How ‘The Bachelor’ Franchise Continues To Fail Asian Americans

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The Bachelor

In 'The Bachelor' franchise, the representation of people of color and minorities has always been a major issue.

Diversity was so lacking in their early seasons that in 2012 there was a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit brought against the franchise for under-representing minorities.

The lawsuit was later dismissed by a judge who cited that it was the show’s First Amendment right to cast whomever they wanted but, for many who wanted to see representation in the show, the issue remained.

That following year, in 2013, there was a slight spike in minority representation with one Asian American woman, Catherine Giudici, winning Sean Lowes's season of "The Bachelor."

However, even when the franchise started to include more representation of Asian American, Latino, and Black women, many pointed out that the show only flirted with diversity, often casting people who were half-white or those who still demonstrated Eurocentric beauty standards.

In 2016, Salon criticized the show for keeping their cast "as white-passing as possible until the appropriate moment for stereotypes emerges."

And even as the show makes occasional attempts to be more diverse, there is one racial group who are often left behind.

Asian American representation in "The Bachelor" franchise is severely lacking.

Mariko Tokioka, the founder of EastMeetEast, (EME hive) — a dating app for Asian singles to meet one another — says the lack of Asian representation in leading roles in "The Bachelor" franchise reinforces harmful stereotypes about Asian men and women by telling audiences that Asian Americans aren’t wanted like these other races.

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Tokioka is a Japanese American woman who has made a career out of matching Asian singles on unique cultural criteria. Forbes has even named Tokioka on their Japanese list of the Most Influential Women in Business and listed her in Japan’s 55 Women in Global Leadership.

According to Tokioka, "The Bachelor" franchise is letting Asians down by under-representing them.

"We’ve already seen nearly every culture take the lead role, but Asians have still been absent," she tells us.

"What does this say to the single Asian woman or man who is looking for love? When we see this over and over again in Hollywood or on the Bachelor franchise, it becomes quite damaging to our psyche. We actually start to believe that we aren’t good enough, which goes on to affect so many other areas of our lives — relationships, career, etc."

From Tokioka's perspective, as an Asian American woman, an entrepreneur and founder of the world’s largest Asian dating site, the Asian contestants are mere tokens on this show.

That was the case with Sydney Lotuaco, one of two Asian American women on Colton Underwood's season of "The Bachelor," who told Us Weekly that it was hard representing all Asian women after her fellow Asian contestant, Revian Chang, was sent home.

Sydney Lotuaco says the lack of diversity on 'The Bachelor' impacts how Asian viewers see themselves. 

“You want to be able to relate to the people that you’re working with and all those things. And even for, like, a young girl or boy watching the show, they can see, ‘Oh, that person looks like me and they’re falling in love. And that means I can have that too,’" she says.

"If you’re not seeing that then there’s that discrepancy and it’s really difficult when you think of it in that regard. There’s always more that can be done."

"ABC will tell us that there are Asian Americans on the show," Tokioka says but she argues that the particular way in which Asians are portrayed is harmful.

"They also rarely project an accurate reflection of the successful and eligible Asian American bachelors and bachelorettes that I know. If you pay attention to the show, as I do, you’ll see how most of the Asian contestants are nerdy or geeky. Most of the women are oversexualized. This is the image that Hollywood is projecting to everyone else," she tells us.

According to Tokioka, the reason  we see more Asian female contestants than men is because stereotypes play a big role in the way "The Bachelor" franchise casts Asian Americans on their show.

'The Bachelor' feeds into dangerous stereotypes about Asian American women.

Asian women are often over-sexualized and fetishized in the media meanwhile Asian men are portrayed as less desirable, making them unlikely candidates for "The Bachelor."

"According to a survey by the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, over 90% of respondents said that the ethnic representation is inadequate on the screen and behind the scenes," Tokioka says.

"Asian Americans are a curious race to many non-Asians. I think this is partially behind why we see fewer Asian American male contestants and more Asian American female contestants."

Therefore these Hollywood stereotypes that have been created impact the way "The Bachelor's" predominately white audience views Asians, and further contribute to the stereotypes. 

"Before founding the dating app, EME, I would frequently receive sexualized comments from men on different dating apps," says Tokioka.

Minimal Asian representation on popular dating shows, like "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," impacts Asian Americans in their own dating lives as according to Tokioka, who argues that representation is incredibly powerful in influencing our state of mind.

The exclusion of Asian American men from 'The Bachelor' also plays out in the real dating world. 

The lack of Asian men has been a major problem in "The Bachelor" franchise as there have been even fewer Asian men and this can also be seen in dating apps as Asian men are often excluded or receive the fewest numbers of messages on dating apps.

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According to Tokioka, the lack of Asian Bachelors adds to the problem of deeming Asian men as less desirable than other groups.

"There are many statistics that show Asian men receive the fewest number of messages on dating apps. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to launch a dating app exclusively for Asian Americans. I knew we saw ourselves differently. Asian American men are viewed as less than their male counterparts of other ethnicities on dating apps and sometimes even viewed as feminine."

The lack of Asian men on "The Bachelorette" and the fact there's never been an Asian male Bachelor only exacerbates these stereotypes.

"It all goes back to representation and being able to 'see' yourself on TV, in the movies, etc. If Asian men are never able to see themselves as being leading men on 'The Bachelor,' why would they ever feel that they were wanted in real life?" Takioka asks.

"And if non-Asian women don’t see strong, articulate, attractive, and successful Asian men on the Bachelor, why would they ever want to date or vie for an Asian man in real life?"

Asian Americans have been relentless in their efforts to call out 'The Bachelor.'

"The lack of representation fuels many of us in the community to speak up and make sure that we are heard, and try to bring change to our culture," says Takioka, explaining that is was part of the inspiration behind EME.

"To date, we’ve matched over 150,000 happy couples on our platform and cultivated a welcoming Livestreaming community where we can all get together virtually to have fun and talk about important issues within our community. The Asian American representation on the Bachelor franchise is always a hot topic on our Livestreaming conversations during the show."

According to Takioka's internal insights,  the Asian American community feels disrespected about not being represented on the show. 

"One Asian male user actually created his own Asian-themed Bachelor/Bachelorette show on our Livestreaming platform! He calls it the EME Bachelor Show."

The EME Bachelor Show doesn't have any setup or fake contestants and lets its contestants feel safe expressing who they truly are. 

With the more conversation around about the lack of Asian American representation then, hopefully, more change will happen in "The Bachelor" franchise. Alerting the show's creators of the clear misrepresentation of Asians on the show may even lead more Asian American men and women to be the next Bachelor or Bachelorette. 

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Megan Hatch is a writer at YourTango who covers news & entertainment, love & relationships, and internet culture. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.