As representation and diversity in entertainment continues to be widely discussed, a former ‘The Bachelorette Australia’ contestant has spoken up about diverse casting on reality TV.
Carlos Fang (aka Carlos Jay F.), who appeared on Georgia Love’s season in 2016, said he believed the franchise – whether it’s ‘The Bachelor’, ‘The Bachelorette’ or ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ – has often played up to racial ‘stereotypes’ and ‘tokenism’ when casting ethnically diverse contestants.
“I knew going on a show like The Bachelorette there would always be a ‘token’ guy,” the Chinese Australian reality star told HuffPost Australia.
“It’s your advantage because you know there’s always one person cast to represent that mix but it’s likely to be a disadvantage for the final outcome of the show. Rarely is there a person of colour standing there at the end of the season.”
When Carlos appeared on ‘The Bachelorette’ four years ago, he was eliminated in the first rose ceremony. At the time some viewers expressed disappointment that “the Asian guy didn’t even make one episode”.
It was different for Indigenous Australian contestant Brooke Blurton. She made it to the top three on ‘The Bachelor’ in 2018, before choosing to leave the show on her own terms.
Carlos said he believed Australian reality TV considers cultural diversity during the casting process, but he scrutinised the subsequent ‘stereotypes’ that could be portrayed on screen.
“I think there’s consideration given to minority groups. Most shows place someone of colour so that they are showing themselves to be culturally diverse,” he said.
“But that representation needs to not play into certain stereotypes. It would be great to see a dark-skinned surfer or an Asian tradie. It doesn’t always have to be, and shouldn’t be, so cliché.”
He said the Network 10 dating shows have a “powerful platform” to “showcase Australia’s beautiful cultural diversity” in a respectful way.
“Even though the cast and crew are lovely, you still feel internally as though you are placed on a show to add diversity, and not necessarily substance to the show,” he said.
In a statement to HuffPost Australia, a Network 10 spokesperson said the TV channel is committed to diversity.
“Eligible contestants on all Network 10 shows are considered regardless of race or background. Network 10 takes its commitment to diversity seriously and we cast as broadly as possible across our entire slate,” read the statement.
The 2020 season of Australia’s ‘Bachelor In Paradise’ premieres on Wednesday, featuring contestants from previous seasons of ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘The Bachelorette’. Niranga Amarasinghe and Mary Viturino are confirmed cast members.
It’s been reported First Nations healthcare coordinator Renee Barrett will also feature in the line-up although Channel 10 could not confirm at time of publishing.
Carlos said he had been approached for the previous two seasons of ‘Bachelor In Paradise’, but chose not to pursue the opportunities due to work commitments.
“I declined both times because going on the show would have meant putting Magic Men, on hold. I was told from the get go that I would be put in towards the end as an intruder only, so I didn’t feel the experience would have allowed me a good shot at finding love.”
The sentiment of Carlos’ comments are not unique to the Australian version of the dating show franchise.
Last month the first Black ‘Bachelorette’ in the US, Rachel Lindsay, criticised the show for “creating problematic storylines” for culturally diverse contestants.
“Yes, more diverse contestants do appear on the show now, but is the lead truly interested and open to dating outside of their race?” she wrote in a blog post.
“I think that is evident by how far their ‘journey’ takes them during each season. It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television.
“The sad reality is that people of color (sic) become placeholders as the token person of color to add some flavor to the second half of the season.”
In June the US version of ‘The Bachelor’ announced its new lead in 2021 would be Black man, Matt James.
The announcement came four days after fans launched a petition calling for ABC to name a Black Bachelor for the upcoming season. It quickly racked up tens of thousands of signatures and endorsements from popular “Bachelor” alums including Rachel Lindsay, Kaitlyn Bristowe and Nick Viall.
“We’re glad ABC has done the right thing and cast a Black lead for the next season of The Bachelor,” the organisers of the Bachelor Diversity campaign said in a statement to HuffPost at the time.
“While we’re thrilled for that first step, we still plan to hold ABC accountable to make sure his representation is handled responsibly. We want to continue seeing greater BIPOC representation within the The Bachelor franchise, both on and off camera — as well as providing the resources and support they need during the show and in its aftermath. There’s plenty more work to do, but this is a start.”
Australia’s first Black male lead on ‘The Bachelor’ was Blake Garvey in Season Two in 2014. Since then, culturally diverse contestants have featured as contestants, but not as the leads.
‘Bachelor In Paradise’ premieres on Wednesday night at 7:30pm on Network 10.