NEW YORK — Robert Galinsky’s students were predominantly white when he taught acting. Now that he tries to help people break into a different form of show business as operator of the New York Reality TV School, about half of his students are racial minorities.
That accounts for his skepticism about claims by producers of ABC’s “The Bachelor” series that they’ve had a hard time finding black singles willing to be on the show.
The nearly all-white racial makeup of the series (and its spinoff, “The Bachelorette”) has simmered as an issue for years. Now it’s in the forefront with the filing of a lawsuit last week by two black men from Nashville, Tenn., who say they were given little consideration when they tried to get on the show.
Through 16 seasons, all of the men given star billing to search for a mate were white. Same with the women in the seven seasons of “The Bachelorette.” Two Hispanic contestants have been selected winners; the rest were all white.
The pattern extends to the pool of would-be mates, even with producers aware critics were talking about the issue. None of the women vying for the bachelor’s hand during the past four seasons were black, and one was in Season 12. That’s one black woman out of 130, according to a review of the casts posted online.
“These shows have been very intentional in the gender and race stereotypes that they’ve created,” said Jennifer Pozner, author of “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV.
“It would be very, very difficult for people of color to miss the message that not only is this show not meant for you, but we as producers of `The Bachelor’ do not want you to see yourself in a romantic starring role. You don’t get to play prince and princess. You don’t get to fantasize about love,” said Pozner, a media critic who has questioned the show’s racial makeup since its first season.
One of the Nashville men who sued, 26-year-old teacher Christopher Johnson, said he was stopped immediately when he went to a casting call for “The Bachelor” and asked what he was doing there. He said he was told to hand in materials, and never got a call-back or tryout.
Warner Horizon Television, which produces the series, called the complaint “baseless and without merit.” The company said producers “have been consistently, and publicly, vocal about seeking diverse candidates for both programs.”
The lawsuit quotes Michael Fleiss, creator of the series, telling “Entertainment Weekly” that “we always want to cast for ethnic diversity. It’s just that for whatever reason, they don’t come forward. I wish they would.”
Galinsky said he believed there’s little concern about diversity within the network unless it helps make money.
“Once you have a good thing going in this industry, you don’t want to mess up the formula,” he said.
The lawsuit points out that dating shows with diverse casts like “Flavor of Love” and “I Love New York” demonstrate proven interest among blacks in these shows. Other popular reality series, including “Survivor,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “American Idol,” seem to have no trouble achieving a diverse cast.