Why Monica Lewinsky’s Involvement in Impeachment: American Crime Story Matters
Impeachment: American Crime Story will arrive on FX at long last on September 7. The above teaser trailer shows Beanie Feldstein’s Monica Lewinsky from behind, delivering the gift of a tie to then-President Bill Clinton.
The synopsis of this latest season of Ryan Murphy’s crime anthology goes as follows:
Impeachment: American Crime Story examines the national crisis that led to the first impeachment of a U.S. President in over a century through the eyes of the women at the center of the events: Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp and Paula Jones. All three were thrust into the public spotlight during a time of corrosive partisan rancor, shifting sexual politics and a changing media landscape.
American Crime Story has been a deeply compelling project from Murphy, who has previously covered The People v. O. J. Simpson, the murder trial of O. J. Simpson, and The Assassination of Gianni Versace, which explored the murder of designer Gianni Versace by spree killer Andrew Cunanan. Both series were critically lauded and brought the cases back into national attention.
Impeachment was originally supposed to air alongside the 2020 presidential election, but due to COVID-19 issues, it was delayed. Despite how that can seem voyeuristic, one thing in Murphy’s favor is that he brought along Monica Lewinsky to coproduce the drama.
He told The Hollywood Reporter back in 2018 that he had reached out to Lewinsky about her involvement.
“I told her, ‘Nobody should tell your story but you, and it’s kind of gross if they do,’” Murphy said. “‘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.’”
In our recent discussion of Amanda Knox and who owns people’s stories, it has been important that Lewinsky get some level of compensation and power over who gets to publicly tell the story of what happened to her. She has been very outspoken online about her experiences, and I think that has only served to highlight the failures of the media landscape while the incident was happening.
As someone who was barely six at the time of the Impeachment of Bill Clinton, it was something I understood in pop culture. It has lived on in parody and music. (Beyonce’s Partition has a line that says “he Monica Lewinsky-ed all on my blouse.”) So, it took me years to understand the reality of Lewinsky’s age (22) and the power dynamics at play. It simply became a punchline that has followed the women involved forever.
Now, at least in this way, we get to refocus the story.
Impeachment: American Crime Story will star Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky, and Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones. Sarah Burgess penned the script for the season, based on Jeffrey Toobin’s A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President.
I will be watching, and in alignment, I’d recommend checking out Slate’s Slow Burn podcast; it has a second season dedicated to the impeachment trial.
(image: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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