The American crime story The anthology series revels in country tales of the most scandalous stories in popular memory.
It all started in 2016, with People vs. OJ Simpson, with Cuba Gooding Jr in the title role, David Schwimmer as lawyer Robert Kardashian and Sterling K Brown as Christopher Darden.
It was a pleasure, certainly in the first few episodes, to see this controversial and shocking affair that involved so many famous faces in the first place play out with a new cast of Hollywood stars.
It was followed in 2018 by The assassination of Gianni Versace, with Penélope Cruz, Édgar Ramírez and Darren Criss, who followed Andrew Cunanan’s manhunt. In both cases, the crimes within them were tragic and several key “figures” had died, making much of the truth a mystery – or at least disputed.
The third installment, Accused, begins Tuesday – and the case at its center is a little different.
Where the OJ Simpson trial sparked conversations about race in the United States, Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky has forced public debate on abuse of power, consent, adultery and sexism. But no big unanswered question is at its center; rather, the purpose of bringing it to television seems to reframe in cultural consciousness how the women involved were portrayed.
The relationship between Clinton and Lewinsky lasted from 1995 to 1997, then dominated popular culture for years – the stained dress, that first viral sound sequence, “I didn’t have sex with that woman.”
Her salacious plot didn’t really falter – even until 2014, Beyoncé sang on “Partition”, “He Monica Lewinsky’d all on my gown”. (Lewinsky underlined: “I think you meant ‘Bill Clinton’.”) A year later, The cup published an article titled “Every Rap Song That Mentions Monica Lewinsky”.
Popular history has condemned Lewinsky – but she reclaimed her place in the scandal, and her agency: in 2014, she wrote an article in Vanity Show to correct the recording.
“It’s time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress.” She is a producer on American crime story, so it’s hard not to assume that this is in part a new attempt to take control of the story.
Accused stars Beanie Feldstein as Lewinsky and Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, the public servant whose phone records led to the case being exposed.
Clive Owen is Clinton, Edie Falco (underutilized) is Hillary, and a swarm of other stars play various bureaucrats, lawyers, and media personalities (part of the fun of these shows is always recognizing familiar characters and judging their ” impressions “- and make no mistake, these are impressions, enhanced with garish prostheses).
Yet DC here is gray, dark, and uninspiring. The timeline is choppy over the decade, losing much of its rhythm in the process, and combined with so many characters, it’s difficult for those unfamiliar with the finer details of the case to follow. .
It wouldn’t be such a failure if the show, as it sees it, gave the story a real renewed consideration by telling it through the eyes of women trapped by the politics of the time – sexual and real. But while men are mostly secondary, and Feldstein and Paulson’s performances are compulsive, the result still feels dated and often mean.
Paulson’s Tripp is portrayed as a bitter Washington outcast, watching Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice alone while eating a Weight Watchers microwave meal at night (Paulson apologized for wearing a big costume for the role); and the day, plotting to reverse his professional obsolescence by preparing Lewinsky to reveal her secret boyfriend.
The awkwardness of this writing undermines any progressive notion that the primary coercion we see is from a woman.
Lewinsky is a young, naïve girl – which she was, of course, in many ways – but not enough care is taken to balance that with the common sense, independence, or professional talent she must have in order to be. hold office.
Much of this drama can be imagined, it cannot necessarily capture all perspectives, and it is not simple nor its duty to rewrite history. But it’s hard to see it as a triumphant feminist revision when Lewinsky spends an entire episode waiting for a call from a man, even though he’s the leader of the free world.
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