I’ve been watching American Crime Story: Impeachment with bated breath. After all, I’m nine years older than Monica Lewinsky so I remember every minute of that sordid mess as it splashed across the news headlines in the nineties.
In watching the show, it jerks me back once again to how things “were” and how things are “trying to change” for women, men, power, politics, me too…
For people who weren’t alive in the nineties or before, this show might seem strange. Some of the things the ladies discuss might seem odd to the modern woman. Oh, we thought we were mighty modern back in the nineties I must say.
Last night’s episode especially hit home in so many ways for me.
I love this show and as always, when it comes to American Crime Story, Ryan Murphy does an excellent job with the material. Yes, in every show there is truth-stretching to improve the drama and trauma but from OJ to Versace to now Impeachment, these shows have a lot to say about the times these events took place in even if some of the facts are false or bent or misremembered.
What is especially fascinating about ACS: Impeachment is that Monica Lewinsky herself is a producer of the show and therefore likely provided inside information that may not have been shared before or at least she can exercise her right to veto things or improve things. So far so good, Ms. Lewinsky.
It seems she’s not afraid to show herself as weak, manipulated, confused, and tenacious, going crazy from gaslighting as many targets of narcissists do. The Monica we see in Impeachment is much more obsessed than I ever dreamed she was in real life. However, as an obsessive person myself, I can totally relate to Impeachment Monica. |And letting us see her youthful vulnerability as she clings to every phone call, every gift, every encounter really makes the show fantastic.
Although I must make a quick aside that Linda Tripp called Monica a narcissist last night. Perhaps Monica is, but Clinton is the Big Narcissist in this equation, the villain, the head game player. Tripp herself likely had some narcissism as well. Doesn’t everyone who goes into politics have a degree of narcissism, they can change the world?
I’m sure people not familiar with the culture of the time would wonder why don’t these women fight back, why don’t they go to the higher-ups, why do they let themselves be bullied and demoted for other people’s whims?
That’s how it was; there was no where to go. No HR for sexual harassment and so on. Women were lucky to have jobs at all, so they had to suck it up or off, as it were.
For those who don’t know, Monica Lewinski was an intern at the White House when she was 21. At that time, President Bill Clinton took an interest in her and thus began an affair that lasted a couple of years. I had no idea he gave her gifts and that they had so many phone calls nor that the affair lasted as long as it did and was as intense as it was until I began watching this show. In fact, my jaw dropped when she received her first present. I was really pissed off that he manipulated her in that way.
How much did Hillary know? Who knows? The show hasn’t addressed Hillary at all so far. Although, the way the show ended last night, I’m sure there’s going to be lots of Hillary going forward.
Last night, the show ended when President Bill Clinton learned that Monica was called to testify in the Paula Jones case. That floored him, after all, he thought he had Monica under control, under his wandering thumb. As he sat on his bedroom couch wondering about it all, Hillary was sleeping. Before he made it to the couch, we saw the paintings of past presidents, and the camera lingered on JFK, likely because he was a cheating asshole as well. Just because JFK slept with Marilyn Monroe and god knows who else, doesn’t make him a good boy. He’s part of the problem of powerful people cheating on their spouses.
And back in the day, most forgave JFK and Clinton and many other major cheating scumbags. After all, they were powerful men, so “it was expected they would stray.” I suppose it was like the attitude towards rock stars as well. We all knew they all cheated on the road (or most did) but hey, if you’re crazy enough to marry a rock star, enjoy the money and look the other way when the groupies are around…that was the social attitude for decades.
Last night, a few things reflected the times.
Such as when Vernon Jordan patted Monica’s ass after saying he’ll find her a job at Revlon, as per The President’s suggestions. Monica barely blinked at the ass pat, but she noticed it. However, in those days, all of us women were used to men patting our asses, touching our boobs, and more. Yes, bosses, customers, it didn’t matter, men constantly touched women, especially powerful men. I can’t tell you how many bosses I’ve had that groped me and nothing I could do about it. I actually quit one job when a manager touched my breasts, even though I was married. No one believed me, or if they did, thought I should suck it up. I was told, “it’s your word against his...and he's the manager and you've only been here a couple of weeks.” So back then, in the eighties, I just never went back, not even for my last paycheck. And they wondered why they had to hire new waitresses every couple of weeks...
So I totally understand the culture that played out for Tripp and Lewinsky.
Sarah Paulson is doing an amazing job as Linda Tripp. She reportedly gained thirty pounds and she has wigs and I think prosthetics. As with all shows I watch, I try not to research them while I'm watching them so I'm surprised but I did happen to read that somewhere. She doesn’t look like Sarah Paulson at all except for the odd angle where you can “see” Sarah underneath. She has the walk, the voice, she’s playing Linda really well. We are sympathetic to Linda which I don’t think I really was when it all went down back in the day. But of course, hindsight is 20/20 and we’ve had nearly thirty years to reflect on all of this stuff.
Beanie Feldstein is amazing as Monica. I truly believe her as Monica.
This episode showed Monica losing her mind to Clinton’s gaslighting ways. We’re not sure (and even those of us who lived through it STILL aren’t sure) what Clinton’s endgame for her was. Did he have a special place in his heart for her despite having affairs with who knows how many women? Was Monica special or did she only think she was? I’m not sure we’ll ever know unless Bill writes a tell-all but that will never happen.
I felt sorry then and still do for Hillary. What hell it must be to be married to such a cheater. A public cheater. In my mind over the years, I told myself they must have had an “arrangement” or maybe, as rumours suggested, she was really a lesbian, and this was a marriage of power and convenience. Hillary is STILL married to Bill as we know, and only they know the truth of their own relationship. Certainly there are many political secrets they likely keep together, and they have figured out a way to not lose their financial empire nor their family empire.
But I digress.
Monica shares with Linda some of her past experiences. Linda might be sheltered and seemed rather shocked but as someone closer to Monica’s age, I wasn’t shocked at all. There were those who were allegedly screwing their high school teachers while students. I suspected a few teachers, both scholastic and recreational, of seducing students. Did seduction mean sex? I have no idea if it did in each case. But whatever it was, it's an imbalance of power. After I was out of high school, I learned of other alleged affairs that had happened under my nose. Married teachers, pregnant teachers, counsellors, mentors, men, women seducing their own students or other people’s students. This was in the seventies and early eighties, and it was “just the way it was.” No one ever told on these teachers but most didn't truly know what went on behind closed doors as well. I’m sure no one knows to this day about the truth of most of these alleged affairs. And considering how old I am, I’m sure most of these teachers are dead by now.
Monica talks about teachers and counsellors, married, who used her. So the seduction from Bill was really just more of the same. A man abusing his power for young, sweet flesh. How would she know any different or that it might even be wrong when that’s just how it was back then? Back then, these types of affairs were games. I guess, they still are. Dangerous games.
Last night, Linda finally began to tape Monica. The episode The Telephone Hour is a homage to the musical, Bye Bye Birdie right down to montages of phone calls.
You can see Linda really wrestling with herself, her hatred for the Clintons, her urge to blow this power-hungry cheating man out of the water, yet her fear of hurting Monica, but wanting Monica to get away from him. She's disgusted by the Paula Jones case and knows of many other women who were seduced by Clinton.
The famous blue dress was in last night’s episode. Linda notices it crumpled up on the floor during their pajama party and Monica finally shares what it is.
Every woman character in the show is reaching for power, from the publisher, to the administrators, to Linda’s deskmate. Every woman is demeaned for daring to reach and sometimes punished, as Linda was, by demotion.
This show is really keeping me glued to my seat and I’m really enjoying it, well, in the way that you watch events that are horrible but are well executed.
Every episode makes us look at our own morality. What would we do if we were Linda? Linda who was eaten up and chewed out by the system and by her own marriage. A smart woman who can never be her full potential because of the glass ceiling and perhaps because she’s not beautiful.
I’m looking forward to seeing what will happen next, especially with how they’ll portray Hillary.
What do you think about Impeachment so far?