Fox’s 2004 reality show, The Swan.
Former president Bill Clinton ought to get an Oscar for Best Rehabilitated Character.
Never mind 1998's impeachment vote for perjury and obstruction of justice, he's spent the past decade or more rescuing damsels in distress in North Korea, calling for equality, headlining the Democratic National Convention and magnanimously supporting his wife's career from the wings.
Bill Clinton hugs Monica Lewinsky at the Democratic Fundraiser in Washington, DC, October 23, 1996. (Photo by Dirck Halstead/Liaison Agency) Photo: Dirck Halstead
I really don't care who Slick Willy has had sex with — or non-sex, or whatever we decided the meaning of "is" is. Those are private matters between the people involved — and no, that doesn't include Linda Tripp and Ken Starr.
What's more damning is how this perennial Comeback Kid, as Clinton was known in the presidential nomination process, has risen from the ashes of Monica Lewinsky's trashed reputation and stunted life.
Somebody had to pay. And just like Christine Keeler, Junie Morosi, and Cheryl Kernot, Monica took the fall for a man's undoing, thereby excusing Bill of all responsibility for keeping his dick in his pants. Like a naughty schoolboy, it wasn't his fault, she made him do it.
While Bill's been riding high, Lewinsky's fall from grace was so hard that she's never recovered. She has barely worked since the Clinton administration. Other than a brief foray into the handbag business and earning a masters of science in social psychology at the London School of Economics, she has remained virtually unemployable for anything other than a punch line.
She was even dumped as a Jenny Craig spokesperson after only three months, following criticism that she wasn't a good role model.
The life-long punishment for her affair is staggeringly unjust, especially when you consider that she was only 22 years old at the time. Who hasn't done something dumb at 22?
Lewinsky was out-classed and out-manipulated from beginning to end. Conservatives treated her as nothing more than a weapon to derail the Clinton presidency. And many US liberals lined up to make excuses for Clinton. Author Toni Morrison christened him the "first black President", claiming "he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp".
All of which might work, except for the fact that he ain't black. And he doesn't even embody the tropes of blackness as Morrison was suggesting. There's also the small matter of power. I'm pretty sure that in the White House org chart, commander in chief outranks intern.
Clinton was also the one who was married, and therefore had the responsibility to be faithful. But even Lewinsky's "friends" hung her out to dry, with Linda Tripp secretly recording their conversations and leaking the tapes to the press. And how we all salivated over the salacious – and private – details.
Now, 15 years later, comes news that Lewinsky is about to be manipulated and humiliated all over again for our entertainment. The The New York Post reports that Lewinsky is rumoured to be participating in Fox's new reality show, Celebrity Swan — the celebrity version of the 2004 series The Swan that wins the prize for being the most sadistic reality series of the decade.
Drawing from the already awful fairytale The Ugly Duckling – about a chick who is a total loser until she obtains physical beauty by transforming into a swan – the producers at Fox thought it would be a good idea to cut up "ugly" celebrity women on TV and then have them compete in a beauty pageant.
What could go wrong for Lewinsky?
Plenty. Former Swan contestant Lorrie Arias, whose make-over included a face lift, nose job, brow lift, upper lip lift with fat transfer, upper/lower eye lift, full body lift, breast implants, tummy tuck and liposuction on her knees, blames the show for ruining her life.
"I had the most surgeries of any Swan in the history of the show and it has all gone to absolute shit," Arias said. "I am a 300-pound mess of a person who is afraid to go outside."
While Fox hasn't officially confirmed Lewinsky's involvement, her participation is sadly entirely consistent with her life narrative and how the world treats fallen women: as a laughing stock who should be grateful for being given a shot at redemption by becoming less ugly.
Call me cynical, but somehow I don't think Monica is going to have a fairytale ending.
Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child.