Lewinsky first talked about how her role in the infamous Bill Clinton scandal — which made her “patient zero” in the realm of public shaming — helped set her on a path toward becoming an “anti-bullying advocate.”
“After graduate school, I realized that I couldn’t run away from what happened, I had to integrate it,” she said. “It just became clear that what happened to me — and I made a mistake — but what happened to me was now happening to many other people, especially young people.”
15 Minutes of Shame, premiering today on HBO Max, tackles the issue of public shaming in the internet era, and even before that.
“One of the factors in the film is around the idea of how shame has been used since the beginning of time as a social tool,” Lewinsky said, noting that — with the onset of the internet and tabloid culture — the problem worsened.
“But I think what we’re seeing now, too, is that this is very much about power. Are there people in power who should face consequences? Absolutely. But there are people not in positions of power who are facing the same consequence and it’s ruining their lives in a way that is very different.”
As for “cancel culture,” Lewinsky noted its benefits — the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movement rose out of giving a voice to those who hadn’t had one — but there is a downside.
“I don’t know what you think about cancel culture and the term ‘cancel culture,’ but I think, for me, it’s just become a little too broad,” Lewinsky told Noah. “I think that really what felt important was for people to come to understand what happens in these shamings, and what does it feel like to be on the receiving end of that tidal wave of negativity. It has exacerbated from being just shamed; it also can be violence, and that violence — particularly for women — it doesn’t just live online.”