HomeVietnamese AmericanJenn Tran is the first Asian Bachelorette, but here's the catch

Jenn Tran is the first Asian Bachelorette, but here’s the catch

By Rachel Lu

The Bachelorette is here and we finally have our very first Asian American lead. The 26-year-old Vietnamese American Jenn Tran made her debut as the bachelorette this past Monday night. For the first time ever, audiences will follow an Asian bachelorette’s journey through love, and in Jenn’s words: “does it my way.” 

Jenn Bachelorette 2024
THE BACHELORETTE – ABC’s “The Bachelorette” stars Jenn Tran. (Disney/Ramona Rosales)

For a franchise definitely not known for its diversity of any kind, this is a big deal. Historically in Hollywood, Asian American women are portrayed as the sidekick, objectified sex symbol, or just not there at all. To have Jenn as the bachelorette means that audiences will get to know her as a fully fleshed woman, with all the beauty and messiness that comes with finding love (plus dating 25 men at the same time, no less).

Of course, this is not to say that the show has suddenly solved racism or miraculously resolved the disparities in media representation. Far from it. The show was previously criticized for its stereotypical portrayal of the African American experience. Rachel Lindsay, the show’s first Black Bachelorette, spoke out against being portrayed as an “angry black female” by the show’s producers.

Judging from the first episode, it’s hopeful that the producers are planting seeds that will blossom into deeper explorations of Jenn’s Asian American experience. 

Right off the bat, we see how important family is to Jenn. She talks about the sacrifice that her mother’s made in leaving Vietnam, so that Jenn can have the life she has today. It’s possible that producers are playing into the stereotype of the immigrant family that has given up a previous life, but the family values embedded in an immigrant household is definitely relatable for many second generation Asian Americans.

Jenn also says repeatedly that she is amazed that she is the first choice for 25 men, having never been anyone’s first choice growing up. Will this be an exploration of Jenn’s self-doubts? Her mental health? Given Asian American women’s historical portrayal as the sidekick on screen, this sentiment is not unexpected from Jenn, but would perhaps surprise most audiences coming from THE bachelorette. 

Contestants vying for Jenn Tran's love on the Bachelorette pose in front of the mansion
THE BACHELORETTE – ABC’s “The Bachelor” stars Back row: Dylan, Brian, Grant, Sam N., John M., Marvin Row 3: Sam M., Spencer, Brendan, Hakeem, Jahaan Row 2: Brett, Kevin, Austin, Aaron, Devin, Ricky Front row: Moze, Tomas A., Marcus, Jeremy, Thomas, Jonathon J., Dakota, Matt. (Disney/Michael Kirchoff)

However, Jenn is only half of the show, and the other half? The men. This is where it gets really disappointing and Jenn would agree. Of the 25 men, only one of them is Asian American, Thomas N. who is also a Vietnamese American. Jenn herself called the lack of more Asian American male contestants “unfortunate.”

It may seem like the lowest hanging fruit for the first Asian American Bachelorette season to also include more Asian American men. The Bachelor franchise began airing in 2002 but didn’t have a single Asian man until 2016. 

This perpetuates the stereotype that Asian American men are not considered as desirable, masculine, or charismatic in mainstream culture. Rather, they are often portrayed as caricatures of themselves or made to represent an entire race. In the first episode, Thomas and Jenn talked about how experiences as immigrant children are relatable to each other, but Thomas’ personhood is not expanded on further than that.

Of course, one can only expect so much from the first episode, and Thomas did accept the rose and will continue on the show. Yet, when Jenn is posed against a backdrop of men that lack Asian representation, the gendered difference of how Asian men and women are portrayed on screen becomes heightened and unavoidable. 

Does Jenn’s lead role give her power on screen? Will Jenn, and Thomas, find love in their own ways? Watch along in the upcoming Mondays and maybe we will find out.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.


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