For a reality TV show to churn through 17 seasons, it has to change at least a little bit to hold our interest. Since the essential formula of “The Bachelor” (premiering Mon. Jan. 6 at 8:00 p.m.) can’t twist too much (boy meets girl, repeat, repeat, repeat), in season 18 the ABC series will deliver a first — “I’m the first Latino bachelor,” as Juan Pablo Galavis helpfully describes himself.
Of course, “The Bachelor” clearly picked Galavis for reasons far beyond appealing to a demographic. As the smoldering hot former soccer player who tried and failed to win the heart of “Bachelorette” Desiree Hartsock, he sent millions of hearts a-flutter — according to host Chris Harrison, Galavis spurred more of a fan reaction than any other rejected Romeo from any previous season. From what we saw during the show, he’s sweet-natured, sexy, charming — and was clearly not serious relationship material to Hartsock, who seemed to keep him around just to slather him with kisses like a cute baby or a blow-up doll.
That Galavis was raised in Venezuela (and sports a sexy accent because of it) has already generated plenty of headlines bubbling over with “Latin lover” puns. I’m sure ABC is thrilled to appeal to both the Latino and the lonely-gals-plagued-by-Prince-Charming-fantasies demographics. Win, win!
But, having watched as much of the first episode as ABC allows, I can’t help but notice that none of the women appear to speak English as a second language, or at least don’t have an accent if they do.
Only two claim Latina heritage (at least from what I’ve seen thus far) — one woman declares she’s “half-Mexican” while a second is from Brazil (which means she speaks Portuguese, not Spanish). The attempts we see the gals make at speaking Galavis’ almost-native tongue (he was born in New York before moving to Venezuela) are the feeble stuff of tourists muddling through a Berlitz phrasebook. I can’t wait for one overly ambitious girl to unwittingly purr in shaky Spanish, “Juan Pablo, where is the nearest toilet?”
Granted, it’s early yet — if any of the women are fluent (as it’s hinted one might be, though it’s only a passing comment), that’s probably an advantage they’ll keep close to the vest. But I have to wonder — how can we have the first Latino man in “The Bachelor” hot seat, but so few Latinas?
Okay, I will admit, there may be a lot of entirely practical and logical reasons for this:
1) As we know, the stars of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” give a casting director their wish lists, so Galavis himself may have not wanted to date women with backgrounds similar to his own. He lives in Miami now, and we know no one speaks Spani… okay, I’ll stop now. But who knows? He clearly wanted to pursue Hartsock, so maybe she’s exactly what he wants.
2) Maybe the show or ABC worried that bringing on women fluent in Spanish would create an uneven playing field — hey, it would be an awfully nice advantage to be able to be able to tell Galavis anything you want in a crowded room with no threat of anyone knowing what the hell you’re saying.
3) The other potential complication would be that some non-Spanish speaking bachelorettes competing against Spanish-speaking bachelorettes could create friction or, at the very least, lead to a lot of subtitling. Given that “The Bachelor” is guilty pleasure TV at best, I’m sure not a lot of viewers want to have to read while they’re vegging out (we do see subtitles when Galavis talks to his daughter Camila, but eh, conversations with 4-year-olds don’t need to be followed closely). The inclusion of the Brazilian woman seems like a calculated one — though Latina, she’s from one of the few Latin American countries that doesn’t name Spanish as the official language.
4) This one’s a stretch, but maybe no one applied to be on the show who fit the bill. Stop laughing.
But, but, but… it still seems as if this is a missed opportunity for “The Bachelor,” ABC and even, yes, Juan Pablo Galavis. Maybe he really does want to pick from the usual crop of wide-eyed all-American Ashlies, Kimberlies and Britnees, women who largely seem to not know a lick about Venezuela but will probably assure him dude, it’s okay, we eat Mexican food all the time! Face palm… here.
But, but, but… with 27 instead of the usual 25 women competing for Galavis’ heart, there wasn’t room for a few more Latinas? Given that Galavis’ was, according to Harrison, one of the most popular bachelors ever on “The Bachelorette,” doesn’t that imply audiences are open to a wider spectrum of nationalities and races?
As usual, minorities are underrepresented on the show, but this time around the gaggle of ladies who look like refugees from an all-female production of “Oklahoma” seems particularly out of place.
Still, Juan Pablo seems perfectly content with the 27 ladies from which he can pick. I guess the show can feel proud about making a token move by casting a “Latin lover,” and “The Bachelor” will mosey on. Maybe Galavis will even find love, who knows? But for those of us at home, it’s sadly going to be a lot more of the same old, same old than any show entering its 18th season should be pushing, especially in the 21st century.
Why do you think the show went with this cast of ladies?