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Image / Living / Culture

Impeachment: American Crime Story: ‘I didn’t want to retraumatise Monica’


by Jennifer McShane
30th Aug 2021
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Sarah Burgess, who wrote the script, told the Hollywood Reporter that she initially excluded a scene where Monica flashes her thong to President Clinton, out of concern for "retraumatising Monica."

We know Monica Lewinsky will produce the long-awaited third installment in Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story franchise (it will center on Monica Lewinsky, Bill Clinton, and the impeachment trial of the late ’90s), and it’s finally her chance to tell the story from her perspective – after a trial by media which has lasted for decades.

We recently got a sneak peek at the trailer for the upcoming series, and recently, the cast and crew spoke to The Hollywood Reporter (THR) about the making of the project (which has already been the subject of some controversy), which will attempt to show how Lewinsky and others on the margins of power lost control of their narratives and, ultimately their entire identities to a scandal.

It was going to be a tough project to make; Lewinsky paid a life-long price for her part in an affair with an infinitely more powerful man 27-years her senior. Yes, she should have known better, but so should he. Clinton was, for decades after, still regarded as a charismatic former president while it took Lewinsky until 2017 to start to boldly be able to reclaim her narrative. Her life was ruined. Ten years after the event, Clinton skulked away yet continued to live the life of a privileged, albeit disgraced public figure, while Lewinsky was still considered unemployable.

One can see why, with some persuasion, she agreed to be a producer in the project — finally, the world gets a chance to see it from her eyes as a 22-year-old intern, who made a huge mistake, and would spend the rest of her life paying for it.

To that end, much of the filming could have proved traumatising for Lewinsky. Indeed, Sarah Burgess, who wrote the script, told the Hollywood Reporter that she initially excluded a scene where Monica flashes her thong to President Clinton, out of concern for “retraumatising Monica.”

The moment she’s referring to is depicted in the original 1998 Starr Report, which details the nature of what happened between the pair in minute, graphic detail (was its purpose to impeach Clinton, or shame Lewinsky? Both, though it certainly reads as if it were the latter).  The report, detailing the moment is described:

“At one point, Ms. Lewinsky and the President talked alone in the Chief of Staff’s office. In the course of flirting with him, she raised her jacket in the back and showed him the straps of her thong underwear, which extended above her pants.”

Lewinsky, however, insisted it be included. “Listen, I would’ve loved to have been really selfish and said, ‘That’s great that you guys think we don’t have to show that, fantastic,’ but I’m incredibly experienced in understanding how people see this story,” she told THR.

“So, ultimately, I felt two things: One was that I shouldn’t get a pass because I’m a producer; and two, that it was unfair to the team and to the project because it would leave everybody vulnerable,” she added.

“If I feel comfortable with people, I have no problem talking about anything, and I also knew that the deeper I dug, the more valuable it was.”

But the trauma still lingers, as she concludes,  “I’m nervous about being misunderstood again.”

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