosphere both because he is the first Latino Bachelor and because he is... well... white.  

Why have all the Bachelors and Bachelorettes been white? The answer lies in the nature of ideal romance in the United States. Because the shows are premised on a Disney-like narrative of finding one's true love, proposing, and ending the story at the alter with a big white wedding, they require characters who fit our notions of the "perfect" love story and the "perfect" wedding and the wedding has always been and remains white- at least in its most idealized form.

Think about the stories we tell our children- nearly every single Disney film, with the exception of  "The Frog Princess,"  shows white characters getting married and non-white characters, like Mulan or Pocahontas, not exactly getting married. Think about the "Twilight" saga. It is Edward and Bella's whiteness that brings them to the altar. The non-white werewolves imprint rather than throw the perfect wedding to seal their bonds. And in none of these tales does the perfect wedding end in a mixed race pairing (although we do have mixed species with "The Little Mermaid"). Or think about the Royal Wedding of Kate and William. Could it have been any more ideal or any whiter?  

Then think about the statistics. The average white wedding costs $30,000. That's about what the average Black family of four makes in a year. The vast majority of white Americans will get married and have a wedding. A minority of Black Americans will.

So when ABC makes a decision to only have white Bachelors and Bachelorettes and only have white contestants win their love, they are merely reflecting the ideal romance that ends in the ideal white wedding that is always already white. Of course ABC could shake things up and give us a Bachelor or Bachelorette who isn't white, but the sad truth is that even if ABC did give us a non-white romance, it would be the exception to how our culture represents "perfect love," not the rule. 

Laurie Essig, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Middlebury College.

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