The producers behind The single personhad promised to do better with diversity and representation in their successful ABC franchise. “We are taking positive steps to expand the diversity of our cast, our staff and most importantly the relationships we show on television,” executive producers said in summer 2020. “We can and will do better to reflect the world around us and show all his beautiful love stories. “
The joint statement came amid racial recognition of the country and a new public outcry for The single person franchise to diversify its nearly 20-year-old predominantly white reality TV series. But eight months later, after a famous season of The bachelorette and with the historic cycle of the first Black Bachelor Matt James in progress, The single person again faces a controversy over racism.
How did it happen?
“Broadcasting a diverse set of applicants is one step, but the next step is actually showing them,” says Suzana, the longtime viewer who directs@BachelorData. The emerging Instagram account, launched a year ago, has regularly cataloged, in illuminating graphic form, the disparities on the air for white applicants and applicants of color. While the show’s missteps have been the subject of further criticism, the account has helped spark dialogue about the impact of screen time on performance. “My goal is to be able to watch screen time and the representation of race. What do we see on our screens and how are we going to react to it as a society watching the show?”
Suzana, who wishes to be identified by her first name to maintain confidentiality, is the director of technology for a school district that has started to manually track and analyze emissions metrics in her spare time, starting with the 2019 seasons. She and a small growing team are working in spreadsheets that are updated daily with Instagram follower count and weekly with episode screen time for each current candidate. Recently, they’ve also started tracking the tone of the segments to see how actors are “exploited” by the show for different storylines.
“I wanted to learn how to use spreadsheets better,” says Suzana, who has been interested in the series since 2010. The Hollywood Reporter what motivated her to start this adventure aroundThe single person franchise. “At the time, nothing seemed worse to me than an Excel class. And I’ve always been interested in what’s going on on the show and I’ve really been able to quantify America’s reaction. So I started following Instagram followers for Colton Underwoods 2019 Bachelor season about two weeks before it starts airing and posting on Reddit [before launching on Instagram in 2020]. During this season, I learned different aspects of using spreadsheets and then slowly started to move on to data visualization. “
One of the first trends Suzana noticed was the impact of the growth of social media on a competitor receiving a one-on-one date during an episode. “But Tayshia [Adams, during Colton’s season] was the first outlier, “she says.” She had a one-on-one date and didn’t stand out in terms of growing Instagram followers. It was one of the first running trends that we were able to highlight and it really pushed me to keep moving forward with it; finding ways to quantify what’s going on in the show and its viewers and how it all comes together. “
Historically, white franchise candidates have a higher following than people of color and “that goes for every season,” she says, after tracking the data to prove it. As its charts, which are often broken down by race, show, there is a direct social response to the time the contestants appear on the show. “If someone is on their way to the sixth week and they are barely shown, of course America will not show up to follow the candidate. Because they don’t know who that person is,” Suzana said, pointing out a major point of viewers’ frustration. shared on the current season. Namely, that there was a historical number of colored contestants who were chosen, but which are not presented as main storylines. And that reproach is only growing after the recent firestorm that erupted in the wake of Chris Harrison’s recent comments.
The wheels of change were moving. The single person cast his most diverse season in 19 years with James Cycle, which kicked off Jan. 4. Of the 37 cast members, 25 of these women identify as BIPOC. The season followed a diverse presentation of The bachelorette, who was co-directed by first Black and Latina Bachelorette, Tayshia Adams. Behind the scenes, more color producers were hired, and a diversity team was brought in to work with the cast and crew.
But on February 9, the Harrison controversy cast a cloud over those changes when the longtime host and executive producer refused to condemn the racist allegations about a white candidate who went on to be a favorite, Rachael Kirkconnell. Harrison’s defense of Kirkconnell, which took place during an interview with the franchise’s first Black Bachelorette Rachel Lindsay, has since sparked debate over race among Bachelor Nation, with many of the show’s alumni demanding again. change, action and responsibility. A campaign for anti-racism in the franchise has started a petition to expel Harrison; more than 40,000 have signed.
During this pivotal moment for the reality juggernaut, @BachelorData is gaining traction (the official Bachelor producers is one of the 44,000 subscribers). The data reveals a 2021 season dominated by white contestants who made up for most drama series. For example, heading into the February 22 episode, James, last three contestants of color Serena P., Bri and Michelle, had each been seen by viewers for just 20 minutes in total after 14 hours of airing. Meanwhile, eliminated candidates Sarah, Victoria and Katie lead the standings. (@BachelorData defines Featured Screen Time as what is shown onscreen during a segment, with segments ranging from two to 30 seconds in length.)
“A lot of people will say this season has been a lot of white contestants having drama and that’s why their screen time was so long. But that’s not what the various executive producers are committed to showing. romantic stories, ”Suzana notes of the show. 2020 inclusion statement. “[The data is] really empower them. I love this show and want it to stay on the air. I stand behind the Bachelor’s Degree Campaign on Diversity that if they want to engage, they have to look at the data themselves. And I hope they really start looking at screen time because that’s a big indicator. Are they really showing us positive, romantic stories? As we’ve seen during the season of Tayshias, there are some really powerful stories that can come out when you cast and show a diverse cast. “
Now with less than a month before The single personlive from the finale, ABC and series producers Warner Bros. TV are wondering how to save the season. With Harrison on hiatus, a replacement host has yet to be named for the live After the final rose show, which should attract even more eyes after James’ recent statement (he called the post-shoot developments “devastating and heartbreaking to put it bluntly”).
Calls for renewed action also intensified in the silence of the franchise. As of the February 22 episode, Harrison is still appearing during the pre-recorded season, which will include the upcoming Women say it all reunion show filmed just before the controversy; neither of the two episodes broadcast since his interview addressed the current situation. With Kirkconnell absent from the reunion show and remaining among the top three finalists after Monday, the After the final rose will likely be her first opportunity to address the racism controversy on a TV stage.
Noting a surge in followers for Harrison and Kirkconnell after last week’s news cycle, Suzana says she is interested to see how Bachelor Nation continues to engage ahead of the live-action finale. “Something you can certainly attribute to this [Instagram growth] people follow to see what will happen next, “says Suzana with great interest around the host and the candidate.” There are different reasons why people might follow; sometimes there is a small increase every time someone is in the news, and then it slowly decreases over the next several weeks. This is what I’m really looking forward to seeing in the data: How are viewers going to react in the coming weeks in terms of following these people? “
A boost was also extended to several stars of the franchise of color who have spoken, including James, former leaders Lindsay and Adams, and several contestants this season. “It was really exciting to watch,” she says. “It was great to see people raising those voices when the Bachelor the franchise did not. “
A version of this story first appeared in the February 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.Click here to subscribe.
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