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Is Racism to Blame for The Bachelorette Losing a Million Viewers?

It may shock some Mediaite readers to learn that, against all logic, I am married. A huge part of modern marriage, especially when you have young kids, is that you learn to compromise on the selection of evening television viewing. By compromise, I mean that the wife only gets to choose what we watch about 75% of the time.

Since my wife is a big fan of the ABC franchise The Bachelor/Bachelorette, this has meant that I have become far more knowledgeable about this television series than I ever thought imaginable. I have even come, at times, to actually kind of like it, though I do wonder when the audience is finally going to realize that the show is FAR more about career enhancement than finding love.

This season of The Bachelorette is particularly note-worthy because, for the first time, the star of the show is an African-American named Rachel Lindsay. This comes after years of criticism that the show cynically cast a couple of black contestants simply to avoid being seen as “racist” when many suspected that the white person giving out the roses was less likely to end up with them (though they were sure to allow the black contestants past the first week or two so that they also would be protected from claims of “racism.”)

I am convinced the real reason that it has taken so long for there to be a black star of this show has nothing to do with ABC being “racist,” but rather fear on the part of the network that focusing the show on a black person may hurt ratings, simply because blacks make up a rather small portion of the overall TV audience. With this in mind, I have been very interested in seeing what the ratings results would actually be for this historic television experiment.

We now have three weeks of numbers on which to base some conclusions, and the results are significant. It appears that about one million members of the extremely loyal “Bachelorette Nation” have decided to sit out this season’s show.

Now, normally, comparing the ratings of one season of a TV series to another would be quite perilous. But because of the very devoted nature of this particular audience, such a legitimate comparison is more than doable.

For instance, the previous two seasons of The Bachelorette had almost the identical audiences in both size and make up. They also aired during the exact same time of year as this season is being run. Each previous season averaged 6.8 million total viewers and exactly the same 1.97 rating in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

In comparison, so far the “Black Bachelorette” is averaging only 5.8 million viewers (rounding up) and a 1.67 rating in the key demo. And this is with last night’s program showing significant improvement over the previous two weeks.
So, this begs the question, “What happened to the missing million viewers?”

Another reason that this question is both logically legitimate and culturally significant is that it’s not like the previous two seasons had particularly strong content, or that Lindsay and her cast of suitors are not compelling on their own. Heck, The Bachelorette from two seasons ago wasn’t even an American (I can’t believe that I know this stuff!).

Personally, I find Lindsay to be the most likeable, intelligent, attractive, and engaging Bachelorette in my memory of the show (and, no, I’m not just saying that so that I don’t get called a racist). And the guys on the show are pretty interesting as well, so I don’t think that content can be blamed for the loss of so many normally faithful viewers.

The knee-jerk explanation for this, which I have been waiting for commentators on the left to make, is of course that there must be some form of racism which is causing a segment of the audience to lose interest. After all, the vast majority of this show’s fan base is white women, so I can see where some with a political agenda might see them as “guilty” of such a charge until proven innocent. In the liberal world, of course, most white people, at least those who don’t live in big cities, are obviously racist.

As a conservative, I am inherently highly skeptical of the idea that huge segments of the population in this modern era are overtly racist, though obviously some of this issue comes down to definitions. To me, racism is treating those of a different race as inherently inferior to your own. Based on that meaning, I don’t think “racism” is what is really going on here.

Instead, I believe it has much more to do with long standing human mating practices than any sensible concept of “racism.” There is a very good reason that no black person has ever seriously contended to be the “winner” of this show when the stars were exclusively white. It has long been a basic (and unfortunate) human reality that people are more sexually attracted to, and want to procreate with, those of their own race more than members of other colors and cultures.

This is why black female models and actresses who are highly successful as sex symbols in the United States tend to be of a lighter skin tone than most “black” people. I hope this changes, but for now it’s the “reality.” This is also why ABC should be applauded for casting Lindsay, who has dark skin, as opposed to wimping out and trying to make history with a far lighter skinned Halle Berry type.

Humans cannot control what they are attracted to any more than they can what smells they like or foods they prefer. Historically, people have tended to want to see their own tribes propagated and be less interested in the flourishing of other tribes. That is not “racism,” that is simply reality.

Ironically, if the last two contestants for Lindsay’s final rose happen to be a white guy and a black guy (gee, I wonder if the producers are hoping for that outcome?!), then the finale may end up breaking ratings records simply based on the controversy alone.

John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at johnz@mediaite.com

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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