Musings on a black Bachelorette, race, media and my Community Conversation at the Poynter Institute Thursday
Misee Harris is either the most optimistic person in the world, or she’s got more than one goal in her sights.
That’s because the Tennessee-based dentist-turned model/actress has taken on a hopeless task; trying to become the first non-white women featured on ABC’s reality-romance series, The Bachelorette.
When the Canadian radio show “Q” asked me about her chances in an interview airing today, I told host Jian Ghomeshi that Harris has no chance. First, because ABC always chooses its Bachelorette from among the most popular women on its mothership reality romance show, The Bachelor (this year, that means Desiree Hartsock, a contestant in the most recent Bachelor cycle rejected by Sean Lowe after their hometown date, was revealed as the new Bachelorette Monday night).
Her quest is also doomed because ABC has never featured a non-white person in the “power position,” picking a fiancée from a crowd of hopefuls on either the Bachelor or the Bachelorette. Indeed, Harris said she turned down the chance to join the show’s contestants herself because she didn’t want to be a token black female (this season, she said, Lowe rejected all the show’s black contestants by the fifth episode; only one had gotten a face-to-face date.)
Regular readers of this blog know this stuff is covered extensively in my new book Race-Baiter, which features an extensive breakdown on how The Bachelor came to be and why it operates as a princess fantasy centered on white contestants. As one of ABC’s most important shows – up in ratings by 3 percent thi cycle – The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise is doing well with its target audience of young women regardless of its lack of diversity, so the network likely won’t risk featuring a Bachelor or Bachelorette of color until ratings dip and they need attention.
This is the kind of discussion which can spark up when you talk about race, media and society; Ghomeshi and I talked about how both white and black people might feel about seeing interracial relationships on TV and how the world of advertising sometimes seems more accepting of such couples than network TV.
On Thursday at 7 p.m., I’ll appear at the Poynter Institute with Reginald Roundtree, longtime anchor for local CBS affiliate WTSP-Ch. 10 and the area’s top African American TV journalist. We’ll probably spend a lot of time talking about journalism and news issues, including coverage of the Trayvon Martin case and the question of whether covering race issues just makes racial discord worse.
Click here to buy tickets for the event.
But I wouldn’t be surprised if talk also turns to The Bachelor and “hicksploitation” reality TV shows, interracial couples on television and maybe Harris herself.
One thing I’ve learned, after a few months of talking about the book’s themes on TV, radio and in public settings across the country, is that race, media and social issues can touch us in ways we often don’t expect.
Here's my interview on Q, where I dash Harris' dreams after she'd already left the show.
Look below for a podcast featuring a long talk on the issues in Race-Baiter for the website, NewBooksInJournalism.com