Like every other reality TV-addicted Aussie, I eagerly watched Sophie Monk’s promo for her season of The Bachelorette. And as always, Sophie made me laugh with her signature goofy-yet-hot schtick. She’s walking down a pretty street, looking longingly at couples smooching, and emoting both loneliness and sex appeal. But soon, I stopped smiling, when I noticed something missing: a person of colour.
In the promo, Sophie saunters past several couples who are in a loving clinch. They are all white. There are even two dogs who lick each other – and they are also white. At the end of the clip, Sophie faces the camera with a horde of
stalkers supporters behind her, and in my bleary, midnight haze, I couldn’t spot a single person whose skin tone was darker than pasta.
I know it’s just an ad for a frothy, reality-ish show. But pop culture can be a micro-representation of how society is perceived. And the perception here is that only white people are desirable, dateable, pashable…and visible.
There is not a lack of performers of colour, here in Australia. Surely, one person of colour could have been cast to make out with someone in the street, as Sophie sashayed by?
I know there are tons of performers of colour out there, because I used to be one. Once, I waited with several dozen Asian actors, all vying for a part in a KanTong ad. I wish I was joking about that. And as we waited, we discussed the difficulty we experienced in finding decent parts (the roles I was usually offered were migrant, refugee and nail technician) – and decent boyfriends. Many of the women I chatted with told me that they met guys who had “yellow fever” – a fetish for Asians. It was hard to find someone who saw beyond their race.
Clearly, I’m writing from the perspective of a Chinese-Australian woman who has personally experienced the invisibility that haunts us within the entertainment industry. I always notice when a cast lacks ethnic diversity. But what about my friends who are gay, who are disabled, who have body types different from those on the covers of magazines? Yep, they miss out on a pash in this ad, too.
Again, I’m aware that this promo for The Bachelorette is for entertainment purposes. And yet, what we see on TV is sadly a reflection of who we are. In government, in businesses, in positions of power and visibility, we need more diversity.