US television shows and films have a long history of stereotyping cultures that are not their own (remember that Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders episode peppered with inaccuracies?).
It’s safe to say no one was surprised when ABC’s The Bachelor went to Singapore on Monday night’s (Jan 28) episode, and presented a picture that was not even close to being what Singapore is like in real life.
But perhaps even The Bachelor has outdone itself this time, with the latest episode being called out for not only stereotyping Asian cultures, but also disrespecting and insulting ways of life that are not considered the norm in the US.
The Singapore episode – which according to TV By The Numbers drew 6.35 million viewers (more than Singapore’s population of 5.6 million) – highlighted Bachelor Colton Underwood’s first time travelling outside the US.
Set against a backdrop of kitschy oriental music, the show first presents what Singapore has to offer in the form of night lights and futuristic buildings. It quickly went downhill from there.
According to The Washington Post, a segment of the episode shows the female contestants participating in a squeamish session of leech therapy – but that’s just a prelude of more stomach-churning events the women are about to encounter.
They then move on for a meal at a local “market” – which, by the way, is actually not a market but rows of shophouses in the heart of Chinatown – where they are served some very exotic foods including bullfrog legs, grilled pig intestines, and braised pig trotters.
“Pig’s feet – ewwwww!” said one woman, while another asked: “Wait, will I die?”
In a blooper video posted on YouTube, contestant Onyeka Ehie – who said that she travels “a lot” and eats “a lot of foreign foods” – added that she was “very passionate about food”, before vomiting openly in a dumpster while talking about the meal.
The clip was simply titled: “Blooper: The Singapore Cusine Isn’t For Everyone”, followed by an emoji of a face so disgusted that it turned green.
The Washington Post called the episode “especially disrespectful“, even by The Bachelor’s standards. “The contestants were openly mocking food that – it was immediately obvious – they did not even attempt to understand,” the Post said.
Vice called the segment “cringeworthy“, and said the popular US TV show “has a habit of serving up lazy, prejudiced portrayals of Asian countries and using these locales as backdrops for proposal-worthy dates that the contestants, who are largely white, get to enjoy”.
John Lui, a film correspondent with The Straits Times, wrote in an article responding to the episode: “It is easy to understand kids ostracising other kids for ‘smelly’ lunches, but it’s hard to imagine why adults would want to do it and, not only that, release it as public entertainment. It reveals a lot.”
“It shows that when they think of their audience, they picture a monolithic white bloc of people going ‘eww’ along with the women on the show,” he added.
Needless to say, many other Asians and Singaporeans were offended by the way the segments were executed.
One YouTube user commented: “‘Muricans have animal stomachs and intestines in their sausages, but can’t handle it on its own? Guess which show isn’t getting a rose from this part of the world…”
Another called producers of The Bachelor “all-round trash” for perpetuating both Asian and “dumb blonde” stereotypes. “How there are 23 seasons of this crap in the age of YouTube/Netflix etc is beyond me,” the comment read.
Many others wanted to know why, of all foods to pick in Singapore’s food paradise (see photo below), the show chose to serve up these dishes.
Besides, whatever happened to scaring timid visitors with the good ol’ stinky durian? At least that always seems to amuse people on all sides.
Watch the blooper scene from The Bachelor’s episode here:
- People can’t get over the video of a ‘Bachelor’ contestant who convinced everyone she was Australian with a fake accent
- Sweden’s Disgusting Food Museum is featuring tons of Asian foods, like durian, century egg and balut
- I spent 2 years living in Malaysia — here are 14 of my favorite fruits Americans probably wouldn’t recognize