#Justice4Revian: The State of Asian Contestants on The Bachelor

As I write this #BachelorNation, millions of viewers strong, is wrapping up the second episode of the 23rd season of The Bachelor. Having said that, let’s cut to the chase: I’m watching The Bachelor again (though I have not resurrected my meme instagram account)! In all seriousness, the actual chase being cut to is this: there’s a Chinese girl on Colton’s season!

As a quick aside, there have been other Asian women on The Bachelor, and vastly more than the number of Asian men on sister show The Bachelorette. Those contestants, mentioned in past race-related Bachelor posts, have (to my knowledge) all been mixed race (and always with one white parent). All of a sudden here we are, 17 years after the show has premiered, and we have Revian Chang.

Similar to past topics only cursorily mentioned, the Facebook group subtle asian traits is entirely deserving of its own blog post. Putting that aside for now, it’s the following post on that page that brought the news to my attention:

revian

For the uninitiated, “ABG” stands for “Asian Baby Girl”, which Urban Dictionary helpfully defines as a “Cute asian girl looks like aecinira on twitch.” Which is helpful to some readers, probably. The post was edited soon afterwards to reveal the reason for the title of this post: Revian never made it past the first night.

Revian Chang is, according to her bio on ABC’s Bachelor page:revianfb

  • a 24-year-old “esthetician from Los Angeles.”
  • “loves to attend music festivals”
  • “[is] also fluent in Mandarin.”
  • (as seen on the right) a member of the subtle asian traits group where I first heard about her

In spite of the page garnering attention in news outlets across the world, that last point was never going to be revealed on national television. Of the three remaining only one could be confirmed from watching the premiere, in which Revian was only allotted a single scene in which her voice is heard.

Having exited the limousine in a gorgeous rosy mauve number, the prospective Mrs. Colton Underwood approaches and shares the following exchange with the ex-NFL linebacker:

Revian: “So I just want to tell you wo jue ni te bie shuai (你很帅)-“

Colton: “Aaaaand-”

Revian: “Which is Mandarin for ‘I think you’re a stud muffin.'”

Colton: “Thank you!”

Revian: “You’re welcome-”

Colton: “I don’t know a lot of Mandarin.”

Revian: “I’ll teach you more inside.”

Colton: “Cool, I can’t wait.”

Viewers who, like Colton, were waiting for further Mandarin lessons were left sorely disappointed. As Revian walks into the mansion we’re provided with a voiceover which turns into what I would call a talking-head interview a la The Office but what the people behind the scenes of the show dub ITMs, or “In the Moment” chats. During her ITM she shares with the audience that “My parents are from China, so I speak Mandarin fluently. It’s gonna make me stand out to Colton.”

revianchyron

Having read an illuminating glimpse at how the season premiere is filmed over at EW (which I encourage all fans to read) it’s even less of a secret to me how much editing goes into each episode, especially in terms of crafting a narrative that will continue on through to the finale. Strictly considering scenes where she speaks, it’s these same editors who gave Revian sixteen seconds of spotlight in an episode that ran (commercials included) for a total of three hours. To do a little math, that’s 0.14% of the entire runtime.

All contestants are given closeups during the rose ceremony (The Bachelor‘s Tribal-Council-analogue), as the camera must capture the look on each young woman’s face, transmitting their anxiety to audiences back at home. Revian is no exception, though it is notable that of the seven women not given a rose she is also not provided with a tearful exit interview, a last chance bid at securing a role further along down the line in Bachelor(ette) canon.

But what of the other footage? After all, as the EW feature revealed, filming started after 7 PM and came to a close twelve hours later. All I was able to scrounge up was a more in-depth introduction to Revian that was left on the editing room floor. At this point it’s only accrued around 18.7K views on Twitter (as seen below), but a respectable 142K on Facebook.

Compared to my previous blog posts covering The Bachelor and its approach to race, the point of this one is still up in the air. Was it to start an ill-advised social media campaign along the lines of that for Barb in Stranger Things (#Justice4Revian!)? How about as a way of grabbing those sweet, sweet SEO hits for people who want to know more about this contestant (“Who is Revian on The Bachelor”)? Or was it to reaffirm just how little things have changed on one of ABC’s most dependable moneymakers? A little of columns A, B, and C, if I’m being honest.

My very first post mentioned and linked to an article titled “Ousting Jubilee on the first day of Black History Month was pretty bad optics”, which highlighted the timing of when Ben Higgins cut the sole remaining Black contestant on his season. While Asian Pacific American Heritage Month isn’t for another four months from now, Revian’s departure is conspicuous for similar reasons.

rev

Revian Chang was the only contestant of fully Asian descent. As so many others have pointed out, having any one person represent an entire group inevitably results in the appearance (if not actual practice) of tokenism. Especially given the context that she was given the boot while other half-Asian women were kept on (Sydney and Kirpa, this season) implies that there is a racial standard of beauty, and the closer one appears to it the higher their chance of success.

None of this is fair to Revian. I’m sure that all she wanted was to follow in the steps of so many other contestants before her: to get free room and board, her time in the limelight, the corresponding Instagram “influence”, as much out of an all-expenses paid vacation as possible, and even, possibly, her future husband. Nobody wants to represent an entire race (although two contestants this season were Miss Alabama and North Carolina, respectively, in the Miss USA pageant), and truly, no one can.

If #Justice4Revian means anything at all it’s to proclaim the injustice that Bachelor fans who have been longing and waiting for contestants who look like them or share their life experiences had their dreams cut so very, very short. Some will decry this sentiment, emphasizing that the fact there was a Chinese woman on The Bachelor at all is progress that shouldn’t be ignored. That being said, it’s nice to imagine a world where Asian American (as opposed to just Asian) desirability is allowed to stand on its own, that audiences might be able to witness the range of different skills and personalities and, yes, physical beauties that the most populous continent on the planet can produce.

I’m not saying that WongFu’s “Asian Bachelorette” will ever be a reality, but given everything else TV execs will greenlit, why not?

One response to “#Justice4Revian: The State of Asian Contestants on The Bachelor

  1. Pingback: Looking for Love as an ABC on ABC: Revian Chang’s Bachelor Experience | Culture War Reporters

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