The Bachelorette franchise, one of the most deliciously dramatic niches on reality TV, aired its first episode on January 8, 2003, sparking a nearly 20-year string of 17 straight-washed seasons. Seventeen years later, the show is finally mirroring reality: Brooke Blurton, the lead for the upcoming season of Australia's version of The Bachelorette, is going to be the first openly bisexual bachelorette ever – and it’s about time.
I began watching The Bachelorette during season 16, in which Clare Crawley and Tayshia Adams shared the lead. As a newer fan, I’d been a stranger to any version other than the U.S. franchise. As of 2021, the franchise has spread to over 13 countries, but still feels significantly dated in its casting and failure to include and address openly LGBTQ+ people on the show. Contestants such as Abbie Chatfield and Jaimi King were eliminated early on and never really spoken about again, while others who revealed their sexuality on-air were met with shock from viewers, rather than support.
Not only has it taken 17 years for The Bachelorette to cast an openly non-straight lead, but it also took 14 years and 13 seasons to cast its first Black lead, Rachel Lindsay (by the way, casting does not necessarily equal representation). Since her season, Lindsay has condemned the racist culture of Bachelor Nation in multiple interviews, and during the last season of The Bachelor, Chris Harrison defended contestant Rachael Kirkconnell’s racially insensitive behavior. These instances, combined with multiple allegations and controversies that have surfaced over the years, highlight the fact that it’s time for The Bachelor and Bachelorette franchises to do better when it comes to diversity and inclusion overall.
“As a bi viewer myself, representation from someone like Blurton is exactly what I’ve been waiting for.”
While the show has a long way to go in terms of inclusive casting, Blurton's lead is a step in the right direction toward inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community. The mere announcement of Blurton’s bisexuality has sparked reactions from folks both within and outside the LGBTQ+ community, which makes perfect sense. According to a Next TV report, 87% of viewers of season 15 of The Bachelorette (Hannah Brown’s season) were between the ages 18 to 34. A 2017 GLAAD study found that a whopping 20% of people belonging to this same age group identify as LGBTQ+ — and 6% of this age group is bisexual. From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense for the show to include, highlight, and market to the LGBTQ+ community. So why has it taken so long? Research on bisexual erasure, in which bisexual individuals face pressure to legitimize their sexuality, suggests that this lack of inclusion is commonplace.
While the announcement of a bisexual lead has been met with excitement, some were quick to critique how the season may play out. One TikTok user wrote, “Watch other contestants get [with] each other and the bachelorette [with] no one lol,” implying that a bisexual bachelorette could never attract monogamous, honorable contestants like a straight lead could.
As a bi viewer myself, representation from someone like Blurton — who can fend off ignorant questions — is exactly what I’ve been waiting for. Reality TV needs a lead who can stick up for herself and prove that bisexual people — specifically women — deserve to be represented rather than ridiculed. As a Noongar-Yamatji woman, Blurton is also set to be the first Indigenous bachelorette and will be a much-needed breath of fresh air — as well as a chance for viewers to finally see real-life examples of LGBTQ+ relationships on reality TV. Her presence on the show also means that we’ll get to see a form of openly women-loving-women relationships on a reality TV show, particularly one that has a history of pitting women against each other.
In the past, The Bachelorette and its sibling franchises tended to conform to the male gaze and represent what is traditionally ultra-feminine, especially when it comes to how the leads dress, and even how they speak. But, as producers and viewers urge for more representation, this season has the potential to be different. “In my experience as a queer person, being a bisexual woman is more palatable to your everyday heterosexual cis-gender person,” Sam, 27, tells Her Campus. “It goes back to how everything is designed around the male gaze. I believe that the idea of a bisexual woman, to a straight man, is, ‘Oh it can be exciting because she’ll kiss girls but also I still have a chance with her — so it’s still good for me.’ Whereas, if they cast someone who was a lesbian, I feel like that would be more threatening.”
So, is the franchise far away from having a lesbian bachelorette? According to viewers, the answer is yes — they feel it would be either the most disastrous business ploy in history or a sad, edited-for-TV depiction of stereotypes and misrepresentation. For a show that appears to thrive on appearances and ratings, it’s possible that The Bachelorette has purposefully chosen to cast a feminine-presenting, bisexual woman to appeal to a wider audience.
All that said, I find it refreshing to see a bi bachelorette and believe that Blurton can set a precedent for so many LGBTQ+ viewers like me. While Australia is making strides to address the lack of representation on The Bachelorette, I remain surprised that the U.S. was not the first to make this historical move — and it’s time for the franchise to take notes. As a bi viewer, I hope that the U.S. franchise will try to lead change, not sit back and watch it happen from the sidelines, only to make adjustments when viewers decide to speak up about the lack of diversity and inclusion on the show.
The jury is still out on whether or not the Australian Bachelorette will be able to focus on Brooke’s story in an authentic way that doesn’t tokenize or fetishize her sexuality, but I look forward to seeing if (and how) the show will educate fans and challenge misconceptions about bisexuality. Bi women deserve to be treated with respect and given a fair chance at love — onscreen and off.
Morgenroth, T., & Kirby, T. (2021). Bisexual erasure: Perceived attraction patterns of bisexual women and men. European Journal of Social Psychology.