Breaking The Fourth Wall : a case study of racial representations in The Bachelor franchise
Abstract: In 2002, ABC aired the first season of its new reality TV dating show, The Bachelor. Almost 20 years later, The Bachelor franchise has become a cultural phenomenon that is integral to the popular culture zeitgeist. With that popularity came a lot of criticism about many elements of the franchise but one stood out more than others and that is the lack of diversity in casting and the under/misrepresentation of racial minorities. This thesis will explore The Bachelor franchise with an emphasis on racial representations by looking at how racial minorities are represented on the show but also how those representations are received by the audience. This study of how race is constructed and represented on reality TV will also show how those representations contribute to the modern social imaginary. This analysis will be carried out using a multimethod approach focused on multiple aspects of the franchise by looking at the episodes and audience reception through social media and a Bachelor themed Podcast. Throughout this analysis there will also be an emphasis on the production angle of reality TV and the context surrounding it. Ultimately, this thesis will demonstrate the different ways in which racial minorities are used as a means to an end while whiteness is continuously privileged. All this in the name of manufacturing a fairytale romance. While the franchise wants its critics to believe that they are in fact improving on the diversity and racial representations, the findings will demonstrate that this in fact a strategy to change the narrative that the franchise privileges whiteness and minorities are used as token representations. Finally, the audience study will show the complex ways in which fans engage with the franchise and cope with knowing that reality TV is in fact manufactured all the while believing in the love stories portrayed on screen. It will also explore the imagined community that is Bachelor Nation built among fans through the viewing experience.
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