Scandal would not exist if there were no Monica Lewinsky. Lewinsky's affair with Bill Clinton changed the US, and the way we all look at everything in our nation's capital, from politicians to cigars (Joel McHale made a Lewinsky joke at this past weekend's White House Correspondents' Dinner) to interns and back again. Her story single-handedly changed pop culture, and left an indelible mark on art, film, and television.
And now Lewinsky, arguably the first person to endure the modern 24/7 shame cycle of cable television and the internet, is writing about her affair with President Bill Clinton in the new issue of Vanity Fair. Lewinsky explains that she's speaking out because of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide after being filmed kissing another man by his roommate, and other people who may have been bullied and humiliated. Lewisnky says her life — being unable to go out in public, the difficulty in finding a job, finishing her degree — can inspire others to overcome their rock bottoms. The magazine released a few teaser excerpts today that read like lines from a Shonda Rhimes' script.
Lewisnky explains that her silence wasn't bought. "The Clinton administration, the special prosecutor’s minions, the political operatives on both sides of the aisle, and the media were able to brand me. And that brand stuck, in part because it was imbued with power," she adds.
Lewinsky's words still seem like they're describing something out of fiction — the same way they did in her interview with Barbara Walters in 1999:
In a sense, Monica's reality then dominates the fiction we know now. Case in point: this clip from Scandal which mined the Lewinsky affair and even name-checks her:
The many of us who have lapped up all the episodes of Scandal and House of Cards are shaking their heads. Because, well, Olivia Pope and Frank Underwood (by way of Doug Stamper) would have made sure Monica would've gotten some compensation for keeping quiet.
Monica is an icon that we'll never forget. And thanks to Monica and the pop culture fiction she inspired, we're all armchair experts when it comes to sex scandals now.