Monica Lewinsky’s ’15 Minutes of Shame’: 5 things explored about cancel culture in the doc


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The HBO Max documentary was executive produced by Monica Lewinsky and is now streaming

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In recent years, cancellation culture has dominated the headlines.

Many, including Hollywood stars, have been subject to intense public scrutiny over various topics or works, sometimes resulting in someone being “cancelled,” meaning their careers and personal lives take a dive due to negative publicity.


A new documentary on HBO Max was “15 Minutes of Shame,” executive produced by Monica Lewinsky, who publicly refers to herself as “Patient Zero” for shaming. Doctor Cancel examines culture, the science behind it, its historical origins, and more.

Here’s a look at five angles the film explored about culture and the cancellation of public humiliation:

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Monica Lewinsky says cancel culture has ‘been a little too pervasive’

WARNING: The video below contains graphic language.

is centuries old

Dr. Tiffany Watt Smith, a cultural historian at Queen Mary University of London, considered the early days of public humiliation, explaining that societies of the past often drew people together and adhered to rules such as not hoarding resources. is required.

“Societies like these very quickly and very severely punish those who are trying to take more than their fair share, anyone who thinks they don’t need to follow the rules,” she explained. “Societies across the ages have this strange process of ritualistic public humiliation.”

Monica Lewinsky Recalls Return From Shaming Clinton Scandal: ‘I’m Ready to Be OK’

Anonymity can shame

Often, when people are cancelled, it is done by crowds of strangers, as is the case with regular celebrities.

As it turns out, this kind of anonymity makes it easy for critics to be aggressive.

“When someone is on screen with some of their text as well as perhaps a stranger you’ve never met, that’s not enough information for our human brain to understand them as fully human,” Dr. Helen Weng , a neuroscientist and psychologist who studies the processing of emotions.

“One quick way that our brains understand the mental state of others is by looking at people’s faces and body language. And our brains process this information very quickly,” she continued. “If we don’t have access to that information via the Internet, it’s hard for us to even imagine what this person might be thinking or feeling.”

The term “cancelled culture” dates back to the early 1990s.

While “canceled culture” may sound like a relatively new term, author and Internet culture journalist Aja Romano reveals that it comes from 1990s pop culture.

In the 1991 film “New Jack City”, Wesley Snipes uses the phrase “Cancel that b—h, I’ll by another one” while breaking up with a woman.

Romano then points to a December 2014 episode of “Love & Hip Hop” in which a man tells a woman that she has been “cancelled” after he reveals that he has a daughter.

“It took off from there,” said the journalist. “People initially started using it as a humour, and then it kind of [caught on]”

Monica Lewinsky discusses culture cancellation in ’15 Minutes of Shame’ official trailer: ‘I was patient zero’

Man releases ‘dopamine’ when someone is called

“There are studies that show that dopamine is released when we see a criminal being punished,” Smith said. “I think it’s possible that we’re chasing the hit that we get when we see someone we’ve misunderstood, then get their arrival.”

Smith is an expert in schadenfreude, “the joy that you find in seeing someone else’s misfortune,” as he put it.

The historian then recalled a Dutch study conducted with football fans examining the faces of fans looking at a team that is a fan of scoring a goal, as well as a goal from an opposing team. Video to remember.

on those videos [of the rivals missing], that’s when he smiled most widely and fastest,” Smith explained. “It wasn’t watching his own team score a goal, it was seeing his rivals score a goal.”

Social media algorithms can promote negative content

Technology ethicist Tristan Harris recalled an NYU study that found that “for every word of moral outrage” — such as “horrible,” “insulting” and “disgusting” — added to a tweet on Twitter, that post “Retweet rate” increased by 13%.

According to Harris, tweets with high engagement are promoted by algorithms on social media platforms, which is profitable.

UCLA professor and author Safia Noble explained such sentiments, saying that social media algorithms are not “neutral and objective” but are focused on “attracting the eyeballs to the content on their platforms.”

More eyeballs from them result in more money for the social media platform, which means more clicks they’ll promote, Harris explained.

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