ABC was sued for racial discrimination last week because of its alleged exclusion of African-Americans from the reality series “The Bachelor.” Given the show has been overwhelmingly white for the decade its been on the air, you have to wonder what took so long?
The TV industry has always been slow on the multicultural front, but be careful about over-generalizing the scope of the problem. “Bachelor” couldn’t seem any more out of step with the times given how interracial romance in primetime seems to be on distinct upswing right now.
True, it’s not exactly a new trend. TV has been toppling this taboo going back decades, like that 1968 kiss between Lt. Uhura and Captain Kirk, who truly did boldly go where no man had gone before.
But the frequency is such these days that interracial intimacy can’t even be seen as something edgy anymore. It barely draws a yawn even when you see it even in “Bachelor’s” own reality genre. Think of the E! network, where race-mixing is almost besides the point on trashy fare like “Ice Loves Coco” and “Khloe and Lamar.”
Even comedies have their fare share: Think of the budding romance between Troy and Britta on NBC’s Community. Or the couple on Fox’s “I Hate My Teenage Daughter” raising a biracial child. Or ABC’s “Happy Endings,” which cracks plenty of racial jokes about the married Brad and Jane.
Dramas are where interracial intimacy might have the toughest time. Because from “ER” to “Lost,” they’ve been portrayed so often over the past decade that it’s almost something of a cliche.
Maybe that’s why NBC’s “Smash” seems to be trying extra hard to push this plot device to the next level with not one but two such relationships. First, there’s crooning Caucasian Karen, whose relationship with Indian politico Dev is getting tested in a love triangle with another woman who also happens to be Indian. And then there’s Tom, the white musical producer starting to get romantic with a black dancer, Sam, who both, by the way, happen to be men. You gotta push the boundary somehow.
The TV biz has come a long way from the tired tokenism of putting people of color in any random role. And of course there’s still room for improvement. But you may want to thank “Bachelor” for being so behind the times. Were it not for this lawsuit, we might not have stopped to notice just how commonplace true diversity on TV is getting.