Shame is something we have all experienced at some point. Of all the moral emotions, it can be the most destructive to a healthy sense of self. But do we ever deserve to feel it?

In order to unpack it’s complexities, we’ve compiled 10 books, films, series and podcasts which tackle the ethics of shame.

Jon Ronson – Shame Culture, Festival of Dangerous Ideas

Welsh journalist, Jon Ronson in his FODI 2015 talk examines the emergence of public shaming as an internet phenomenon, and how we can combat this culture. Based on his book, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Ronson highlights several individuals behind high profile shaming, who after careless actions have been subject to a relentless lynch mob.

Disgrace – J. M. Coetzee

Fictional novel by South African author, J.M. Coetzee tells the story of a middle-aged Cape Town professor’s fall from grace following his forced resignation from a university after pursuing an inappropriate affair. The professor struggles to come to terms with his own behaviour, sense of self as well as his relationships around him.

The Whale 

American film directed by Darren Aronofsky where a reclusive and unhealthy English teacher, hides out in his flat and eats his way to death. He is desperate to reconnect with his teenage daughter for a last chance at redemption.

The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini  

Fictional novel by Afghan-American author, Khaled Hosseini which tells the story of Amir, a young boy from the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul, and how shame can be a destructive force in an individual’s life.

World Without Rape, Festival of Dangerous Ideas

This panel discussion with Joanna Bourke, Jess Hill, Saxon Mullins, Bronwyn Penrith and Sisonke Msimang from FODI 2022 examines rape and its use in war, the home and society as an enduring part of history and modern life. The panel examines the role of shame from both a victim’s and perpetrator’s point of view and whether it is key to tackling the issue.


Muriel’s Wedding 

The Australian beloved classic from P.J. Hogan portrays a young social outcast who embezzles money and attempts to fake a new life for herself.

The List – Yomi Adegoke 

British fictional novel by Yomi Adegoke about a high-profile female journalist’s world that is upended when her fiancé’s name turns up in a viral social media post. The story is a timely exploration of the real-world impact of online life.



British psychological drama directed by Steve McQueen, exploring the uncompromising nature of sex addiction.


Reputation Rehab

Australian documentary series that believes we shouldn’t be consigned to a cultural scrapheap, and that most people are more than a punchline and deserve a second chance. Hosted by Zoe Norton Lodge and Kirsten Drysdale, guests include Nick Kyrigos, Abbie Chatfield and Osher Gunsberg.


It’s a Sin 

British TV series depicting the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the 1980-1990s HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK. The series unpacks the mechanics of shame and how it was built into queer lives, potentially affecting their own behaviour. 


For a deeper dive, join us for The Ethics of Shame on Wednesday 27 March, 2024 at 6:30pm. Tickets available here.

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