The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are largely Caucasian-centric. Two gentlemen filed a lawsuit against the creators, ABC, and Warner Horizon Television. Will they win the lawsuit?
Earlier this year, two gentlemen, Christopher Johnson and Nathaniel Claybrooks, of Tennessee, filed a lawsuit against the creators of The Bachelor, specifically, ABC and Warner Horizon Television. Apparently, both men auditioned for the role of the Bachelor in August 2011 at the casting call in Nashville, TN. They claim that at the interviews they were quickly shuffled through and never given a fair chance to become cast in the show. And thus, their civil rights were violated, and that this discrimination should be remedied by including minority Bachelors and Bachelorettes in upcoming shows, and, oh yeah, they also want money. Admittedly, I was skeptical when I first read about this claim.
On Thursday, ABC and Warner Horizon filed a response to the lawsuit in which they claim that the choice of Bachelor and Bachelorette ethnicity is purely a creative decision by the network and it is protected by the First Amendment. Now, in case you didn’t already know, the First Amendment is the big one. It assures us that the government cannot interfere with how each of us (even production companies) express ourselves, commonly referred to as Freedom of Speech. More commonly, people think this guarantees no one can punish us for anything we say. But if you ever had to have your mouth washed out with soap, you know that the “freedom of speech” argument does not work on mom. Realistically it is a law that protects us from our government and not from each other.
And this is good news for ABC and Warner Horizon, because the one way the government can step in and tell someone they can’t say (or express) anything they want is when violation of civil rights are in play, racial discrimination particularly. Here the plaintiffs, who are both Black, allege that the history of having only Caucasian competitors shows a history of discrimination and that the discrimination hurt them.
As I looked into this, I have to admit it was interesting, though not surprising, that the shows have never cast a person of color, be it Black, Asian, Latino, you name it, in the central role of Bachelor or Bachelorette. And when I happen to catch an episode, really the only color variation I see is in the ladies’ hair. So the question has to be asked, “Is this history of casting choice discrimination?” Well, in a court of law, probably not. But according to our eyes, I would say it is a form of discrimination.
To be honest, I think it sucks that no minority has been featured in the main role. Might there be an interest? I would like to think we have advanced far enough in society that the mainstream does not see color. But we all know that is not true. When it comes to television networks, they are generally fighting for the 20’s-40’s Caucasian demographic. Why? Because that is the largest group eyeballs with the largest amount of spending power. That spending power is desired by advertisers and is what drives ad revenues. So yes, ABC and Warner Horizon, do discriminate. They discriminate for eyeballs and in turn, dollars.
I doubt the Plaintiffs will be able to win this case. The Producers have wide breadth in their “creative choices” (i.e. casting), and that is actually a good thing for all of us that the First Amendment allows us that, even if it’s really motivated by the desire for larger viewership. Philosophically I can’t say I’m happy about the fact that the Bachelor and Bachelorette are so Caucasian-centric, but the best way to fix that is to stop watching. That might not happen soon, but I have a hope we will get there. And until then Mr. Johnson and Mr. Claybrooks, you deserve credit for bringing this issue to the forefront, but are you sure it was your ethnicity that didn’t get you past the interviews? I tell you what. If you win money in this case and you really want to change things, I challenge you to put the money into producing a more ethnically sensitive alternative.
Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York and Illinois. He is a partner at Gonzalez & Mosier Law PLLC. His practice specializes in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property rights. In his spare time he enjoys watching television and films, and writing about it. Follow him on Twitter @showbizattorney, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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