US dating show The Bachelor goes to Singapore and perpetuates nasty stereotypes about Asian food

US dating show The Bachelor's fourth episode this season brought the participants to Singapore.
US dating show The Bachelor's fourth episode this season brought the participants to Singapore.PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

WASHINGTON (THE WASHINGTON POST) - People are rarely shown eating on The Bachelor. Throughout the history of the show, women have perched in picturesque settings with muscly, vacant-eyed dudes and untouched plates of food. But Monday night (Jan 28) was different.

For the show's fourth episode, production moved to Singapore, giving the group of mostly white, mostly blonde women some Crazy Rich Asians-esque fantasy dates. It was noted earlier in the episode that it was bachelor Colton Underwood's first time leaving the country.

Mr Underwood took the women on a group date to the markets, where they shopped and participated, squeamishly, in leech therapy. Then it was time to eat.

Singapore is known for its night markets, a must-see on every tourist itinerary; there are numerous tours devoted to the best street food and drinks in the city. So it was inevitable that there would be a stop on this episode.

The women sat down at a long table, and the food came out.

"You guys hungry?" said Mr Underwood. "What is this? Bullfrog?"

"They say frogs taste like chicken," said one of the women.

And off they went, rehashing some of the ugliest American stereotypes about Asian food. The entire segment was designed to make the women try street food that is considered perfectly normal in Asia but "disgusting" to Western palates - perpetuating nasty stereotypes that food from Asian countries is dirty and unsophisticated.

"Pig's feet - ewwwww!" said one woman, as they all talked over one another.

"Wait, will I die?" asked another.

The show has never been known for its diversity. Only one woman of colour, Ms Rachel Lindsay, has ever been the Bachelorette, and a major plotline on her season was a contestant's racist tweets.

Two women of mixed Asian heritage have won previous seasons of The Bachelor. But in the show's 23 seasons, most of the suitors and winners have been white.

But even for The Bachelor, Monday's episode felt especially disrespectful, especially considering that the travel segments of the show are usually flattering to their host country, given the freebies and sponsorships the show receives. The contestants were openly mocking food that - it was immediately obvious - they did not even attempt to understand.

This is not just a problem on The Bachelor. Chef David Chang previously called out "hidden racism in how people perceive not just Chinese food, but basically anything that's different from mainstream America" - including how people demonise monosodium glutamate, or MSG, in Asian cooking but seem unaffected by that same ingredient in Doritos chips.

 
 
 

Filipino Americans grow up with "hiya", or shame, about the smells and taste of their famous dishes, which include duck embryos and pig's blood. In 2017, Bon Appetit got in hot water for saying that matcha and turmeric, often used in Asian cooking, "taste like dirt".

Writing for The Washington Post, Ms Ruth Tam described what happened when a white high school friend said her home smelled of "Chinese Grossness": "The comment clung to me like the smell in my home... The lengths to which immigrant families have gone to hide the way we feed ourselves break my heart."

On The Bachelor, a few women tried some bites for the camera but then expected to be praised for their bravery.

"I just ate a fish eye for him!" bragged Hannah B., a former beauty queen who is at the centre of much of this season's drama so far. She made a retching noise.

Then Mr Underwood gave a toast.

"To weird food, and to you," he addressed the women.

After the show somehow managed to sensitively handle a contestant's revelation that she had been drugged and raped in college - the episode returned to the market in the post-credits segment, which is usually reserved for silly bloopers.

Instead, it was the women once again describing their experience with the food. And it was even worse.

"Pig intestines, ewww," said Hannah G. "It wasn't as bad as I thought, but we'll see how I feel in an hour."

The show then turned to the contestant Onyeka.

"My stomach doesn't feel good," she said. She walked over to a trash can and vomited.