I note conservatives are whacking on Monica Lewinsky again, this time for her undoubtedly ill-advised but essentially harmless participation in that Mr. Personality dating show. Bill O’Reilly’s column on Saturday is typical sort of thing in which he castigates Monica of cashing in on her particular brand of fame, saying “Since Ms. Lewinsky has no prior TV experience, one can assume that the only reason she is doing ‘Mr. Personality’ is that she did Mr. Personality, if you know what I mean,” and likewise compares her to other Washington types who cashed in on their non-positive notoriety, such as G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, and Hollywood types like Wynona Ryder and Robert Downey, Jr. O’Reilly’s moral is that bad behavior pays off.
Two things here. First, let’s start with the admission that Monica’s specific “crime,” aside from not actually being a crime in most states, is pretty mild compared to, say, circumventing Congress to sell arms to a middle eastern country, or even shoplifting at the mall. It doesn’t even really count as “bad behavior,” since most women (and not a few men) do what she’s done on a regular basis without the slightest fear of retribution (maybe not to the sitting President of the United States, admittedly. But like you can blame a girl for showing initiative).
But second and more importantly, while O’Reilly’s correct in that Lewinsky’s getting her gig because she’s who she is, but it’s worth remembering that Lewinsky’s famous not because she came forward to the tabloids with her stained dress and tales of pizzas and thongs, looking to make a quick buck in a “gulp and gab” experience. It took her so-called friend Linda Tripp to make it happen, followed the hounds of the conservative press, who mocked her as a “portly pepperpot” for about a year before any of the rest of us even actually heard her voice. I don’t want to say Lewinsky is entirely blameless for the whole fracas — it was her oral cavity, after all — but her elevation to scandal superstardom is almost exclusively the doing of others. Lewinsky would have undoubtedly joined the legions of women who serviced Little Bill with little more than the thanks of a grateful President had not more ideological forces intervened.
Therefore, the idea of conservative flogging her to make a buck now seems like hypocritical whining. They made Monica Lewinsky — and indeed, it’s Fox, home of the most ideologically transparent news organization in the US, which is giving her her current job — so they’ve got no right to bitch about her persistence in the culture. They may be upset that she’s not sticking to the script and fading into the background like the good and silly little patsy she was supposed to be, but that’s just another example of conservatives theoretical plans getting knocked about by the real world.
Also, of course, I think it’s entirely fair for Lewinsky to get a chance to have a generation of people remember her for something other than licking presidential Flipper. I personally wouldn’t choose to be remembered as the host of a lame game show, but it’s not my life, these are the opportunities presented to her, and it’s not like anyone would let her have a life where she’s just another gal in lower middle management anyway. Let her have her opportunities. You can’t blame her for capitalizing on the fame, tawdry or otherwise, other people foisted onto her.