Will You Accept this Rose?: The Representation of Black Women on The Bachelorette Seasons 13 and 18

Saralee Renick

Name: Saralee Renick
Major: Sociology
Minor: Political Science
Advisors: Michael Miyawaki, Heather Fitz Gibbon

The purpose of this Senior Independent Study is to understand how Black women are represented on reality television as the central cast members on white-dominated shows, specifically on The Bachelorette. Previous research focuses on Black women on Black-context reality television and as part of larger ensembles on white-context shows. This study supplements the existing body of research explored in the literature review. It is situated within media theories, theories about racial discourse on television, and theories about representations of Black women. This study explores representation, defined as racial discourses and controlling images, through a content analysis of Seasons 13 and 18, starring Rachel Lindsay and Michelle Young, respectively. This study also utilizes a content analysis of episode recap articles for each episode. It finds that the racial discourse portrayed on The Bachelorette seasons starring Black women varies but serves to restrict representation. Additionally, the Black bachelorettes are restricted by the Black lady controlling image, which diverges from previous literature. Ultimately, Black women’s representation on The Bachelorette is restricted. This indicates that the representation of Black women as lead cast members on other white-dominated reality television shows may also be restricted. Understanding this representation is important because of how reality television both reflects and influences societal views and understandings.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022.

15 responses to “Will You Accept this Rose?: The Representation of Black Women on The Bachelorette Seasons 13 and 18”

  1. Whitney Hockman says:

    Congratulations Saralee! I am so proud of you for all your hard work and bridging your academic interests with your love of pop culture. What was your favorite part of your research? Has this project impacted how you watch the Bachelorette?

  2. Miriam says:

    Congratulations Saralee! I am so proud of you!! In love and KEZ <3

  3. David McConnell says:

    Congratulations on a fascinating IS, Saralee!

  4. Cathy Semel says:

    Great analysis, Sara Lee, and important context for all of us who enjoy reality tv.

  5. Sydney Barger says:

    Congrats, Saralee! I know you put a lot of work into this and I am so proud of you!!

    One question:
    How do you think the Bachelorette is trying to prevent the same issues happening to Black bachelorettes in the future? Do you think that other reality TV shows and dating shows do a better job of POC representation?

  6. Michael Semel says:

    Love this project Saralee! While not a consumer of the Bachelor myself, I have family members that are and I watch more than my fair share of other reality TV! I have also observed the postracial/colorblind narrative you describe for many years. It feels like so many of us older folks have been indoctrinated with the idea that being anti racist is equivalent with being color blind and only more recently has there been greater public awareness that the opposite is true. While progress continues to be needed, it seems like there are some positive trends in your data across some of these domains over time/seasons. I’ve noticed shifts on other reality shows…notably Big Brother and Survivor in recent seasons as well. Great job with this important equity work!

  7. Lily Anderson says:

    This is fascinating, Saralee! Congratulations on a job well done!

  8. Elijah says:

    Congrats, Saralee! It’s so cool to see the results of your research after talking with you about it.

  9. Lisa Sprague says:

    Great job, Saralee!

  10. Hannah Groetsch says:

    Great job Saralee!

  11. Saralee says:

    Hello Sydney! I don’t think the Bachelorette plans to do a better job in the future. I have seen lots of conversations around how the show can’t survive much longer if it doesn’t change as far as race, gender, body diversity, disability, etc. Many people point to Love Is Blind as a better example of representation on reality tv dating shows.

  12. Saralee says:

    Hello Whitney! My favorite part of my research was getting to watch tv as data collection. It’s fun to be able to combine academics with my passion for reality dating shows. Sadly, I now recognize everything wrong with the show.

  13. Nancy Renick says:

    Great job! So proud of my girl.

  14. Carolyn Klein says:

    Congrats, Saralee!! This is super cool 🙂

  15. Abby McFarren says:

    Such a cool project Saralee! Thank you for doing this research and introducing me to the Bachelor!

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