Wednesday, December 1, 2021
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Impeachment: Where feminism went to die

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I HAVE been enjoying the drama Impeachment: American Crime Story on BBC 2. It’s pretty much the only thing I watch on TV these days. It tells the story that we all think we know of Monica Lewinsky’s affair with Bill Clinton, the betrayal by Linda Tripp and the subsequent impeachment trial.

The acting is spectacular. Clive Owen even makes Bill Clinton seem sympathetic and Linda Tripp is played superbly by Sarah Paulson. Lewinsky is producer on the show so you would expect much of the material to be sympathetic to her, however it seems an honest and accurate portrayal from her point of view.

This series is a more damaging portrayal of Linda Tripp (who died last year and cannot defend herself) than it is of Clinton. The focus of the series is the three women involved: Tripp, Lewinsky and Paula Jones, whose lawsuit is ongoing in the background.

There are some fun name checks for the American political nerds out there such as Jake Tapper (now at CNN and very annoying) who goes on a date with Lewinsky in episode five, Ann Coulter, and Justice Kavanaugh gets a nod as he was a lawyer on the Starr investigation. But it is what the women do, or don’t do, that holds the attention.

Many people thought this series would be a feminist portrayal of the scandal but I have to say it’s far from this. Although I do not wish to heap further criticism on Lewinsky, it is clear that, first of all, she was a young woman of immense privilege. The internship is unpaid so somebody, we presume her parents who were wealthy and living in California, were funding her to live and work in the expensive Washington DC. It is also mentioned in the series that her mother bought her a very spacious and smart apartment. Finally, I read elsewhere that the unpaid job was secured by a close friend of the family so nepotism also features.

Lewinsky makes it clear that she did indeed chase Clinton, revealing her underwear to him discreetly in the office and telling him outright that she has a crush on him. Of course Bill Clinton of all people doesn’t need any encouragement when it comes to women. So he goes right ahead and has an affair with an intern barely older than his own daughter. Whether this was predatory behaviour is still up for debate.

Linda Tripp, meanwhile, is cultivating a friendship with Monica while recording her conversations with her with the aim of executing the ultimate betrayal against the young woman.

When it comes to feminism, though, I sat there wondering why is this young, attractive woman with the world at her feet staying in her fabulous apartment night after night in her jimmy jammies, eating ice cream, hopping on and off the treadmill, waiting for some man to call? When she isn’t waiting for Clinton to call, she’s on the phone to her friend Linda Tripp wondering why hasn’t he called, when he will call and what will happen when he calls. Hasn’t she ever read The Rules? Doesn’t she have a career to build and friends to make?

Yes, it’s true that the man happens to be the president of the United States the most powerful man in the world but really this is a series where feminism goes to die.

To me it was all very reminiscent of Pride and Prejudice with Elizabeth Bennet waiting around wondering whether Mr Darcy is going to appear. Except that in those days women had an excuse for waiting for a man to call: that was all they could actually do. Lewinsky had no such excuse; she had plenty of opportunities, was well-connected and completed her degree, but she wasted it all.

Anyway those hoping that Impeachment will offer a feminist view of the scandal will be thoroughly disappointed. It totally reinforces the viewpoint that young good-looking women are attracted to older, much more powerful men.

But as a drama series it is a must watch. You invariably end up taking a side, and it’s usually against Linda Tripp.

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