When word leaked that Ryan Murphy is working on an American Crime Story focused on the “Monica Lewinsky scandal,” our third-wave feminist hearts skipped a bit. A ’90s lightening rod for slut shaming, body shaming, and all-around misogynistic vitriol (from men and women), Lewinsky was (figuratively) chased by torch-wielding villagers and lived to tell the tale.
Today, she’s an anti-bullying advocate and complicated cultural touchstone. Here’s everything we know—and a few things we predict—about Monica Lewinsky: American Crime Story.
Straight From the Source
Everybody went bonkers for The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story; it was a critical and ratings triumph. Ryan and his team of writers used Jeffrey Toobin’s, The Run of His Life: The People V. OJ Simpson as source material (you may recognize Toobin if you’ve been binging CNN, he’s a legal analyst/talking head). His 2002 tome A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of a Sex Scandal That Almost Brought Down a President is considered the most thorough, reputable and accurate telling of the cigar-inspired chaos surrounding Monica and Bill Clinton’s affair and his impeachment—we wonder how long Murphy has had his eye on optioning in.
And the Emmy Goes To…
First things first: Sarah Paulson is probably already getting fitted for her Linda Tripp wig right this minute. Tripp is a complex, debatably villainous character: she recorded her conversations with young Monica and then used the tapes to try to take down the Clintons. (Ironically, she only took down her young friend.)
Monica will certainly be harder to crack. On one hand, Ryan loves his inner circle (like Lea Michele), but on the other, he is a wizard at imaginative, spot-on casting. There’s loads of actresses who would line up to work with Murphy… could Lena Dunham be one of them? With Girls in the rear view, we’d love to see Dunham take on a complex acting role she didn’t write herself. Dunham would fully understand Lewinsky’s complex relationship with the media and the voracious need to compartmentalize women into victims or villains (and the pressure of being cast as both).
We also wonder what role, if any, real-life crisis management boss Judy Smith will play in this story; she was hired by Monica mid-scandal to mitigate the disastrous media coverage. Smith is a D.C. powerhouse better known by her fictional name, Olivia Pope. Yes, she is the inspo behind Scandal. Could Kerry Washington play a version real-life Judy in a different era? So meta.
Baby Doll Dresses and The Rachel
The ’90s are always in play when it comes to fashion and beauty trends, but we see the Lewinsky Look getting a second life. Think bouncy blowouts, youthful berets, sensible wrap dresses and all-black power dressing to get a fair share of screen time. Gap must be salivating at all the free PR.
Make it a Wiki-Free Zone
The only downside to our obsession with shows based in “real life” is that we are running to Wiki every 5 minutes (we’re looking at you, The Crown). Almost 20 years past, Monica has decided that she will be the source of how she’s remembered in history. She’s spoken about the realities of being patient zero of cyber bulling and how shame has stymied her life—making it nearly impossible for her to find a job, a partner, or a community. Read more about it in her Vanity Fair profile and watch her TED Talk on public shaming as a blood sport.
I Am Women, Hear Me Get Talked Over
Murphy and his team of writers didn’t water down the deep misogynistic shaming Marcia Clark suffered during the O. J. trial (including a leaked nude photo running in the National Enquirer—basically an analog version of revenge porn). Today O. J.’s in jail and Marcia got a public apology from a beloved actress. Will Monica’s story have a similar third act? The best revenge is living well… and hanging out at the Emmys with Sarah Paulson.