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Come to Gawk

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One of the more ethical examples of this trope.

"But who are these? for with joint pace I hear
The tread of many feet stearing this way;
Perhaps my enemies who come to stare
At my affliction, and perhaps to insult,
Their daily practice to afflict me more."
John Milton, Samson Agonistes

A character is exhibited for ridicule — while still alive. Special garments, signs with the proclamation of the offense, or even nudity may be enforced. Menial labor may be required. Rotten fruit may be thrown, but the character usually finds the staring humiliation enough (without a Humiliation Conga to make it worse). Perhaps even a Fate Worse than Death which is why it often makes for prime Moral Event Horizon material. Pride makes it worse, but no one really enjoys it. Most of the time characters that are meant to be sympathetic are on the receiving end of this but it can occasionally be justified as a dark way to Pay Evil unto Evil.

In Real Life, the pillory and the stocks were designed for this, but cages, chains, and even just guards may be used to keep the prisoner in place, or on the route of his enforced procession. It was particularly common in colonial societies, who often couldn't afford the loss of human-power that would come with extended imprisonment or execution. Though a Public Execution may have this as an added blow to the death.

Conversely, characters may come to gawk at a prisoner, for much the same effect. When the character has been Made a Slave, an auction may bring this on, even worsened by the fact that the purchasers don't care how humiliated the character is.

A defeated or demoralized character, even if not a captive, may greet another with this as a Stock Phrase, with accusations of coming to gawk at their shame, with snarls of Don't You Dare Pity Me!, even if the other character wants only to help. They may demand Get It Over With to avoid the gawking. Similarly, if their Pride convinces them that they came to gloat when they did not even know they were there.

The threat of this trope may lead characters to Leave Behind a Pistol or decide that it's Better to Die than Be Killed.

Supertrope to Instant Humiliation: Just Add YouTube!, in which the embarrassing event is posted onto the internet. Compare Dead Guy on Display, which can be the same thing for a corpse. See also A Truce While We Gawk.

If the gawkers spontaneously show up to mock someone over accidental embarrassments, you're dealing with The Freelance Shame Squad. The comedic equivalent is Pass the Popcorn. The commercial version was used in The Freakshow where the performers were often paid well for their display.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In The Rose of Versailles, when Jeanne Valois is publicly branded as a criminal, many spectators came to gawk at her.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Beatrice forces Battler in a Heroic BSoD to parade around nude and be used as furniture in front of a pack of goat-servants. Shortly afterwards, he's devoured.

    Comic Books 
  • In the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics, the self-appointed new Emperor, Sate Pestage, fled the Empire to save his life. He'd been planning to strike a deal with the Rebel Alliance / New Republic, sparing his life and giving him about thirty planets in exchange for leaving the Imperial capital undefended, but he was found out and captured. He was held in a prison, and the Rebels broke him out but couldn't flee off-planet with him yet, so they set up camp. While he was there, an ex-Imperial pilot who had defected came to visit him.
    Pestage: Come to see if I was okay, or is your visit a harbinger of trouble?
    Fel: I just came to see how far the mighty had fallen. I had to remind myself you're a man like any other.
    Pestage: Is that it, or are you here to gloat over my misfortune?
  • Batman:
    • In The Killing Joke, Jim Gordon is locked naked in a cage with a bunch of carnival freaks staring at him while the Joker makes a Breaking Speech about how frail and pathetic man is, in an attempt to drive Gordon insane.
    • In Batman: Year One, Flass gets this treatment twice.
      • The first time was Gordon pushing back.
        Gordon: He'll never report it. ... But he'll know and he'll leave Barbara alone.
      • Then again from Batman as a message to the precinct.
        Flass: It was little dart things... they paralyzed the felons... but he singled me out.
  • Urbanus: In the album Leute voor de Meute the government decides to recreate bread and games activities to keep the people happy. As a result of this initiative, prisoners are tortured in front of an audience for their amusement.
  • Excalibur (Marvel Comics):
    • The team once fought a group of extradimensional beasts called Warwolves who worked for the X-Men's old enemy Mojo; after they were apprehended, the team didn't see the point of putting them through any actual legal system, seeing as, despite their intelligence, they were far too dangerous. So they were incarcerated in a special cage at the London Zoo. (And were a popular attraction for a while.) They escaped a few times, and at present, are at large and in hiding.
    • When Arcade kidnapped Captain Britain's girlfriend Courtney Ross, he combined this with Go-Go Enslavement (same idea as a Playboy Bunny outfit, but a ribbon instead of ears) and a rather unique Death Trap: She was dumped onto a stage in front of a Tough Room full of android hecklers who demanded to be entertained; failing to win them over would result in them killing her. (Amazingly, Courtney survived by discovering a talent for impromptu stand-up comedy, much to Arcade's surprise.)

    Fan Works 
  • Vow of Nudity: Spectra suffers from this daily, due to her necklace of forced nudity and her career as a circus performer.

    Films — Animation 
  • Beauty and the Beast: The Beast assumes that Maurice came "to stare at the Beast" when the latter takes shelter in the castle.
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney): When Quasimodo is chosen as King of Fools, at first the people celebrate him, but then a guard throws a tomato and the rest of the crowd turns against him For the Evulz. Frollo, angry that Quasi disobeyed him by leaving the cathedral, lets this go on until Esmeralda saves him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Freaks — being about a freak show. Then people saw it and quickly changed their minds.
  • The climax of The Blue Angel has the main character, a once-proud (too proud) professor, dressed up as a clown and forced to crow like a rooster in front of a crew of his former colleagues, students, and neighbours. It's an incredibly difficult scene to watch. Then he goes berserk.
  • Near the end of A Knight's Tale, Will is locked up in the pillory and the crowds that had previously cheered him on in the jousts come to laugh at him and throw rotten food. His friends show up, intending to shame them into stopping. They get pelted with food, too.
  • Murders in the Rue Morgue starts out with the mains character wandering through a kind of exhibit show featuring (among other things) Middle eastern belly-dancers, Apache warriors, and a gorilla.
  • This is a major theme in The Elephant Man. Treves has an attack of conscience after realizing that the highborn society people visiting Merrick are gawking in just the same way that the commoners in The Freakshow did.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights That's part of Prince John's punishment for all the abusing of power that he did:
    Richard the Lionheart: Take him away! Wait, wait— put him in the Tower of London. Make him part of the tour.
  • This is more-or-less what Westley threatens Prince Humperdink with in his To the Pain speech.
  • Bedlam: Sims, the master of the infamous Bedlam insane asylum, lets visitors pay to gawk at the inmates of the asylum. This actually happened in Real Life.
  • In Men in Black, Beatrice has already endured the ridicule of the local authorities and others for her story about an alien stealing her husband Edgar's body and is sure that Agents J and K, allegedly of the FBI, are there to do the same. K, however, hastens to assure her that this is not the case, because:
  • The Holy Office: Hundreds of people gather to laugh and boo at the people about to be executed in an Auto de Fe.

  • The blinded Samson is humiliated by the Philistines exhibiting him.
    • The same scene appears in John Milton's Samson Agonistes.
    • Jesus: Forced to carry the cross, then get nailed to it? The Torah says, "God's curse is on the one who hangs on a tree." Of course, in Jesus' case, it's entirely intentional. How else was He supposed to take on the curse of the world's sins?
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 novel Brothers of the Snake, when Priad visits Khiron in his cell and tells him that he had come to see him, Khiron believes it curiosity and flares with anger. Priad apologizes; he had actually hoped to have Khiron as his squad Apocathery.
  • In the Aubrey-Maturin books, Jack is pilloried. However, sailors who've fought alongside him or respect him as a war hero, travel from all over the country to surround Jack from the mob.
    • This is based on a Real Life incident with Admiral Thomas Cochrane, Jack's prototype. Cochrane got involved in a stocks scandal and was convicted and pilloried. The public outrage after this sentence (he was a rather popular figure) was so loud that it actually became one of the main reasons for the abolition of pillory in the UK.
  • Quasimodo in the stocks in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. It was a typical sentence for attempting to kidnap the gypsy Esmeralda though the real mastermind was Archdeacon Frollo.
  • In Stephen Hunt's The Court Of The Air, the figurehead/scapegoat king is regularly displayed on balconies for the crowd to pelt with rubbish; a coronation starts with sending the new king around to many towns to be displayed and pelted.
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter opens with Hester Prynne standing on a pillory before the crowd as part of her punishment. (And that was the easy part. She'd be stared at the same way by the townsfolk and even by visitors the rest of her life, due to the Mark of Shame she had to wear.)
  • In Doctrine of Labyrinths, this happens to two characters. Stephen, wrongfully believing Felix guilty of treason, drags him through the crowded Plaza del Archimago in Melusine. In Corambis, Kay is put on display in public after he's blinded and forced to surrender his army.
  • In The Sword-Edged Blonde, when the queen is accused of murder, the detective protagonist recommends that the king sentence her to public humiliation while the detective tries to find the person who framed her.
  • In the Vorkosigan Saga, the punishment for Vors on Barrayar, who commit treason is public exposure until they starve to death. At one point, Aral Vorkosigan discusses how the Vor was usually given a chance to commit suicide, but if it came to that, he'd go through with it.
  • In Andre Norton's Ice Crown, Nelis Imfry is exposed in a cage as punishment.
  • In The Scar by China MiĆ©ville, the Brucolac is hung up atop a ship's mast and left there. Being a vampire, he is slowly dying of exposure to sunlight before he is finally taken down.
  • In H. Beam Piper's Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, the priests of Styphon are allowed to recant their service; part of the ritual devised is having them parade before crowds, who are allowed to throw fruit at them.
  • In J. R. R. Tolkien's Return of the King, when the main characters meet him on the road, Saruman accuses Galadriel of having deliberately brought them "to gloat over my poverty." This a clear case of Never My Fault, Saruman has committed countless atrocities and tried to enslave Rohan and his downfall and poverty was brought on first by his victims fighting back and defeating him (with the unforeseen inclusion of the Ents) and secondly by his prideful denial of accepting amnesty and his guilt in exchange for helping the winners against Sauron. All this does nothing to change his attitude about seeing himself as the victim through it all.
  • In Dan Abnett's Eisenhorn novel Malleus, the triumph includes displaying prisoners taken in the crusade — including, alas, psykers.
  • In Watership Down, poor Blackavar is made to stand on display as an example to the other rabbits after he gets his ears shredded for trying to flee the totalitarian Efrafa.
  • In The Confidence-Man, passengers on the boardwalk come to just watch the crippled man from New Guinea, who is actually just one of the avatars of a Con Man who is painted up to look that way.
  • Kylar from The Night Angel Trilogy enjoys a bit of this after being sentenced to death for regicide in order to help his friend gain the throne. Unfortunately, there was a famine going on, so the crowd only had rocks.
  • In Choke by Chuck Palahniuk, the main character and his buddy work in a Colonial Williamsburg-esque town which punishes loafing employees by making them sit in the stocks all day.
  • In Adrian Tchaikovsky's Salute the Dark, Thalric is exposed, like other prisoners, when taken to Capitas. The guards do not prevent their being attacked and beaten by the crowds.
  • In The Pillars of the Earth, Remigius asks this to Philip when he's wandering the streets as a beggar. Instead, Philip offers to take him back (as a novice).
  • Happens to Cersei Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire. She is sentenced by the Faith to walk along the streets naked. Also serves as a Break the Haughty moment, and is ironic for several reasons: she was the one who revived the Church Militant order and she was sentenced for crimes she accused Margaery of.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, after being locked in his room by the Dursleys, Harry Potter has a nightmare about being placed in a cage in a zoo for people to gawk at, with a sign on it reading "UNDERAGE WIZARD."
  • The short story National Geographic on Assignment: Mermaids of the Old West (included in the anthology Somewhere Beneath Those Waves) is based on the conceit that humans capture mermaids for aquariums and entertainment including dressing in costumes and performing tricks. The mermaids don't like it.
  • In The Phantom of the Opera novel, as well as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical and 2004 movie, mention Erik/The Phantom on display in the Gypsy circus as "The Devil's Child." The only difference is in the novel and play he was an adult while the movie had him as a kid which eventually drove him to his first murder.
  • In Frostflower and Thorn, hangings tend to draw large crowds. Also, just about every humiliation and torture Frostflower suffers since her capture has an audience, from her public rape to her torture session (though that at least wasn't open to the general public, only priests and staff) to her eventual hanging.
  • In Inheritance, from Inheritance Cycle, Sloan believes that this is what Eragon wants when Eragon comes to visit around the end of the book, but he's off-the-mark. Eragon had forgotten Sloan was there until he spotted him and feels so guilty about bringing Sloan's daughter, Katrina, there when he knows that he can't see her that he restores Sloan's eyes, which had been pecked away by the Ra'zac.
  • The Wheel of Time: After the False Dragon Logain is captured, he's taken to Magical Society's capital city to be De-Powered and paraded in a cage through the streets of every city along the way. On the way he happens to see the true Dragon Reborn, as yet unaware of his true identity, and breaks down laughing at the irony.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Veronica Mars::
    • This is the subtext of the second season when a parent commits a crime, their children have to walk the walk of shame. In "Ain't No Magic Mountain High Enough", Jackie is volunteered to sit as the target in the water balloon carnival booth, in a bikini, being pelted with cold water by people who hate her.
    • It's also a common occurrence for people to be stripped naked and duct-taped to the high school's flagpole.
  • Referenced by Mystery Science Theater 3000 when they watched the short "Junior Rodeo Daredevils". After one youngster loses a competition and throws his hat in the air in frustration:
    Joel: Go ahead! Strip me of my dignity at age four! What are you looking aaaaat?!
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "The Most Toys," Data is captured by a greedy alien collector named Kivas Fajo who wants him as a centerpiece for his series of unique and valuable items (being the onlynote  sentient android in existence). By putting Data into his collection, and showing him off to other thieves, Fajo is using him for a Come To Gawk purpose, claiming it's okay since Data has no emotions and therefore can't find his imprisonment distasteful. At the end of the episode, of course, Data is returned to the Enterprise and Fajo is locked up in the brig, his collection of stolen items being returned to their owners. When Data comes by to watch him in the brig, Fajo asks him if he's enjoying watching him being kept captive by the Enterprise, only for Data to reply that as an android, he finds no pleasure in such things.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Captive Pursuit", the hunted alien Tosk is threatened with this if taken back by a Hunter alive, displayed in public and humiliated. Despite this, he refuses an offer of asylum, as that is even more dishonorable in his eyes. Sympathizing with him, O'Brien is able to help Tosk escape so that he can continue his role as the Hunted and maintain dignity as well (with Sisko's off-the-record aid).
  • In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry has to wear a sign saying he's a shoplifter after he borrows silverware from a restaurant to feed his limo driver.
  • In Blackadder II, the title character (as Lord High Executioner) kills a man ahead of schedule, only to have the man's wife come for a visit. In order to get the information Blackadder needs to pose as the dead man, Percy demands she prove that she's really his wife and not just a "Gloater", claiming that the jail is "up to our ears" in people coming by to gloat over those on Death Row. It works, but Blackadder still calls Percy a prat for coming up with such a ludicrous idea.
  • In Parks and Recreation, Ron explains that he's not at an organic food store to buy anything. "I'm here for the same reason people go to zoos."
  • Black Mirror:
    • "The National Anthem" has everyone tune in at 4:00 to watch the Prime Minister comply to a kidnapper's singular demand: to have sex with a pig on live television. Everyone who tunes in watches for their amusement or out of pity, and as the kidnapper would know, they can't look away.
    • The signal in "White Bear" has transformed 9/10 people into "Observers" who do nothing but watch our lead female get tormented throughout the episode. In a plot twist, the trope is played completely straight when it turns out the whole thing is an elaborate punishment for the lead and the audience is voluntarily there as a form of Ironic Hell.

  • The Miley Cyrus music video for "Can't Be Tamed", features her as a Winged Humanoid locked in a cage and stared at by rich snobs.
  • Part of Muse's "Knights of Cydonia" video includes the hero being placed in stocks and having feces hurled at him.
  • Dark Woods Circus is all about this trope, with a side of Nightmare Fuel and Tear Jerker.
  • Atrocity Exhibition by Joy Division from their album Closer (1980) about people who pay to see a barely living man in an asylum. "For entertainment they watch his body twist."
    You'll see the horrors of a faraway place
    Meet the architects of law face to face
    See mass murder on a scale you've never seen
    And all the ones who try hard to succeed...
  • Dead Kennedys have the song "Jock-O-Rama" from Frankenchrist where high school sport funding and their spectators are compared to gladiator era massacre gawking: On the almighty football field/ Beerbellies of all ages/Come to watch the gladiators bleed.
  • "In the Colosseum" by Tom Waits from Bone Machine about spectacle in the arena.
  • "Lucky Day Overture" by Tom Waits from The Black Rider describes several freak show artists with deformities. Tom plays a circus promoter promising "human oddities" such as a three-headed baby, Hitler's brain, the human pincushion, a seal boy with flippers for arms, the man born without a body, and more!

  • William Shakespeare:
    • At the end of the Scottish play Macduff threatens Macbeth with public humiliation if he won't fight for killing his wife and son. Macbeth's pride won't allow him to submit, so he has no choice but to fight even though it's been prophesied that it will mean his death.
    • In Antony and Cleopatra, Cleopatra's motive for suicide is to avoid this.
      Thou, an Egyptian puppet, shall be shown
      In Rome as well as I: mechanic slaves,
      With greasy aprons, rules, and hammers, shall
      Uplift us to the view
    • In Henry VI Part 2, Eleanor Duchess of Gloucester is subjected to public penance after being accused of witchcraft: Enter the Duchess barefoot in a white sheet, with verses pinned upon her back and a taper burning in her hand, with the Sheriff and Officers and Sir John Stanley. A crowd following.
      For whilst I think I am thy married wife
      And thou a prince, protector of this land,
      Methinks I should not thus be led along,
      Mail'd up in shame, with papers on my back,
      And followed with a rabble that rejoice
      To see my tears and hear my deep-fet groans.
      The ruthless flint doth cut my tender feet,
      And when I start, the envious people laugh
      And bid me be advised how I tread.
  • Prometheus to Oceanus in Prometheus Bound:
    Prometheus: Ha! what has brought thee?
    Hast thou also come
    To look upon my woe?
  • In Electra, Clytemnestra actually seems to enjoy provoking Electra in her fallen state.

    Video Games 
  • In Final Fantasy IX, Amarant ventures into Ipsen's Castle by himself to make a point that working alone is better and smarter than working as a team. Zidane and a group of three others (the standard party), enter the castle, leaving the remainder of the party outside. Amarant makes it to the top first and declares his intention to the game's hero, Zidane, to abandon the party, as he's proved his point, and leaves. When Zidane and the others complete their business, they head back outside, only to be informed that they won, as Amarant never returned. Realizing that Amarant must be trapped somewhere inside, Zidane heads back in to rescue Amarant, and when he finds him, Amarant asks if he's come to mock him. Zidane replies that he says some strange things and Amarant admits that he doesn't understand how Zidane thinks. After a bit more talk, Amarant rejoins, this time for good, and slowly begins to come to understand Zidane.
  • This is also Tromell's reaction in Final Fantasy X if you return to Guadosalam late in the game. "Come to kill me? I welcome it. Or are you here to laugh? Laugh at the fallen Guado?"
  • In Eternal Sonata, there's a Magic Researcher on the second floor of Baroque Castle. If the player visits him after completing the Lament Mirror sequence (available only in the PlayStation 3 Updated Re-release of the game), he will ask if the party has come to laugh at them and orders them "Get Out!!" Polka and Frederic, however, note that he's studying magic, and quickly explain that they're both magic users, delighting him as he rarely gets to meet live magic users, and he reveals a lot of interesting information.
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land: Inside Lab Discovera is the Big Bad Fecto Forgo, aka ID-F86. The elevator leading to its containment chamber has an announcer that cheerfully presents its backstory like one would see at a museum or a zoo exhibit. In fact, Forgo has heard the announcer's voice on repeat for so many years that it became a Madness Mantra it can never escape from, not even in their dreams. Granted, Forgo is an evil alien that tried to destroy the titular world just because it could, so it's not like it didn't deserve this kind of karma.
  • Shao Kahn seems big on this. In Mortal Kombat games where Kahn's Arena appears, slaves and captives (female ones especially) are chained up to posts around the place. In Sonja's case in the second game, this might be a case of a prisoner being Forced to Watch, but for everyone else, it seems the Trope is being played straight.
  • World of Warcraft; a quest line in the Borean Tundra requires you to speak to a naga priestess named Veejhas who is being held captive in her own temple by Kvaldir. When you do so, she hisses loudly and assumes this is why you're here. (You aren't; your faction opposes the Kvaldir too. Even so, she emphasizes that her cooperation is very temporary.)
  • Portal 2 has some Dummied Out lines of an alternate version of the scene where Chell finds GLaDOS in Chapter 6.
    GLaDOS: Come to gloat? Go on. Get a goooood, looooong look. Go on! Get a big fat eyeful! With your big fat eyes! That's right. A potato just called your eyes fat. Now your fat eyes have seen everything.
  • Halo 2: When disgraced Fleetmaster Thel 'Vadamee is stripped of his rank, tens of thousands of people show up to watch as he's branded with the Mark of Shame.

    Visual Novels 

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: In "New Kid On The Block", Captain McCallister puts Homer on display as "Bottomless Pete", the creature with a bottomless stomach. (This is actually part of an out-of-court-settlement for Homer's lawsuit, and while Marge is pretty humiliated, Homer is fine with it; he gets all the free shrimp he can eat.)
    "Come for the freak, stay for the food!"
  • The "Bushido" episode of Gargoyles had Goliath, Bronx, Angela and several gargoyles of the Ishimura clan abducted to be made part of a gargoyles theme park.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, thirteen-year-old Prince Zuko's Agni Kai against his father could be seen as a particularly horrifying example of this. Zuko's kneeling, tears, and desperate pleas for forgiveness were all watched silently by a crowd of hundreds after he was tricked into a duel with the Fire Lord, and some individuals could be seen wearing creepily satisfied expressions when he got the scar.
  • On South Park, characters have a rather nasty habit of gathering to watch people do outrageous things. Most of the time, they do it to watch characters fight each other.
  • Felix the Cat The Movie: Princess Oriana is forced to work in a Circus of Fear after her uncle The Duke of Zill conquers her kingdom. Doubles as The Not-So-Harmless Punishment if you think about it, since there are few things worse for The High Queen than becoming a sideshow.
  • Ninjago: Dragons Rising: In the Imperium, anyone who violates any of the kingdom's laws is punished by being subject to public humiliation, which is live-streamed to the entire kingdom. On hearing this, Lloyd doesn't think it's as bad as all that, thanks to years of teasing from his fellow ninja, until Sora points out that for their purposes of sneaking around the place, everyone seeing their face is very bad.
  • In the Teen Titans (2003) episode "How Long is Forever?", Starfire time-travels 20 years into the future. She seeks out the 20-years-older versions of her teammates and discovers Beast Boy on display in a cage in a circus.
  • In ThunderCats (1985), Mumm-Ra once bound the heroes in Mummy Wrap so he could "display" them in his burial chamber. (Not exactly a straight example, as he was the only one to gawk at them. This proved a mistake.)
  • In one Popeye cartoon, Bluto is an Evil Poacher with a zoo full of rare animals, and intends to put Popeye and Olive there; he eventually gets A Taste Of His Own Medicine and is locked up in his own zoo, gawked at by his former collection. ("Can't you read?" he angrily shouts to them, indicating a sign. "It says don't tease the animals!")

    Real Life 
  • Sadly, this HAS been Truth in Television. Mostly, Indigenous people were brought over to more developed countries and put on display for everything from "study" to...well, entertainment. Needless to say, this was Values Dissonance.
    • After slavers killed his wife and children, Ota Benga was made to perform at several events (including the Louisiana Purchase Exposition). In 1906, they put him in the Monkey House at the Bronx Zoo for demonstration, where he shot targets with a bow and arrow and wrestled with orangutans. They made him an "interactive" exhibit two days later, walking the grounds where people could physically and verbally abuse him as they pleased. Needless to say, he took this poorly and became violently depressed. Ten years later, he committed suicide.
    • Saartjie Baartman was forced to exhibit herself around Europe, often nude to show off her "inhuman features" (partially due to her steatopygia, but you get the idea). Her "owner" and his brother had sent her from colonial South Africa with a promise of half the profits. When the public lost interest, she was forced into prostitution and died possibly of smallpox at age 26.
  • Not only Indigenous people were exhibited: People with handicaps, bizarre illnesses, and body distortions were also put on display. In the 19th century, and most of the 20th century, this was seen as legitimate entertainment for the normal people. One famous example is Joseph Merrick, immortalized in The Elephant Man.
  • Recently coming to be considered a valid form of punishment again, especially in the United States, where public humiliation may not just be an intended (if unofficial) side effect of a conviction, but actually constitute the sentence itself.
    • In the criminal justice community this is actually gaining popularity as a form of what's called "restorative justice" since there have been studies that show that shame is an important part of both preventing crime in the first place and preventing recidivism, and throwing people in prison has become glorified in some subcultures, so expect to see more of this sort of thing. It fell out of favor with the rise of easy mass transportation (who cares if you spent a day in the stocks if you can easily move to a location no one has ever heard of you), and came back with the information-spreading properties of the internet.
      • Stephen Levitt discusses a creative example that has found some use in his discussions over incentives. Rather than fining pimps, prostitutes, and johns, the local authorities would post their convictions to a website. Levitt asks what would be a more powerful incentive to avoid prostitution: a $500 USD fine or one's friends, family, and coworkers seeing you on
    • Used in Nazi Germany during the 1930s. Couples accused of miscegenation would be forced to stand outside holding signs describing their "crime". Later on in the Nazi regime, things got much, much worse.
  • An interesting real-life subversion occurred in 1703 when Daniel Defoe (best known for writing Robinson Crusoe) was pilloried for the crime of seditious libel. Because he was regarded as a hero by the crowd, they did not gawk, but pelted him with flowers.
  • In Rome, part of a triumph given to a triumphant general was a parade of their more important prisoners (as alluded to in Antony & Cleopatra above). They treated the prisoners fairly well until the triumph - after which they were executed. Circumstances sometimes meant that there was quite a gap between the campaign and the triumph, such as Caesar's triumph from Gaul which was interrupted by a minor political difficulty.
    • Also in Rome, around 271 AD a group of crossdressing Gothic women soldiers were captured as prisoners of war and paraded through the streets with signs hanging over them that mocked them as "Amazons".
  • Talk Show with Fists: One Psychologist described it as the "Freakshow principle" where people go out of their way to see things like the The Morton Downey Jr. Show, The Jerry Springer Show, COPS and other trainwrecks like that solely so they can comfort themselves knowing they aren't as freaky as those people and boost their self-esteem. Half of the reality shows about dysfunctional celebrity families could also count as such.
  • In a much milder version of this trope, it's not uncommon for parents to punish unruly teenagers by making them stand in public wearing signs detailing the stupid things they did. It's mostly done to counteract any 'rebelling is cool' attitude that they may get from their peers by reminding them that the rest of society will not be so easily impressed.
    • A recent Internet meme involves people doing this with their pets. Not that the pets, especially cats, really care.
  • The case of Mukhtar Mai. She was subject to Honor-Related Abuse after her brother was accused of having an inappropriate relationship. Mukhtar was gang-raped, then paraded naked through town in order to shame her family. Although she was encouraged to commit suicide to save face, she refused and even brought her rapists to trial.