Monica Lewinsky is having another cultural moment. But this time, it’s on her terms.
Twenty-three years ago, Lewinsky found herself at the center of the biggest Presidential sex scandal in history. Fresh out of college and harboring a crush on then-President Bill Clinton, Lewinsky was ultimately betrayed by her friend, Linda Tripp, whose shared recordings of their phone calls led to Clinton’s impeachment trial. The entire mess was played out in the public and became fodder for all of the late-night talk show hosts. “Saturday Night Live” famously skewered the scandal in repeated sketches, with series regular Molly Shannon portraying Lewinsky, often wearing her trademark beret. One sketch included a memorable performance by guest host John Goodman as Tripp. Lewinsky saw her whole life played for laughs, but it is she who’s having the last laugh now.
With two new TV projects, Monica Lewinsky is taking the reins and finally reclaiming the public narrative for herself. She’s a producer on “Impeachment: American Crime Story” currently airing on FX and Hulu (the actress Beanie Feldstein uncannily embodies the young and idealistic Lewinsky). And she serves as co-Executive Producer along with “Catfish” co-creator Max Joseph for her new HBOMax documentary, “15 Minutes of Shame,” which debuts Thursday night. The film explores the online phenomena of public shaming and the concept of “cancel culture,” and how it’s gotten worse with the influx of technology, social media, and tabloids, something Lewinsky is well-equipped to discuss.
plz stream our film — an exploration of how we got to this culture of humiliation? and where the fuck are we going? #15MinutesOfShame on @hbomax
exec-produced: me + @SixWestMedia1 pic.twitter.com/KMVPaxwYJO
— Monica Lewinsky (she/her) (@MonicaLewinsky) October 7, 2021
Lewinsky speaks to not only her own experiences in the spotlight, but to others who are currently in it as well. At the time Lewinsky became a household name, pop singer Britney Spears was also being attacked by the press. Spears, was constantly “slut-shamed” in the late 90s and early 2000s and mocked for her public troubles. Lewinsky points out that if Spears were a young performer today, she hopefully would be viewed through a “more supportive lens of mental health awareness”.
But the subjects in Lewinsky’s new documentary aren’t famous; they’re private citizens who were catapulted into the international tsunami of social media overnight. The film explores various types of modern public shaming and the consequential aftermath, including a man who was globally vilified for stockpiling sanitizer during the early days of COVID-19, and a woman who lost her job for posting anti-Trump rhetoric in a Facebook group. In taking a deeper look at these individuals’ stories with her own unique lens, Lewinsky says she walked away with a different perspective than when she had just read the headlines.
— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) October 7, 2021
Lewinsky appeared on “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah” to discuss her new projects and her new approach to life while also promoting Bullying Prevention Month. Watch their full discussion, below.