ABC’s “THE BACHELOR” FRANCHISE SUED FOR RACIAL DISCRIMINATION
Nashville residents Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, an All-American football player and an aspiring National Football League player, respectively, filed a lawsuit against the popular ABC reality television programs “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” for intentional exclusion of persons of color over the course of 23 seasons. The men, both of whom are African-American, are requesting class action status for the case.
“I only wanted a fair shot at the part. Looking back at how I was treated at the casting call last year, it was clear that that wasn’t possible—I never even had a chance,” Mr. Claybrooks told reporters at a press conference held just one block from Hotel Indigo, where aspiring Bachelors had gathered for a Nashville casting call last year.
“I knew at the time that there had never been a non-white Bachelor before, but I thought that a minority candidate with my qualifications would at least be considered,” added Mr. Johnson. “In reality, it seems they never seriously looked at non-white candidates.”
Never, over 10 years and a combined total of 23 seasons of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” has either show featured a single person of color—whether African American, Latino, Asian, or any other minority race or ethnicity—in the central role of the “Bachelor” or “Bachelorette.” In 16 seasons of “The Bachelor” and seven seasons of “The Bachelorette,” every person featured in the lead role on either show has been white.
The plaintiffs are suing American Broadcast Companies, Inc., Warner Horizon Television, Inc., Next Entertainment, Inc., NZK Productions, Inc., and Michael Fleiss, the executive producer of the franchise, on behalf of all other persons of color who have applied for the role of the Bachelor or Bachelorette but been denied equal opportunity for selection on the basis of race. The case alleges that the Defendants violated both federal and California laws intended to guarantee equal opportunity in business, commerce, and media regardless of one’s skin color.
“With this case we expect to bring about change in one of America’s leading reality TV shows by achieving fair competition and inclusion going forward,“ said co-counsel Cyrus Mehri of the DC-based firm Mehri & Skalet, PLLC. “The Bachelor series is an example of purposeful segregation in the media that perpetuates stereotypes, and robs persons of color of opportunities in the entertainment industry.”
Other lawyers representing the plaintiffs are Nashville-based George Barrett of Barrett Johnston, LLC, and Byron Perkins of Perkins-Law, LLC, based in Birmingham, Alabama.
The plaintiffs are seeking an injunction requiring the Defendants to adopt appropriate policies with regard to choosing a Bachelor or Bachelorette, and requiring Defendants to consider at least one person of color as a finalist for the role each season, in addition to nominal and punitive damages.
In recent years, the absence of Bachelors and Bachelorettes of color on the two shows has been well-documented in the media and is the subject of frequent commentary—including in the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Beast, the Huffington Post and The Grio. Yet, creator Michael Fleiss (one of the named Defendants) has responded to the outcry with callous disregard, telling Entertainment Weekly, “We always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.”
Industry insiders further contradict Fleiss’s statements, telling the Los Angeles Times, “producers had little interest in pursuing a more diverse cast, and were unwilling to vary the chemistry of a hugely popular series and wary of a potential controversy stemming from an interracial romance.”
The next season of “The Bachelorette” is scheduled to start on May 14, 2012. Emily Maynard, the Bachelorette selected for the show’s upcoming eighth season, is white.
The entire complaint can be read online at http://www.findjustice.com/cases/civil-rights/racial-equality/current-cases/the-bachelor.