Few people know the dangers of public shaming quite like Monica Lewinsky. At age 23, she became the most famous person in the world, with the likes of Jay Leno taking potshots at her on national television. We don’t need to go back over the grim details, which are currently the subject of a Ryan Murphy miniseries produced by Monica Lewinsky herself—you can read our wonderful recaps for that. One assumes that the series fits Lewinsky’s perspective on that situation, but for the last couple of years or so, Lewinsky’s taken on a new project: investigating public shaming.
In 2015, Lewinsky hosted a TED Talk entitled “The Price Of Shame,” during which she refers to herself as “Patient Zero of losing a peronal reputation on a global scale almost instanteously.” There’s a lot of nuance in the conversation surrounding online public shaming—though you’re probably not going to get that kind of nuance from Tucker Carlson weaponizing that bemused brow of his. Complaining about “cancel culture” in a world where Chris Brown is still getting Grammy and VMA nods feels like a dead end.
Nevertheless, in hopes of better understanding this culture and those who profit from it, Monica Lewinsky and former Catfish: The TV Show host Max Joseph are bringing the documentary 15 Minutes Of Shame to HBO. The documentary goes inside the industry of shame, which tech companies mainly propagate (because, of course, they do), and talks to those who have become the target of the public’s ire. At the center is Lewinsky, who knows better than anyone else how dangerous it can be when a private moment goes public. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take cues from every other bargain bin report on “cancel culture.” Here’s the synopsis:
15 Minutes Of Shame is a timely, eye-opening roller-coaster ride through the world of public shaming. This original documentary film examines social behavior by embedding with individuals from across the U.S. who have been publicly shamed or cyber-harassed – while exploring the bullies, the bystanders, the media, psychologists, politicians and experts in between.
15 Minutes Of Shame premieres on October 7 on HBO.