The Harmful Asian American Stereotypes in ‘The Bachelor’

Love tree of life

For years, the Asian American community has struggled to gain representation in Hollywood. Despite the rise of films like “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Shang Chi,” there is still a lack of Asian representation in popular television franchises such as “The Bachelor.” Since its debut on ABC in 2002, “The Bachelor” has been one of the most popular dating series in the country. There have been roughly 579 contestants on “The Bachelor” and 312 contestants on “The Bachelorette.” But despite these big numbers, there has never been an Asian cast as the lead in all 25 seasons of this reality show.

This lack of Asian representation tells my fellow Asian Americans and me that we aren’t wanted as much as other races. And while ABC might tell you that there are Asian American contestants on the show, the truth is that many of these contestants reinforce harmful stereotypes and rarely accurately portray successful and eligible Asian singles. 

How does the lack of Asian representation in leading roles in The Bachelor franchise reinforce harmful stereotypes about Asian men and women?

The lead character of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” carries the show. Everyone else is fighting to be with this man or woman – and eligible singles will do anything to be with them.

From my perspective, as an Asian American woman and entrepreneur of a dating startup, the Asian contestants are mere tokens on this show. They also rarely project an accurate reflection of the successful and eligible Asian American bachelors and bachelorettes that I know.

If you pay attention to the show, as I do, you’ll see how most of the Asian contestants are nerdy or geeky. Most of the women are oversexualized. This is the image that Hollywood is projecting to everyone else. This token image that Hollywood projects to everyone else is extremely harmful and impacts the way people view Asians.

Hollywood’s stereotypes and tendency to not include us in leading roles has damaging consequences to our psyche. We start to believe that we aren’t good enough, which affects so many other areas of our lives, such as relationships and careers.

It’s very upsetting to see the way Asians are projected in the franchise. It makes me feel like Asian contestants are being exploited by producers to maintain these stereotypes instead of focusing on the show’s mission – finding love.

How ABC’s The Bachelor Exploits Asian Female Contestants

According to a survey by the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, over 90 percent of respondents say that ethnic representation is inadequate on the screen and behind the scenes. Moreover, when Asians are cast, they are stereotyped in a role like “martial artist” or in a special drama that is focused on Asians only (e.g., “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Shang Chi”).

Stereotypes play a big role in the way “The Bachelor” franchise casts Asian Americans on their show. I think more Asian women are cast because – to put it frankly – sex sells.

Asian women are very often over-sexualized and fetishized in the media. We are also a curious race to many non-Asians. I think this is partially behind why we see fewer Asian American male contestants and more Asian American female contestants. Asian American women are frequently cast in Hollywood as submissive or overly sexual. This makes for a great contradiction for TV.

Hollywood stereotypes dramatically impact the way white Caucasians view Asians. Before founding EME Hive, I would frequently receive sexualized comments from men on different dating apps, often even before a simple “Hello.”

Why Are Asian Men Often Excluded On Dating Apps?

In recent years, there have been many studies about the treatment of Asian men on dating platforms. Research from the University of North Carolina found more than 90 percent of non-Asian women excluded Asian men in their racial preferences, and Asian men received the fewest number of messages from women on dating apps.

With dating apps and websites, Asian Americans are often viewed as less than their male counterparts of other ethnicities and many times are viewed as being “too feminine.” The lack of Asian Bachelors only exacerbates these stereotypes. It all goes back to representation – being able to “see” yourself on TV, in the movies, etc., is incredibly powerful.

If Asian men are never able to see themselves as being leading man on The Bachelor, why would they ever feel that they were wanted in real life? And if non-Asian women don’t see strong, articulate, attractive, and successful Asian men on “The Bachelor,” why would they ever want to date or vie for an Asian man in real life?

This is why I wanted to launch a dating app exclusively for Asian Americans. EME Hive, the largest Asian American dating site, has matched over 150,000 happy couples and has cultivated a welcoming LiveStreaming platform where we can all get together virtually to have fun and talk about important issues within our community.

The lack of Asian American representation on “The Bachelor” franchise is always a hot topic in our Livestream, which even prompted one of our users to create his own Asian-themed “The Bachelor” show on the platform! It’s a show where all his contestants feel safe expressing who they are and don’t fall victim to the tokenism that occurs in Hollywood.

We still have a long way to go to fight off the harmful stereotypes of Asian Americans in our society today, but I do think there is a silver lining in all of this. It fuels many of us in the community to speak up, make sure we are heard, support others in our Asian American community, and do everything that we can to bring a change to our culture once and for all.