Is it a sin to watch raunchy reality shows like “The Bachelorette”?

The image of marriage in popular culture, as presented on “The Bachelorette,” is a serious distortion of the real meaning of marriage, as understood in the Catholic tradition. Both involve two people expressing love for one another and making some kind of promise. But the scripted, syrupy progression of love on reality TV — heavy on romance and sexual attraction, light on sacrifice and profound commitment — can’t hold up to the stresses of real reality.

One of the underlying questions in Catholic morality is, “Who do I want to become, and how can I get there?” Rather than just asking if something is a sin and acting accordingly, asking this question helps you grow into a better person. I understand that you’re not actually signing up to be the bachelorette, but just watching the show for some mindless entertainment — is that a serious sin? Maybe not. But putting ideas in your mind is like putting food in your body — it shapes who you are. Just as junk food clogs your arteries, junk ideas clogs your moral faculties. What we see affects what we do and what we believe, sometimes subconsciously. It forms our moral imagination, which in turn guides our moral choices. Ask yourself if The Bachelorette really is what you want in your moral imagination. Ask yourself if it helps you to become the person you want to be. You might find that your time is better spent watching something else.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.