Will it matter that ABC has cast its first Hispanic Bachelor in Miami's Juan Pablo Galavis?
Some will say there’s no pleasing those of us who like to carp about the obvious, soul-crushing drawbacks of ABC’s The Bachelor franchise. And they may have a point.
But news that the show has picked its first non-white Bachelor in 18 cycles -- New York-born, Venezuela-raised Juan Pablo Galavis – doesn’t necessarily erase the show’s biggest problems including people of color in its gauzy reality TV fantasy.
The Bachelor franchise has always had an easier time including Hispanic contestants. Mary Delgado, a native of Cuba living in Tampa, was selected by Bachelor Byron Velvick in 2004 and Roberto Martinez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, won Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky’s heart in 2010. Both couples have since broken up.
Curiously, both Delgado and Martinez, who played for University of Tampa's baseball team, have ties to the Tampa Bay area. And Galavis, a professional soccer player who became a music and nightclub promoter, lives in Miami with his daughter.
It probably doesn't hurt that Galavis, who has a short stint as a Spanish-language sports TV commentator on his resume and speaks English with an accent, nevertheless has a look which fits right in with the show's long line of blue-eyed, scruffy-faced Caucasian hunks.
Reportedly, ABC tried to get Martinez to serve as its Bachelor last year, but apple-cheeked, former Kansas City State football player Sean Lowe got the nod instead.
Efforts by African American dentist-turned model Misee Harris to become the show's first black Bachelorette so far haven't borne fruit. And an unsuccessful lawsuit by two black men who say they were unfairly excluded from the show in 2011 auditions barely broke the series’ stride.
The show’s recent formula of choosing Bachelors and Bachelorettes – people who get to pick a potential mate from more than two dozen hopefuls of the opposite sex – from those who have already been on one of the shows seems to only reinforce its diversity issues. If black or Asian contestants have a tough time making headway as contestants, they have even fewer chances of ascending to the show’s “power” positions.
What seems obvious is that taboos against interracial couples haven’t hampered the Hispanic contestants featured on the show. While pairings across race can be controversial when they involve African Americans and white people, that hasn’t affected The Bachelor franchise and its Hispanic contestants, so it makes sense they might try diversifying the big job in this way.
But whether or not this is truly a groundbreaking move will depend on what happens next.
Will Galavis have a more diverse field of bachelorettes to choose from, even though that might give the show’s mostly-white audience fewer women to identify with? Will women of color last longer on the show because a non-white male is doing the picking? If it becomes clear that Galavis prefers a woman who shares his cultural heritage, will white audiences tune out?
My fear is that ABC will present Galavis as a typical vision of the Latin lover, wooing and being wooed by a succession of white women. But there’s an opportunity here to make The Bachelor more inclusive than it has ever been.
And despite its status as a harmful embodiment of America’s princess fantasy, it’s long past time people of every color had access to the dream factory.