Yesterday headlines blared that ABC's The Bachelor had selected its first "non-white" bachelor in Juan Pablo Galavis. But Juan Pablo, sexy though he may be, is an easy way for the franchise to address one of its most persistent problems.
Following Monday night's announcement, The Hollywood Reporter's Kimberly Nordyke wrote that ABC confirmed that Galavis "will become the first non-Caucasian Bachelor or Bachelorette in franchise history." Her story was headlined that ABC named its first "non-white" Bachelor. That's big news for The Bachelor franchise, especially considering last year it endured a very public discrimination lawsuit led by two African-American men. (Though, it was ultimately dismissed.) Galavis, single father and former pro-soccer player, is Venezuelan, but was born in New York. He speaks with a heavy accent.
The thing is, for the first "non-Caucasian" Galavis looks pretty much like many Bachelors before him. Dana Schuster in the New York Post wrote that Galavis "looks so white he could easily slip into a Mitt Romney family photo." Tweeting The Hollywood Reporter's link, Rachel Dodes Wortman of The Wall Street Journal wrote "he looks pretty white to me, though." Author Jennifer Weiner, who has made a habit of live tweeting The Bachelor and Bachelorette, said that he "fits the mold." She told us: "They didn’t go outside the books of what that guy looks like. It's not like the next bachelor looks like Barack Obama or has dreadlocks or has darker skin even."
Galavis is a simple solution for ABC to get some good press when it comes to The Bachelor and diversity. The fact that Galavis happens to be Latino is "a bonus for them," Kristen Baldwin, who writes Bachelor and Bachelorette recaps for Entertainment Weekly, told us in a phone conversation yesterday. As Baldwin, who is also EW's Executive Editor for Integrated Content, pointed out, following the revelation of the discrimination suit, ABC handed the Bachelor mantel to former Kansas State University football player Sean Lowe. "They cast the whitest man on the planet after the lawsuit and the show did fine," Baldwin explained. "There was no sort of backlash. I think they were not feeling the pressure to cast a minority in this role. They were really just going to cast whoever the fan favorite was."
And that fan favorite happened to be Galavis, who emerged unscathed even though he was eliminated on the just-concluded Bachelorette season. "He got the good-guy edit," Weiner told us. The question is now, Weiner said, what the rest of the cast looks like. "I’m going to be very interested to see what kind of women show up for him, what kind of women get cast to vie for his love," she said. "Maybe we’ll get some more diversity too and that would be great."
The lack of diversity among the shows contestants is a big part of the problem, Tampa Bay Times TV critic Eric Deggans wrote yesterday. "The show’s recent formula of choosing Bachelors and Bachelorettes – people who get to pick a potential mate from more than two dozen hopefuls of the opposite sex – from those who have already been on one of the shows seems to only reinforce its diversity issues," he wrote. "If black or Asian contestants have a tough time making headway as contestants, they have even fewer chances of ascending to the show’s 'power' positions.
Though, there are those who say that the importance of the Galavis choice shouldn't be understated. Speaking to The Wrap's Jethro Nededog, Lee Hernandez, who has served as the entertainment editor of the Huffington Post's Latino Voices, said "it's about time," adding that "Latinos come in all shapes, sizes and colors."
The question then becomes how he's portrayed. Deggans worried that ABC will turn him into a stereotypical "Latin lover." Baldwin said she would worry about that, though the show, being what it is, will undoubtedly "do some tasteless stuff. Whether or not it will relate to him being Latino we’ll see."
"I’m really going to be interested to see if this is any different than a typical Bachelor season, but even if its not I guess that's progress too," Weiner said.