ABC's "The Bachelor" may claim to be a fairy-tale romance -- but a new lawsuit says this fairy tale isn't written for everyone.
Two Nashville men filed a class-action lawsuit against the hit reality franchise in federal court today, accusing the show of racial discrimination. The suit alleges specific discriminatory practices the men encountered during the show's audition process, and notes that in 23 seasons of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," not once has the title character been a person of color.
Nathaniel Claybrooks and Christopher Johnson, both African-American, say they auditioned to be the next Bachelor last August in Nashville. When the two men arrived at the audition, Johnson claims they were asked what they were doing there. Once they said they were there to audition, Johnson says he and Claybrooks were escorted to the side of the room and excluded from the normal audition process -- which they attributed to their race.
"Bachelor" creator Mike Fleiss has defended his franchise against similar criticisms before, including last year in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. Asked whether there will ever be a non-white Bachelor or Bachelorette, Fleiss responded, "I think [former Bachelorette] Ashley [Hebert] is 1/16th Cherokee Indian, but I cannot confirm. But that is my suspicion! We really tried, but sometimes we feel guilty of tokenism. Oh, we have to wedge African-American chicks in there! We always want to cast for ethnic diversity; it's just that for whatever reason, they don't come forward. I wish they would."
White girls who may or may not be 1/16th Cherokee aside, it's hard to argue with the evidence. Having watched more "Bachelor" and "Bachelorette" seasons than we care to admit, the lack of diversity is pretty stunning. Not only have no minorities ever been the Bachelor or Bachelorette, but the very few non-white contestants that get sprinkled in every season inevitably get sent home without a rose in the first couple of episodes. It's definitely a real issue for the franchise -- and a running joke among its fans.
"Conan" writer Deon Cole even poked fun at the disparity in a bit last week, nominating himself as the next Bachelor. Check out the very timely (and very funny) sketch right here: