The first trailer for this year’s The Bachelorette season is out, and I’ve noticed something funny about the coverage and promotion this year.
Despite the fact that Bachie is hardly known for any diverse casting or particularly positive treatment of POC, the recent trailer has given the most screen time to a Black contestant. Specifically, the only Black man on the show, and it seems the only dark-skinned person in general.
This might seem like a wonderful thing, because we obviously want more diversity on our screens, but I question the intent behind it.
There was a huge push online to get a WOC on The Bachelorette this year, yet Ten doubled down and instead gave us two white women. Now the first promos are out, and they’ve featured a POC as the main hype of the trailer – which to me, seems like a way to avoid backlash about their two white stars and placate diversity calls. So basically, tokenism.
Ab Sow, the man in question, is shown reacting to finding out that this year there are two Bachelorettes. He’s expressive, funny and handsome, so it’s easy to pretend those are the only reasons he’s getting a spotlight – but I don’t think so, because of the marketing of Niranga last year.
we love to cast one person of colour, use him for a racist joke, and then cut him. Go marry @vnsasunshine Niranga she’s into you !! #BacheloretteAU— Katie K (@katiekendalls_) October 17, 2019
Niranga was given plenty of screen time in the trailers of Angie Kent’s season last year, after he dropped some hilarious one-liners about the season’s twist where Angie Kent’s brother was incognito in the house.
As the only dark-skinned man on his season (and one of the very few brown people I’ve ever seen on Aussie TV), Niranga instantly developed an excited fan base that was looking forward to some non-white representation.
Except… that didn’t really happen.
Niranga received hardly any screen time, was mostly used as comedic relief, and then booted before we really got to know him.
Who would have imagined when Niranga uttered the words “Obviously I’m not her brother” in the promo that they would be the only words we’d ever hear him say#bacheloretteau— Nez (@fraggle73) October 17, 2019
Niranga was incredibly over-represented in the trailers compared to his time on the show, and it felt obvious to me why – to pull in culturally diverse viewers who would tune in excitedly to see one of their own on screen.
There was no effort to actually platform him or give him the lead roles that other white male contestants got – he was just there for tokenism, and it showed.
Niranga is CUTE and FUNNY and I don’t know anything else about him because apparently the #BacheloretteAU producers expect us to believe he only spoke 5 words the whole time he was in the house but he can CALL ME https://t.co/cOYDkYUvOe— its me aisling (@aislina) October 18, 2019
The problem with having the dark-skinned guy be comedic relief is that it reinforces a lot of the problems dark-skinned men have in the dating sphere. They often have to be smarter, funnier and more accomplished than white men to be taken even half as seriously, and even then they’re labelled as the class clown, reduced to humour and not taken seriously as romantic options.
Treating Niranga like this just perpetuates the idea that Asian men aren’t romantically or sexually attractive. It is hugely damaging to young men in our communities. I can’t believe we have to keep saying it: tokenism is worse than no representation at all. #BachelorInParadiseAU— Dash Jayasuriya (@gameonmoll) July 28, 2020
Later, Niranga was then on Bachelor in Paradise, and of course he was emasculated as either a class-clown or the guy who gives foot rubs. He received barely any screen time yet again, to the dismay of viewers, and then after leaving the show mentioned that a contestant had been racist towards him.
Niranga’s instagram story today is a must-read #BachelorInParadiseAU pic.twitter.com/cn9I3nAd4P— Naaman Zhou (@naamanzhou) July 29, 2020
Seeing Ab Sow marketed pretty much exactly the same as Niranga worries me – is this another case of the token funny dark-skinned contestant, who’s never actually taken seriously as a romantic prospect but used for laughs before he’s booted?
I really, really don’t want to see that happen – but also, my faith in The Bachelorette to be racially diverse and fair in its casting is pretty low. Just look at the way Areeba was treated in this year’s season of The Bachelor.
Despite all that, I’ll still be tuning in to the Bachelorette anyway. Let’s be real, this shady marketing technique works. I want to support Ab Sow, as a dark-skinned woman desperate for genuine representation of us on TV. And also, he’s hot.
Image Sources: Instagram, Twitter.