Nearly two decades ago, Monica Lewinsky became the "patient zero" of online bullying when news broke of her relationship with former President Bill Clinton. She was immediately labeled as a whore, a slut, and even had her choice in headwear (the famed beret) attacked in relentless online attacks. Since then, she's fought back and, in recent years, become an anti-bullying advocate.
Last night, as part of her campaign against bullying and as part of Bullying Prevention Month, Lewinsky released a new PSA called In Real Life that leans heavily into your favorite series to cry to (What Would You Do) for a powerful message about the power of words. As actors play the part of bullies and targets throughout New York streets and coffee shops, real online comments are used as dialogue.
At a coffee shop, a man walks up to a gay couple and says, "I think gay people are sick, and you guys should just kill yourself." In another scene, a white woman confronts a Muslim woman in a park and goes, "You know what? All of you Muslims need to go back to the hellholes you're from. Can you believe this? Fucking terrorist."
It's a powerful reminder of how cruel the internet can be and the reality that when you're able to hide behind a screen, you can say anything without reproach. As Lewinsky explained to People about the PSA, "People hiding behind a screen will write something they'd never say to someone's fac--and what that says about the inhumanity of their actions. It's a stark and shocking mirror to people to rethink how we behave online versus the ways that we would behave in person."