THE KNIFE'S EDGE

Viewers must sit with their complicity... Viewers demand that [their] favorites, or the villains that [they] love to hate, walk the knife's edge between what's contemptible and what's actually a crime, trusting that producers will keep them from falling.

The quote above is from an op-ed analyzing the cancellation of a reality TV show after producers filmed alleged sexual misconduct without intervening to stop the crime. The focus of media attention on the incident has been on this specific production. However, reality TV is designed to capture the "reality" around us in a way that scripted dramas do not. "Walking the knife's edge between what's contemptible and what's actually a crime" is not just something that happens on TV. Our society has regularized getting right up against the edge. We teach our young people to trust their own goodness without restraint. We do not explain that each of us has the capacity to make tragic and self-destructive errors. 

 

Our sages teach, "Make a fence around the Torah (Avot 1:1)." Far beyond simple conservatism, this statement expresses an ethos. We all have moments when we are weak. The wise among us prepare for those moments by setting up personal and communal restraints.