People who lived through the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal of 1998, which ultimately led to the impeachment of the U.S.’s 42nd president, will remember that it was never not on TV while it was happening—high drama in real-time that played out via the 24/7 news cycle. Soon, we’ll get to relive it, albeit in truncated form, via a cast of ringers calling out to us from an uncanny valley. On September 7, FX will premiere the 10-episode limited series Impeachment: American Crime Story. It’s the third installment of the Ryan Murphy-produced true-crime drama show, following 2016's The People v. O. J. Simpson and 2018's The Assassination of Gianni Versace. The trailer for the upcoming Clinton/Lewinsky-focused season debuted Thursday.
This one is reportedly based on the 1999 book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President, written by Jeffrey Toobin, whom you may remember from his time masturbating on Zoom in front of his coworkers. (This is already going great!) Beanie Feldstein is Monica Lewinsky, which ???? Edie Falco is Hillary Clinton, which ?????
Sarah Paulson and a few pounds of prosthetics are Linda Tripp.
I know that facial expression well. It’s what I looked like watching this trailer.
Monica Lewinsky is a producer on this, which, fine! After being widely demonized at the time of the scandal, during which it was revealed that as an intern she had sex (though not intercourse, she maintained) with her boss, Clinton. The astronomical imbalance of power was largely ignored in the press at the time, and obviously mainstream understanding of such matters has shifted enough to make such a story ripe for reassessment.
That said, since Lewinsky’s 2014 essay for Vanity Fair, “Shame and Survival,” said reassessment has been taking place. (Lewinsky described herself later that year as “patient zero” for online harassment.) Will this American Crime Story installment, in which beloved actors dress up funny and re-dramatize one of this country’s most indelible real-life dramas, add much to our understanding of the power dynamic and the right-wing glee at the prospect of taking down a Democrat president? Unlikely! I suspect that as with the O.J. season, infotainment will once again transform into entertainment in a way that doesn’t strike me as ethically sound. But no one seems to care about that much, so let’s just all have fun and not hurt each other.