OPINION: The Bachelorette’s white pattern finally broken

Asia Porter | Online Editor

In 10 days, Rachel Lindsay will make history on national television.

On May 22, the American Broadcast Channel will air an all new season of “The Bachelorette.” The ambitious dating show for years has brought limos full of hopeless romantics to compete for the heart of one desired suitor. The show has no shortage of romance, travel, jaw-dropping moments, and of course, roses; however, one thing the famed reality show has lacked over the years is ethnic diversity of its leading roles. A potential turning of the tides, however, begins at 9 p.m. when Rachel Lindsay embarks on her quest to find love as the new bachelorette.

Read any of the several descriptions and biographies about Lindsay and you may find some of the following details: she is a 31-year old lawyer from Dallas who finished third on Nick Viall’s season of “The Bachelor.” Oh yeah, and she’s black. When ABC announced Lindsay would be the new bachelorette in March, they simultaneously named the first black lead in franchise history.

For years, the reality show has been criticized for its recurring white leads, overwhelming numbers of white contestants, and well quite frankly, just a lot of white. In an age where Hollywood faces countless whitewashing accusations, the Bachelor franchise has fallen victim to this same negative publicity; however, now with Lindsay handing out the roses, ABC silenced its critics, but the network  was not the only one checking boxes that day.

That announcement meant a major company proudly claimed a black woman as the face of a major franchise. That announcement meant a community would now be represented by an intelligent, charismatic, and determined individual in the entertainment industry, a nice change from the stereotypes pushed onto blacks through typecasting in Hollywood. A black Rachel Lindsay as the new bachelorette meant a victory for not only ABC but also a community plagued by the whitewashing of media and entertainment.

In 2015 and 2016, the Oscars faced extreme backlash after the Academy failed to nominate a single person of color. Throughout the night #OscarsSoWhite flooded social media as people expressed their outrage. More recently, “Ghost in the Shell,” the Hollywood remake of famous anime storylines, was accused of whitewashing after casting Scarlett Johansson to play a character originally named Motoko Kusanagi, a role that many said should have gone to an Asian or Asian-American actress.

This trend has become all too common, and for a while, it seemed as though regardless of how many times viewers complained, entertainment moguls did not care and continued to cast and nominate as they pleased. ABC, however, has shown it is listening.

After the conclusion of the Monday-night premiere of “The Bachelorette,” the network broadcasts “Fresh Off the Boat,” a comedy starring an Asian immigrant family in pursuit of the American Dream, on Tuesday. Viewers can see everyday issues from the perspective of a black family on Wednesday nights when “Black-ish” airs during its 9:30 p.m. time slot but not before “Modern Family” airs, adding LGBT and Hispanic worldviews to the network.

The network’s expansion of diversity in television over the past few years is a welcoming change. When Channing Dungey was named the new president of ABC on February 17 of last year, making her the first African American president of the station, it sparked the possibility of continued change in the work coming out of Hollywood. ABC has embraced the challenge of changing the negative perception of the entertainment industry, and through packing its TV guide with widely popular shows offering so many perspectives, it has challenged other networks to do the same.

May 22 marks the start of Rachel Lindsay’s historical run as the first African American bachelorette, but it also opens a week of a refreshingly diversified program schedule that will hopefully soon be reflected throughout all of Hollywood.

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