Is the newest season of “The Bachelorette” the most historic season yet? ABC’s “The Bachelorette” Season 19 will premiere this summer in early July with “double bachelorettes,” Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia. Last week, ABC released the 32 suitable men competing for Gabby and Rachel’s hearts this season. But, once again, the Asian American representation is lacking. Following two Black leads last year and an official diversity pledge from executive producers, it is unfortunate that Asian Americans are still being left out of the conversation. In the words of Canadian actor Simu Liu, “Why are there no Asian dudes on the Bachelorette?”
Ethan Kang, a 27-year-old advertising executive from New York City, is the only Asian American contestant cast this season. Unsurprisingly, this happens every season. Asian men on “The Bachelorette” are tokens; only two to three Asian men are cast each year, and they typically get eliminated from the show in the first few weeks. By the time you get to the middle of a season, there is no Asian suitor in sight. It seems as if casting Asian Americans is only done to mark off a box on a mandatory diversity checklist.
One reason Asian misrepresentation persists is the harmful stereotypes placed on Asian American men in the dating scene. Asian American men are stereotyped as “unmasculine, geeky or undesirable” and are often rejected on dating apps. Meanwhile, Asian American women are exoticized and oversexualized. Unfortunately, stereotypes such as these are reinforced in “The Bachelor” world and don’t give Asian contestants a fair shot at love.
Also, viewers rarely see the bachelorette leads share an intimate, romantic moment with any of their Asian contestants, which feeds the belief that they are not romantically desirable. Because of their limited representation and speedy exits, the show gives almost zero opportunities for Asian contestants to overturn these damaging stereotypes. If the show continues down this route, Asian American men will continue to be represented as mere afterthoughts rather than potential life partners.
In its recent 2021 season, “Bachelor in Paradise,” the franchise’s spicy spin-off, gave an Asian male contestant named Chris Conran (a night one elimination on Clare’s season) another chance at love. But his run on the show was nowhere near paradise. Chris got a “villain edit” after he found himself in a rocky love triangle with two other contestants. And the reaction from fans was not pretty. Chris received racist comments from a primarily white audience, many questioning his sexuality.
Chris defended himself on Twitter, saying, “It is disrespectful that society effeminates Asian men and uses ‘gay’ as a derogatory term.” The most recent season of “Bachelor in Paradise” featured the most diverse cast in the show’s history — yet, another Asian man had fallen victim to a toxic Asian stereotype that implies a supposed “lack of masculinity.” Terrible, right?
There have been few notable Asian American men on “The Bachelorette.” Out of the nearly 20 seasons of the show, there has only been one unofficial winner. John Alex Hersey, an Asian American contestant on Katie Thurston’s season last year, was eliminated in week 2. However, after Katie’s shocking breakup with her then-fiancé, Blake Moynes, she and John began a friendship that eventually kindled into a romance.
During the limo entrances on her season, Katie had mentioned that John was her “type,” which was the first time an Asian man on the show was seen as a promising romantic prospect. Sadly, though, he got little screen time after the first night. But the two made it work after the show aired and are still together. It is the only success story with an Asian male contestant in the show’s history. Even though Katie didn’t hand out her final rose to John on screen, she still picked him in real life, which ultimately matters more.
And let’s not forget about Joe Park, also known by fans as “Dr. Joe.” One of the most popular Asian male contestants on the show, Dr. Joe, a Korean American anesthesiologist from New York, won the hearts of many viewers when he appeared on Clare/Tayshia’s season of “The Bachelorette” and the recent “Bachelor in Paradise” season. Unlike other Asian men on the show who get kicked off in the first few weeks, Dr. Joe made it long enough to get noticed by fans.
Although he received little screen time in both seasons, many fans on social media still campaigned for him to be the franchise’s first Asian Bachelor of 2022. As Dr. Joe trended on social media following his eliminations, it seemed likely that he would be granted the title. Ivan Hall, who is Black and Filipino, was also a popular choice by fans for the lead. But as usual, the show missed an opportunity to cast an Asian American man and instead gave the role to a white, “All-American” Bachelor, Clayton Echard, in another predictable “Bachelor” franchise move.
Similarly, in 2016, an Asian American contestant from “The Bachelor” was close to being chosen as the lead. Caila Quinn, a Filipina-Caucasian woman from Ben Higgin’s season, was nearly chosen as “The Bachelorette” for Season 12, which could have made her the first-ever Asian American lead. But executive producers gave the role last-minute to JoJo Fletcher, a white woman who was the runner-up in Ben’s season. Since then, Asian Americans have been overlooked season after season, whether they are contestants vying for the heart of the lead or giving out the roses themselves. It’s a pattern that never seems to end and, until now, has been brushed off by the show’s creators.
Let’s hope that Season 19 of “The Bachelorette,” which premieres this summer, gives Bachelor Nation something to root for when it comes to Asian American representation. It is high time that America finally sees an eligible and charming Asian Bachelor handing out the roses. But until that happens, every viewer must acknowledge the harmful ways that Asian Americans are being represented on screen, and in doing so, the Bachelor franchise may hopefully come closer to making more history.