So, I’m here to talk about ABC’s The Bachelor. Yes, yes, I know.
This show is a guilty pleasure I don’t really share with many people only because I haven’t met many other fans yet. I’m sooooo not above watching reality shows no matter how cheesy. I mean, my Hulu top show list includes Celebrity Wife Swap, Project Runway, and Celebrity Apprentice while my Netflix queue shows a recent marathon of Say Yes to the Dress, Cake Boss and My Fair Wedding with David Tutera. (What is it about wedding preparation that fascinates and gets me to ask rhetorical questions so often?)
Full Disclosure: I’ve also worked on set for the first season of an unscripted web series called K-Town last summer, the experience of which intensified my appreciation for reality shows and its inner workings ever since.
Don’t get me wrong, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor Pad all have their smorgasbord of problems. I’m writing this post very consciously of my word choices as I’m trying not to justify the shows’ sexism — stirring drama amongst female contestants and putting one man on a pedestal — and racism — the lack of diversity casting.
Allow me to explain why it seems different this time around.
I became a pretty big fan of the franchise ever since I first started watching Ben Flajnik’s Season in 2012. I quite like Sean Lowe as this year’s Bachelor because he plays his role much better than Ben, whose floppy hair barely concealed how much he struggled to be in ease with the whole process. Aside from the obvious bod, Sean’s blond eyebrows, easy Texan charm and constant skin blush was in total agreement with me.
This season was different for more than just finding the right heartthrob to seize the imaginations of middle class American women and girls. As almost everyone else has noticed, Sean’s Season had a more diverse cast of women for Sean to pick from — more likely due to The Bachelor’s PR crisis for not putting more contestants of color into the show. Not to give the producers credit or anything, as I believe they should have done this years ago.
One of these women of color included Catherine Guidici, my favorite on the show.
Catherine, who is of Filipino and Italian descent, was not someone I instantly noticed but she warmed up to me with her adorable personality, baby face and sweet smile as the show revealed more of her interactions with Sean. Plus, I felt immediate solidarity with her since I too am Asian American.
I was constantly surprised how far she was getting each week as The Bachelor and Bachelorette have a notorious reputation for not casting contestants of color. And if there were any, they were often ousted very early in the season and almost all of them never make it past the first rose ceremony.
While there appeared to be a record number of black women casted for this season (four of them, if I remember), Sean still sent them home fairly early. The first black woman, if I did my research correctly, to get a one-on-one date on The Bachelor ever was also the first woman Sean rejected to give a rose to in such a situation. He also dropped Selma, an Iraqi and Lebanese contestant, quite unceremoniously after snatching her forbidden kiss.
So I did not see Catherine’s candidacy with much hope as it was more than likely that she would be kicked off the next week even as she inched further and further towards the proposal. This anxiety kept me watching and I did genuinely drop my jaw in shock when Catherine kept going just as major fan favorites like Lesley and Desiree (who has been recently announced as the new Bachelorette) were sent home. Even during the live season finale that aired on Monday, March 11, as the host Chris Harrison was getting opinions from audience members and former contestants, almost everyone except for one seemed to think runner-up Lindsey would be the one to get Sean’s heart.
I suspect it was simply easier for a nearly all white, female audience to see another white woman in Sean’s beefy, red arms.
But of course, Catherine was the last one standing and got to ride off into the sunset on an elephant.
I immediately messaged my boyfriend, who I’ve kept up-to-date on Catherine’s progress, in hoorah. “OMG! The Filipino girl won The Bachelor!”
I’m genuinely happy for Catherine, I really am.
I get it though, what if Catherine and Sean’s love doesn’t last? But that’s not the point.
What I’m saying is: Asian American women never ever get to have that fairy tale happy ending with their Prince Charming in which they get to be the princess — and not stereotypically as a geisha. Especially on a level as seemingly polished and reputable as The Bachelor. They should also be able to do all the things white women can do on The Bachelor, like falling in love on TV, saying corny lovey-dovey things and getting a ridiculously gigantic Neil Lane engagement ring in the process.
For all the troubling issues of The Bachelor franchise, women of color deserve a sappy romance too and I’m happy to see Catherine is having hers.
Watch the Season Finale on Hulu.com: