The Bachelorette Australia

OPINION: The Bachelorette has a prime opportunity to champion diversity, but it's already falling short

The platform is there, but the voices aren't.

By Jess Pullar
When Elly and Becky Miles were announced as the new leading women to star on The Bachelorette Australia this year, everyone sat up and took notice.
It was a curveball that the show clearly needed. In a world where almost nothing on our screens surprises us anymore - just look at the frenzy around whacked doco Tiger King and basically anything Donald Trump writes on Twitter - the dating reality show, and it's traditional formula was a little, well... tired.
Of course, the double Bachelorette formula was one way to go about it - but in the grand scheme of things, and particularly in light of the state of the world today, there were other, much more progressive routes on offer.
Maybe we were expecting too much - The Bachelor franchise, produced and aired by Network Ten, is rigid in its form.
Almost every year we've watched as largely privileged white males and females arrive at the mansion, cause drama by saying a few controversial things and then go on their merry way with a couple of thousand extra Instagram followers in tow.
But if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that now is as good a time as any to take action on those things you should be doing - we're not invincible after all, and time is not something we should take for granted.
That's why when Ten announced Becky and Elly, two white, blonde women from a middle class background, would be helming the Bachelorette, we couldn't help but feel a little disappointed.
Elly and Becky were named as joint Bachelorette's for 2020. (Network Ten)
Don't get us wrong - Elly and Becky seem like amazing women with great intentions. But it was frustrating to see a show with a nation-wide platform make a call that lacked diversity - arguably at a time when the world needed diversity the most.
When the George Floyd protests kicked off in early June, our world was exposed to the injustices of systematic racism like never before.
We were flooded with information, we took to the streets, we fought, argued, had difficult discussions - and finally, people were stepping up and listening to the injustices pertaining to a sector of society that had been ignored for so long.
But then, not even two months on, Network Ten made the double Bachelorette announcement, and it was like we were right back at square one.
The death of a black man and father George Floyd was met with disgust and protests across the globe. (Getty)
But alas, the decision was made, and there was not much we could do about that. So instead, we waited with keen anticipation for the season premiere.
Here, we could look with hope to the cast - perhaps this time around, we'd see a diverse, culturally-fuelled array of men who were contenting for the sisters' hearts.
But already, it looks like even that hope is on it's last thread.
The Bachelorette is already falling short in diversity. (Network Ten)
Admittedly, there were smatters of promise.
Shannon Karaka, of Polynesian background, was the first person in Bachelor history to perform a traditional Haka alongside his family on arrival.
The moment was memorable, with both Elly and Becky looking confused, shocked and delighted all at the same time.
Shannon's fearless performance on-screen was admirable, and it was undeniably refreshing to see such a special tradition from his minority culture on-screen.
Shannon's rousing Haka during his entrance struck a chord. (Network Ten)
There was also Ab Sow, a 27-year-old black man who was nothing but himself as he first met Becky and Elly, and then brought his unique personality to the cocktail party.
But unfortunately, his time on the show was short-lived - though it was by his own means.
Indeed Sow chose to reject the rose offered to him by Becky, telling her "I just don't think I'm the right person for you".
"It's only right that I'm honest with you now instead of only letting you know down the road."
While it's still a little murky as to why he chose to leave, fans were impressed with his raw honesty - and his absence is definitely felt.
The majority of the rest of the cast is (not unexpectedly) white, much like the two leading women.

But there's an interesting thing to note when it comes to minority representation on the Bachelor franchise.
Its fans are connecting and engaging with different cultures - just take a look at The Bachelor's 2020 season.
Latina woman Juliette Herrera was a standout on the show this year, not least for her charismatic and unapologetic personality - but it was her heritage that really resonated.
Speaking to Now To Love after her elimination, she explained: "[People] have been amazed to see a Latina on-screen. They're telling me, 'Finally, I see myself on TV - a fellow Latina representing'. I've had an amazing response from the Latin community.
"We're a minority group, and the show gave me such an amazing opportunity to represent our community. I could represent our vivacious attitude, our quirkiness, the party vibes, that raw honesty - I'm so grateful that The Bachelor let a brown Latina shine on TV."
And if it only took one minority culture to generate such a response, Perhaps Network Ten could take a leaf from this if they're hoping to propel engagement for the franchise in years to come.