On Monday night, current Bachelor contestant Rachel Lindsay was named as The Bachelorette. The Dallas lawyer appeared on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live for the announcement, which made Rachel Lindsay the first black Bachelorette in the history of the Bachelor franchise. It's wonderful that the franchise selected a smart, charming, and diverse woman for the role, not only because she is totally deserving, but because it means that all the jokes about the lack of diversity on The Bachelor franchise can finally be retired. There have been so many of them and, soon, they may not ring true anymore.
For years, pop culture has been quick to point out The Bachelor franchise's lack of diversity and it seems to have become a running joke of sorts. The 2012 Bachelor parody web series Burning Love followed fictional white firefighter Mark Orlando (played by Ken Marino) looking for love on a dating show and the first two minutes of the entire series contain the following exchange:
Host: We have put together a great group of girls.
Mark: That's exciting!
Host: And I think--
Mark: That one is African American?
Host: No. I think one of them is going to be perfect for you.
Ouch. NBC's Saturday Night Live does its own annual Bachelor parody based on the current Bachelor season and each of those sketches contains jokes about the ABC show's lack of diversity.
In 2015, the SNL parody of Chris Soules' season, titled "Farm Hunk," referenced another running joke and known occurrence among fans: that diverse contestants seem to only last a few episodes into a Bachelor season and are not often seen as serious contenders. In the sketch, cast member Leslie Jones plays a contestant who tells Farmer Ryan (played by Blake Shelton), "I know I'm going home tonight. It's week two and that's when I go. I get that."
And even as Internet parodies envisioned a person of color as the lead, there were still jokes about lack of diversity in the Bachelor franchise. Last year, a Funny or Die parody called "Millennial Bachelorette" featured Keke Palmer as the titular lead, but in the video, she looks at her all-white contestant pool and wonders aloud, "Where are all the black guys?"
Those jokes and parodies do seem to reflect the stats about diversity on The Bachelor. In 2016, Fusion reported that there had never been a black contestant on either The Bachelor or The Bachelorette that had lasted for longer than five weeks and 59 percent of black contestants are no longer on the shows after two weeks. That has changed since, as fans know from this week, Rachel reached the Hometown Date stage of Nick's season, but her Bachelorette announcement has made it clear that she does not end the season as his fiance.
Before Rachel, these jokes and the franchise's need for diversity caused contestants of color became the joke themselves, because fans rarely saw them as serious contenders to win any of The Bachelor franchise shows — with the exception of Bachelorette contestant and former Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis, who is Venezuelan American. But the need for on-screen diversity is no laughing matter at all, especially with Hollywood whitewashing and #OscarsSoWhite becoming major issues in recent years.
At the Television Critics Association press tour last year, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey told reporters, according to People: “I think one of the biggest changes [to The Bachelor] that we need to do is we need to increase the pool of diverse candidates in the beginning because part of what ends up happening as we go along is that there just aren’t as many candidates to ultimately end up in the role of the next Bachelor or Bachelorette, so that is something we really want to put some effort and energy towards.”
The jokes about the lack of people of color on The Bachelor were funny for a bit, but like most jokes that are repeated over and over, they reach a point where it's no longer worth a laugh and they expose a flaw that needs to addressed. And finally, The Bachelor franchise is doing just that. I think the charming and intelligent Rachel is totally deserving of the honor — no matter what color of her skin is — but I'm also hoping that her selection changes the conversation.
From now on, I hope that people of color are more seriously considered as contenders by the audience and the lead, and that all these jokes about diversity on The Bachelor will become outdated.