ABC's "The Bachelor" finally broke the color line and ended the stereotype of Hispanic and minority men being "ineligible" bachelors. The show announced that Venezuelan soccer player, Juan Pablo Galavis, will be the first Latino to be cast as the show’s “most eligible bachelor.”
For 11 years and 18 seasons of “The Bachelor” (and 10 years and 9 seasons of the “The Bachelorette”), ABC had projected the image of the most eligible man or woman as a non-Hispanic, non-minority male or female. That image is finally broken.
The importance of this decision has to do with perpetuating the image of white people being superior and more "eligible" than Hispanics and other minorities. . The notion that this is just a TV show and producers and consumers have choice ignores the impact that television has on the social fabric of America. TV not only reflects societal norms, it greatly influences them as well.
People of color still struggle to get leading roles on television, and shows where the cast is made up of people of color are extremely rare. Thus, stories that promote a positive image of people of color are virtually non-existent. Tyler Perry’s “The Have and Have Nots” on The Oprah Winfrey Network and Eva Longoria’s “Devious Maids” on Lifetime are the only non-reality based TV dramas where the cast is primarily made up of people of color. Kerry Washington of ABC’s “Scandal” and Don Cheadle, the lead actor on Showtime's "House of Lies" are the rare exceptions of a person of color starring in a lead role in a TV drama on a major English-speaking American TV network.
Reality TV may be “junk food TV” but as a rule, it has the most diverse programming format. It is equally offensive, informative and entertaining to any and all demographics. It has no qualms about showcasing people from all backgrounds, including culture, ethnicity and race, religion, and socioeconomic status. There seems to be a Real Housewives for everyone. The ABC courtship shows had been the exception to that rule.
ABC’s decision was not made without provocation. In 2012, Warner Horizon Television, the production company behind the show, was sued for racial discrimination. The company, which successfully defended itself against the suit by citing First Amendment rights, publicly claimed that prior to the lawsuit they consistently sought diverse candidates for both programs. Executive Producer Marc Fleiss told Salon.com “We always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward.”
That claim seems dubious at best. As civil rights attorney Cyrus Mehri noted in an NPR interview, “How do you explain zero for 23 when they claim they're looking for people of color?”