As you may know by now, Ryan Murphy’s third season of American Crime Story will focus on the sex scandal between President Bill Clinton and former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Though the show has been in the works since 2017, Murphy scrapped production because Lewinsky was not involved. According to an interview with THR, Murphy promised her,
“Nobody should tell your story but you, and it’s kind of gross if they do. If you want to produce it with me, I would love that; but you should be the producer and you should make all the goddamn money.”
Monica has since agreed to join the show and production has begun again. She told Vanity Fair,
“I came to understand even more clearly how dedicated he [Ryan Murphy] is to giving a voice to the marginalized in all his brilliant work… people have been co-opting and telling my part in this story for decades. In fact, it wasn’t until the past few years that I’ve been able to fully reclaim my narrative; almost 20 years later.”
“I’m so grateful for the growth we’ve made as a society that allows people like me who have been historically silenced to finally reintroduce my voice to the conversation… Powerful people, often men, take advantage of those subordinate to them in myriad ways all the time. Many people will see this as such a story and for that reason, this narrative is on that is, regretfully, evergreen.”
At the time of the scandal, the then 24-year-old was demonized by the media and ripped to shreds by gossip colonists and tabloids. They all agreed on one thing: she was a femme fatale who seduced the president.
Maureen Dowd of the New York Times even called her a “ditsy, predatory White House intern who might have lied under oath for a job at Revlon.”
Nobody cared about Monica the person. They only cared about what she did and they dragged her name through the mud without a second thought. The media didn’t care about what their words would do to her. Humiliation was their only goal. And unfortunately, the media’s perception of her stuck, even 20+ years later.
In an essay for Vanity Fair back in 2014, she recalled,
“One of the unintended consequences of my agreeing to put myself out there and to try to tell the truth had been that shame would once again be hung around my neck like a scarlet-A albatross. Believe me, once it’s on, it is a bitch to take off. Shame and Scandal.”
She also said that even though her relationship with Clinton was consensual at the time, she was taken advantage of by the President and she “was made a scapegoat in order to protect his powerful position.”
A powerful man used his position to take advantage of a young girl. That’s the only narrative that should have been told all those years ago. And, at the height of the #MeToo movement, now is the perfect time for Monica to tell her story and the truth: She was, and always has been, the victim in this scandal, not Bill.
Ryan Murphy could’ve easily started production on the series without taking Monica’s input. But by giving her the opportunity to tell her story, he’s giving her control of her narrative.
Monica is now an anti-bullying advocate and in 2018 she created the hashtag and campaign #DefyTheName. The campaign asks those who have been bullied to change their Twitter and Instagram handles to names they were bullied with.
Beanie Feldstein, of Booksmart and Lady Bird fame, will portray Lewinsky and long-time Ryan Murphy collaborator Sarah Paulson will portray Linda Tripp, Lewinsky’s confidante who secretly recorded their conversations about Lewinsky’s affair with Clinton. Annaleigh Ashford rounds out the current cast as Paula Jones, the woman who sued Clinton for sexual harassment in 1997. The Clinton’s have yet to be cast.
Impeachment: American Crime Story premieres September 27, 2020, about a month prior to the next presidential election.
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Alysia Stevenson is a twenty-seven New York City transplant currently living in Florida with her boyfriend and three furbabies. When she’s not writing, you can find her watching beauty tutorials on Youtube or Parks and Rec for the millionth time.