As the Black Lives Matter movement sweeps the nation, it has highlighted shortcomings in industries across the spectrum — especially in Hollywood.
On Monday morning, the Bachelor made headlines, but it wasn't for the premiere of the Bachelor: The Greatest Seasons — Ever!. Instead, it was because fed up fans launched an anti-racism campaign calling on ABC and Warner Bros. to diversify the franchise. In 18 years, there have been 40 season leads and only one of them has been black.
"This is unacceptable. As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color ("BIPOC") relationships, families, and storylines," a Change.org petition reads, which has garnered over 57,000 signatures and counting. "The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country — both in front of and behind the camera."
Yahoo Entertainment spoke with Bachelor Diversity campaign members Tomiko Adkins and Daniela González on Tuesday about the petition that's gaining momentum. They came together and launched the petition with other viewers after meeting in a Facebook group. Both women are fans of the Bachelor-verse and joined as Hispanic/Latinx strategy consultants to bring perspectives from the BIPOC community.
"I've been a viewer for years now, and just as a member of the BIPOC community watching it, I just kept asking myself: How do I continue watching this show?" Adkins said, explaining why she got involved. "I feel like they're just perpetuating this racism of not having enough people of color, especially black faces there. It's been a longstanding joke within the Bachelor community that 'Bachelor's so white,' but it's just not funny. Now's the time where we have to address it and make changes."
González, who also works as a social media account manager for the campaign, became a fan of the show while watching Hannah Brown's season of the Bachelorette last year.
"Even in that short time, I've noticed if there are folks of color on the show, it doesn't seem to me they get as much screen time. Or we don't get as much of a background story," she said.
Among the action items the petition calls for is that a black bachelor be cast for Season 25, that at least 35% of contestants each season hereafter are BIPOC who get equitable screen time and to equally compensate and hire more BIPOC employees in all parts of production, casting and filming.
"If you look at the show as a whole after 40 seasons and realize there's only one black lead — that's jarring," González continued. "I think that it's clear that something needs to change."
Attorney Rachel Lindsay was the franchise's first black lead on the 2017 season of the Bachelorette. The show hasn't had a black Bachelor or Bachelorette since. In a blog post on Monday, Lindsay said she agreed to do the show because she knew the opportunity was "bigger than me," and expressed disappointment over the little progress made since.
"I knew that I wanted to be a trailblazer in this franchise to diversify the lead role, to diversify the contestants trying out and casted for the show, and to diversify the audience watching this show," Lindsay wrote. "Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves."
Lindsay also shared the Bachelor Diversity group’s anti-racism petition on social media. Adkins and González said they'd be thrilled to work alongside Lindsay, but emphasized this isn't just her fight and called on fans to step up.
"I'm sure she's tired," González said. "The support should be on everyone else to educate themselves and fight for this."
Similar to Lindsay's call for the franchise to "make a statement acknowledging their systemic racism," González and Adkins say they hope for ABC — which airs the show — and its producer, Warner Bros., to respond to the petition.
"I think leadership comes from the top down," González emphasized.
Yahoo Entertainment reached out to Warner Bros. for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
Bachelor and Bachelorette alums like Kaitlyn Bristowe, Ashley Spivey, Tyler Cameron and Bibiana Julian have all shown support for the campaign on social media. Nick Viall, who was a contestant on the Bachelorette twice and was the bachelor when Lindsay competed, signed and shared the petition.
Signed... whatever. I don’t have the energy to focus on my dyslexia right now. https://t.co/GM7cQGfSFp— Nick Viall (@viallnicholas28) June 8, 2020
Thank you, @bachdiversity. Diversifying the cast diversifies the audience, which creates a community with open doors — one that invites viewers of all backgrounds, ethnicities, & ages to experience @BachelorABC, and to even apply themselves. #BIPOCBachelor https://t.co/Ul2F5WMbgV— Nicole Lopez-Alvar (@nicolelovar) June 8, 2020
However, there are some key Bachelor players, aside from ABC and Warner Bros, who have been noticeably quiet: executive producer, Mike Fleiss, and host, Chris Harrison.
González and Adkins say the petition targets "decision making producers" and they are unclear what — if any — control Harrison has behind-the-scenes. However, they said it would be "major" if he endorsed it.
"I feel that I can't speak for him, but his support would mean a lot and we would definitely appreciate it," González said.
Adkins added that they've received messages from other former cast members "that have brought up issues they've encountered or experienced," but don't want to speak on behalf of those people. She revealed the response from Bachelor Nation has been amazing.
"We've gotten so many messages from fans thanking us for speaking up about this as it's something that has bothered them for a long time," Adkins noted. "Just that in itself, knowing that we're trying to shed light on this issue and that we've reached so many people, is a success."
Adkins and González want people to understand representation on television matters.
"We came together in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter community after what's been going on with our country," Adkins said. "Try to reach out to people. Try to create change. You can do it from sitting in your living room, with your phone, on your couch. This is proof. Even if you can't go out and protest, or you can't go out because you're immunocompromised, you can still do something at home and speak up."
"I think this is definitely a time to reexamine each space that we inhabit," González added. "For me, one of these spaces is the Bachelor. It's something I like. It's time to reexamine the shows you watch, brands you consume from. These are little things, but they do add up over time and we truly believe representation matters."
Adkins addressed some criticism they've seen online that the campaign is "being insensitive to what's going on right now in the country" by "petitioning for a show when there's so many bigger issues going on.”
"One of our messages is that representation matters and part of the reason that there is this divide is because people are not familiar with each other," she emphasized. "A way for us to help that is to see more representation in media in all forms. That's part of the problem and that's how we can start fixing it."
Adkins clarified this petition is not a boycott.
"We are in no way trying to boycott [the show] or put people out of jobs," she added. "We're just a group of fans that love the show and want to see it diversify and become the best version of itself."
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