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Circle of Shame

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"This is not happening. The cruel slow-motion laughter is just your imagination."
Sue Sylvester, Glee

The inversion of Laughing Mad — a character's humiliation is depicted with a pan around a group of people laughing at them, often in slow motion. May be more or less fancifully depicted, ranging from a simple shot of a bunch of people pointing and laughing, to a Fish-Eye Lens low-angle "swallowed up by the floor" shot Whip Panning from Grotesque sneering face to sneering face.

Can occur in bad dreams, or can just be an Imagine Spot. If it happens for real, it's probably courtesy of The Freelance Shame Squad.

Can be used in Flashback to set up They Called Me Mad! and/or Who's Laughing Now?


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     Anime & Manga 
  • Chazz Princeton from Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has this at the thought of being demoted from Obelisk Blue to Ra Yellow.
  • In My Hero Academia, Izuku Midoriya is caught in one of these as his entire middle school class laughs in his face for declaring that he wants to apply to U.A., the best superhero school in the country, without a Quirk. It's heavily implied that this is far from the first time this has happened.

     Comic Books 
  • Captain Boomerang experiences a hallucinatory one when Mindboggler unleashes his greatest fear in an early issue of Suicide Squad. He hallucinates that he surrounded by the superheroes who have defeated him the past; all laughing at him.
  • Another hallucinatory example happens with Toa Kopaka in BIONICLE comic 14, after he is hit by Kuurahk's Staff of Fear.

     Films — Animation 

     Films — Live-Action 
  • Used in Thunderbird 6 - The Movie. When Brains outlines his idea of building an airship, a roomful of air industry executives laugh at him. The film's DVD Commentary points out that, since all the characters are marionettes, lots of laughing puppet heads had to be constructed even though each of them would only appear in one shot.
    "Sure, they laughed - and then they built it!"
  • Used in combination with the Scream Discretion Shot with the rape of Lucy Barker in the climax of the "Poor Thing" scene from Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
    She wasn't no match for such craft, you see,
    And everyone thought it so droll.
    They figured she had to be daft, you see,
    So all of them stood there and laughed, you see.
    Poor soul!
    Poor thing!
  • Carrie (1976) features this in the prom scene. After she gets pig's blood dunked on her and Tommy dies from the bucket, she sees the whole crowd laughing at her—though the kaleidoscope camera implies this is a delusion. Nonetheless, she still goes on a Tranquil Fury Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • Carrie's mother was paranoid about this immediately prior to the prom.
      "They're all gonna laugh at you!"
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure - "There's no basement in the Alamo!" - eveyone laughs at him, and a kid takes his picture.
  • Austin Powers in Goldmember - Happens twice to Austin as the crowd reacts to his father not being there at a royal award and, in flashback, winning an award at spy academy - and there's a toothless old gardener laughing at him both times.
    • To add even more injury, it's the SAME toothless gardener!
  • Buttercup's bad dreams in The Princess Bride feature an old hag working a crowd against her;
    The Ancient Booer: Boo! Boo! Boo!
    Buttercup: Why do you do this?
    The Ancient Booer: Because you had love in your hands, and you gave it up!
    Buttercup: But they would have killed Westley if I hadn't done it.
    The Ancient Booer: Your true love lives! And you marry another. True Love saved her in the Fire Swamp, and she treated it like garbage. And that's what she is, the Queen of Refuse. So bow down to her if you want, bow to her. Bow to the Queen of Slime, the Queen of Filth, the Queen of Putrescence. Boo! Boo! Rubbish! Filth! Slime! Muck! Boo! Boo! Booo!
  • Parodied in Fubee.
    Mrs. Crumpets: Do you know what we must do now, Miss Late? We must all point at you and laugh.
  • In the Russian fantasy Morozko (seen on Mystery Science Theater 3000), a crowd always appears to mock and laugh at the evil ugly sister when she gets in a humiliating situation.
  • A quite literal version in What We Do in the Shadows where Nick, for breaking the Vampire code, is subjected to a "really harsh punishment" called "the Procession of Shame". It turns out it is just the other vampires circling him for five minutes while pointing and chanting "Shame!" and "Bad vampire!" at him.
  • The Snapper has Sharon imagining the faces of people in the neighbourhood gossiping about her and insulting her to her face in increasingly vicious ways for getting pregnant out of wedlock. At first the camera is just panning from one face to another, it gets more surreal as people start crawling out from under the bed, then their voices get drowned out by a traumatic auditory memory of how she got pregnant in the first place.

  • In Warrior Cats, Graystripe has a nightmare that StarClan cats are surrounding him and screaming that it's all his fault that bad things happened to ThunderClan.
  • Tiffany Aching gets one of these in A Hat Full of Sky, when the Alpha Bitch of the trainee witches completely misses the point concerning the invisible hat bestowed by Granny Weatherwax. worst of all, Tiffany suspects some of her fellow novices aren't laughing at her - they're being sympathetic....

     Live-Action TV 
  • Lampshaded on Glee - "This is not happening. The cruel slow-motion laughter is just your imagination"
  • The Vicar in Rev. has a bad dream featuring one of these, as all his friends and family point and jeer at him that he'd make a terrible father.
  • In Boardwalk Empire, Nelson Van Alden hitting his Rage Breaking Point at his Butt-Monkey treatment at the Faraday company is immediately preceded by several grotesque closeups of the laughing colleagues surrounding him on all sides. They aren't laughing for long.

  • In Lady in the Dark, the Circus Dream ends with Charley's voice rising in accusation and the chorus laughing at Liza. As they leave her and the dream fades, they chant, "Make up your mind! Make up your mind!"

     Web Original 
  • A live, although online, example happens in True Capitalist radio's chatroom, usually after one of Ghost's beercan storms.
    Look at 'em! They're laughing! THEY'RE LAUGHING, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE!
  • Common in Achievement Hunter Minecraft Series if someone screws up.
    • During ''Episode 232: Dark Monopoly Part 2", Geoff tries to sleep in the Nether. The bed, which is part of the gameboard, blows up, and the following ensues.
    Michael: "Goddammit, I need change..."
    Geoff: *walks into Shag Tent, uses one of the beds, Shag Tent instantly blows up* "OH SHIT!"
    Gavin: "OHHHHH!"
    Jack: "What happened?!"
    Ryan: "What did you DO?!"
    Gavin: "Geoff slept in the Shag Tent!"
    Jack: "Geoff, you DUMBASS!" *him, Gavin and Jeremy start laughing hysterically*
    Michael: "Geoff... you're fuckin' STUPID."
    Jack: "Geoff's head's down on his own desk!"
    Michael: "COME ON, GEOFF!!"
    *Geoff also starts laughing*
  • Invoked in a Failboat stream, "Splatoon 3 but my Live Chat can talk", where every time Fail dies during a Splatoon 3 level, a bunch of gifs and images appear on his stream and laugh at him, and he has to add another one each time. It gets to the point where he asks his parents for a photo of them laughing and they get in on the action.

     Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons has used it more than once, such as when Bart fantasizes about his family's reaction to him "ruining Thanksgiving." "It's all your fault! It's all your fault!"
  • Braceface: In the episode "The Worst First Date Ever. Period.", Sharon walks into the school gym and everyone laughs at her due to having a fat red P on her head. It turns out to be an imagination.
  • In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Discord's Break Them by Talking to Pinkie Pie in the Season 2 premiere convinces her that when she makes her friends laugh they are actually mocking her instead of having genuine fun with her. The scene features one of these to drive the point home, complete with mocking laughter as Pinkie trips and lands in the mud.
    • In "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle freaks out when she worries about being late sending in a friendship report. She has an Imagine Spot where she's sent back all the way to Magic Kindergarten, and all the little ponies are laughing at her. Later, Twilight hears some giggling little ponies at play in the park, and imagines that they're laughing at her.
    • Same thing happened in "Hurricane Fluttershy" but with adult ponies, on account of it happening to her for real when she was a filly.
  • The Oggy and the Cockroaches episode "Docu-Mentally" ends this way.
  • In Doug, Doug has a fantasy about this happening about Once an Episode.
  • Hey Arnold! has this happen dozens of times. Often, several of the characters forming the circle were laughed at in an earlier episode, because Kids Are Cruel.
  • At the start of the Phineas and Ferb episode "Out to Launch", Candace asks Jeremy out to a dance, and he and literally everyone in Danville start laughing at her. Then the Earth blows up, and we find this was just Candace relaying her "worst-case scenario" to Stacy.
  • Used in an episode of The Weekenders when Carver gets his revenge on an Alpha Bitch by tricking her into showing up to the mall wearing a snorkel mask, a bathing suit, and flippers under the false impression she'll get to meet her favourite celebrity. Because of her ridiculous appearance, this results.
  • Blossom's classmates laugh at her in The Powerpuff Girls (1998) episode "Power-Noia" after she blows three questions, but all is not as it seems. When she sees that is part of the nightmare scenario staged by Him, Blossom wises up and out-thinks the villain.
  • Pixar Shorts: In "Tokyo Mater", Kabuto is subject to this when he's stripped of his modifications after losing the race. "I'M STOCK!!!"


Video Example(s):


Sue shamed

The Elites surround Community Sue with their "Circle of Shame".

How well does it match the trope?

4.57 (7 votes)

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Main / CircleOfShame

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