The Bachelor is currently filming its twenty-first season. While ABC’s previous entertainment president promised diversity in casting, he was fired, and the show has once again cast a white man as its lead. (ABC’s new president thinks the show needs to make changes.) However, as Clayton Spivey argues in this issue of The Confessional, the path that the show has taken for season 21 may just be the best way to more casting diversity for The Bachelor’s star.
For the next Bachelor, ABC gave us a man that may be the epitome of a white man if I’ve ever seen one. However, I think the choice of Nick Viall as the next Bachelor has opened the door to one day fulfilling the promise of a bachelor of color. There’s silver lining here.
How does a white guy with washboard abs yet again being The Bachelor provide a step in the direction toward diversity? Simply because picking Viall is a key shakeup in the typical Bachelor selection process—despite his race.
Any member of the Bachelor Nation (a term used to describe fans of the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise including the Bachelor in Paradise spin off) knows Nick’s story. He proposed twice on national television and was turned down on both occasions. While that makes for an intriguing story and a likely intense amount of fan investment, it isn’t the most important part.
The biggest reason why Viall becoming The Bachelor means we may have a non-white bachelor in our future is because he was on Bachelor in Paradise.
The Bachelor in Paradise loophole
Traditionally, the bachelor is chosen from the last Bachelorette season’s pool of rejected suitors. Nick, while he is from two older seasons of The Bachelorette, was picked up for his leading role after his stint on Bachelor in Paradise.
This move opens up the casting department to a myriad of choices for their next bachelor or bachelorette.
Consider this: The leading woman or man doesn’t have a suitor of color go far in the process. Production casts that rejected suitor on Bachelor in Paradise and further acquaints Bachelor Nation with them. Suddenly, they are a known quantity and fans would have a substantive story to get behind going into the next season.
Bachelor in Paradise casts former suitors from both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette regardless of their original placement. The show serves as a way to alter the story of the new suitor by giving them a second (or third) shot at love on national television. For the most part, they either get a storyline where one never existed or write a new and more sympathetic one.
To name a few who are now household names for Bachelor Nation:
- Carly Waddell was relatively forgettable her original Bachelor season but came to Bachelor in Paradise twice and ended with a two season arc and an engagement.
- Lace Morris, the drunk girl from her Bachelor season, went on to have a season-long romance with the formally forgettable middle-of-the-pack finisher Grant Kemp.
- Even Tanner Tolbert, a arguably boring and certainly equally forgettable alumnus, found himself a wife and a place as Bachelor Nation royalty.
Viall is the most recent, and most successful, attempt at this image rehabilitation on Bachelor in Paradise. He was last seen outing his sexual encounter with a now-engaged women on live television and then went on to controversially sleep with the next bachelorette outside of the confines of the sacred Fantasy Suite date.
Now? The last thing we remember is the sympathetic and emotional man that wants nothing more than to find love after striking out three times in painful fashion.
Why didn’t they take this approach and build up the very eligible black bachelor and fan favorite, Marquel Martin, after his stint on the island? They easily could have broken the seal at that moment—if they had invested in his story on Bachelor in Paradise season two.
Maybe ABC just wasn’t ready for either his race or weren’t willing to dig through the trash that some Bachelor in Paradise contestants are to find the few diamonds in the rough.
Regardless, they have finally gone there. The fact they have gone there means that they can finally solve their diversity problem—if they want to. If they don’t want to? Then I’ll go back to lambasting them along with the rest of Bachelor Nation.