Oct 10, 2021 • 22M

Reimagined History: Monica Lewinsky, The Academy Museum, and Kim Kardashian

Fairy Tales at the Apocalypse

4
3
 
1.0×
0:00
-21:55
Open in playerListen on);
The podcast version of Sasha Stone's Substack essays.
Episode details
3 comments

Probably every society goes through revisionist history. Usually this happens gradually, over time, as stories become myths which become legends. Truth or fiction, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Even now, stories are being retold to serve various agendas. The story of the election in 2020 has become a dark and witchy fairy tale on the left and a religious persecution story on the right. Each side clings to the myth that helps them sleep better at night. Yes, there are monsters roaming the countryside but it’s okay because we have MSNBC to protect us. Trump didn’t really lose the election because superhumans do not lose. Trump is an omnipotent force two ways it seems. Devil or Diety. Take your pick. The truth is much less complicated but it is risky to abandon the myths because the myths define us.

There probably isn’t a single event that can’t be told a different way, or from a different perspective. I often think about that one Quaker back in Salem who spent a year in jail to make sure the story of mass hysteria and hangings was told. The horrors of Salem are so much bigger and so much more terrifying that the kitschy way Salem is remembered as witch hats and broomsticks is misleading.

These are stories of children being forced to condemn their parents as witches. Poor women and their babies dying in prison. A man being crushed to death because he would not confess. Hangings that were applauded by the townspeople in the town square. Fear does strange things to us humans. Collective fear is unmanageable.

The Monica Lewinsky myth is being retold because in the post Me Too era even the die-hard Democrats have turned on the withering charmer. He isn’t now an echo of JFK whose romps with women were part of his legend at a time when men were applauded for their James Bond-like sexual allure. I remember being at a party in the 90s and making the joke about the Lewinsky scandal, “when they were handing out blow jobs in the Oval Office where was I?” It wasn’t much of a joke. But people did laugh. I suspect every single person at that dinner party now believes Clinton Me Too’d Monica. Or Monica Me Too’d Clinton.

We women who lived through these eras remember full well what things were like, and even as far back as the 1970s when it was not uncommon for 12 and 13 year-olds to lose their virginity and brag about it. Molestation was everywhere, hidden from view or barely noticed or addressed. Adulthood was cool, childhood wasn’t. Not until the 1990s. Then those of us who grew up in the careless 70s began to notice that it was all bad, hardly any of it good. No seatbelts, smoking at 10, smoking pot, watching porno, rated-R movies. The parents who protected their kids tended to be Conservatives who still went to Church on Sundays. But kids of the Left? We were raised like weeds. Some of us made it, some didn’t. Then in the 90s we all watched Oprah and went to therapy. Then we figured out that everything was bad. We vowed to raise our kids better.

Monica was a kid of the 70s too who grew up in the 90s to think it was cool to chase a married guy with seismic charisma. She famously flashed him her thong to show interest. And back then, wearing a thong was kind of risque. Not like now when everyone wears them. Poor Monica thought he was in love with her and that he would treat her well. She didn’t realize that when she became a problem she’d be tossed in the garbage. And trust me, as someone who knows all too well what it’s like to get in the way of a man who is using you as a side piece, that doesn’t feel good.

To her credit, Monica doesn’t entirely blame “Predator Bill” for the affair. But she does tell a big lie in the casting. Beanie Feldstein is no Monica Lewinsky. They want it to look like Bill Clinton cornered a wallflower who isn’t used to male attention, and while that might have been how Monica saw herself, that isn’t how the world saw her then or now. She was vivacious and pinup-like in her beauty. Beanie Feldstein is pretty in a different way. There is no polite way to talk about the differences between the two women - it is a matter of taste and the fact is, Monica was his taste and Beanie Feldstein would have been easier to resist. Although I suspect that if she flashed her thong at Bill he would have still gone for it. It isn’t so much an insult to Beanie Feldstein as it is a distortion by Monica to edge ever so slightly to the person she wants the public to think she was, rather than the bubble-headed girl she actually was.

You see, the Me Too movement depends on one simple fact - women are never to be held accountable ever for anything they do regarding sex. It is always the man’s fault because men are predators and women are innocent. Always. To tell this story from the vantage point of now requires Monica be rewritten as Beanie Feldstein because that is the only way to see the power imbalance between the two. If they had cast someone more Monica-like, the show would have been accused of trying to blame the victim. They would say the show sexualized a child, even though Monica was in her early 20s.

It’s gross what Bill Clinton did, what Hillary Clinton did, and how all of us defended them for so long. To me, the worst thing he did was move her out of the White House when she became a problem. That is sexual harassment because he’s punishing her for their affair when in fact, he was an equal participant. Why should she have to suffer? No, he should not have been impeached for it, and yes it was yet another in an ongoing string of attacks to bring down the Clintons. And the public back then did not care because being “good” was not the ultimate goal of the left like it is now. Goodness rules everything. Monica wants to be seen as good and so this story helps her do that. Bill Clinton also wants to be seen as good but there isn’t much he can do about it now except keep apologizing and hiding from the press. But still, Monica was punished more or less and Bill Clinton wasn’t. I guess punished might be too strong of a word - after all, Monica has relied on this story her entire life for both her work and her image.

What bothered me most was the attention and time it took to chase the Clintons and the attention Bill Clinton had to pay to his impeachment instead of focusing on the job of the American people. After all, 9/11 would happen not too long after this. We need our elected officials with their eyes on the ball. That is their job. But the opposition party wanted the Clintons out because they had held onto power for so long because his charisma put him in power for two terms.

I feel that way now about the four years Trump was in office and how badly we all handled COVID in his last year. We could have and should have worked together rather than continue to rip the country apart to make sure Trump left office. The truth is that the Democrats wasted time and energy chasing Trump, energy that could have been spent a different way.

The Democrats are now in the same place the Republicans were back then - doing everything they can to destroy the other side to remain in power.

The Lewinsky story will always be told only one way from now on. Those of us who lived through it will soon die off, and all that will be remembered is that Bill Clinton was not JFK but something closer to Harvey Weinstein.

The Academy Museum is a Beautiful Lie

It is indeed beautiful, what the Academy wants to be. They, like all of Hollywood, all of science, all of the medical-industrial complex, heck even Nike and the NFL have decided that their very existence is exemplary of “White Supremacy” and that their history, their achievements, their glory and everything the public loves about them is not a source of pride but a source of shame. White shame. Or, as we used to say in the 80s, white guilt. I didn’t used to know what a “self-hating Jew” was back when I first heard the term. I was in my 20s and a Woody Allen fan. I would hear that phrase a lot back then, along with “white guilt.” Now I know what a “self-hating Jew” is. I know why they would be self-hating. I guess it’s similar to being called an “Uncle Tom.” It’s about moving beyond your own station, which is defined by your ethnicity, to join the ranks of the WASPs.

Woody Allen was called a “self-hating Jew” because his movies were, for a time, about escaping his own history and his own heritage and remaking himself as someone of that privileged, white elite on the Upper East Side.

Being Jewish in Hollywood was never all that popular when it came to whom they’d cast in movies, even if it was popular in who made those movies. The reason there were so few Jews in movies was probably baked-in anti-semitism throughout the country, but it was also because the country was mostly white and mostly Christian. The market decided what got made and justified its “white wall” when it came to the Oscars.

We woke up from 2020 without the free market to remind us of what actually sells and what doesn’t. 2020 was like a massive ship wreck that sends all of the debris floating to the surface, with everything seen in one big picture to be judged. Just as the Titanic had lower and upper classes, how the rich survived and the poor didn’t, the ship wreck tells the tale. There was no market so there was no justification and suddenly the ruling class scattered in a panic, caught in the bright light, their entire past suddenly upended and floating on the surface.

It did not go well. By the end of it, the Academy implemented an inclusion mandate to “instruct” production companies and creatives to make sure they hired BIPOC and women - at a time when there is some debate over what the word “woman” even means. My friends who crow at me about being a conservative apologist on abortion always say, “wait, you're defending the side that is robbing women of rights they’ve fought for over decades.” I always think, but don’t say, “you mean birthing people?”

The Golden Globes were cancelled when Tom Cruise, Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo were SHOCKED, shocked that racism was going on here, even though the HFPA nominated a black female director before the Academy ever did. Oh, wait, the Academy never has.

The British Film Academy (BAFTA) took the voting rights away from its members entirely, opting instead for a select committee to hand-pick nominees to meet the diversity and inclusion standards 2020 demanded. In the end, they picked two white actors for the leads anyway who they went on to win Oscars.

And we have the Academy museum, a beautiful building with some film memorabilia that is worth seeing, and a drop dead gorgeous Hayou Miyazaki exhibit, but it is most definitely a somber reflection to ease the pain of so many good people in the Academy who do not want to be seen as dirty rotten racists. That isn’t really something any good liberal in this town would want to admit, but take it from someone who knows Oscar history inside and out and has been covering it for 20 years — this is the Oscar museum that would very much catch 2020 Hollywood in a time capsule but it is not Oscar history.

Every part of it is like trying to head off any potential criticism that would become clickbait for the major newspapers and Twitter. The lesson of 2020: don’t become someone’s sanctimonious, self-righteous think piece that goes viral. They definitely subverted 90% of their actual history and cherry-picked what diversity they could find here and there to portray a reimagined version of the last 94 years. I know about the Academy’s White Wall. I have been writing about it since 2001. I wrote about it so emphatically that I lost half my readership in 2011. For a long time I was known as the only person covering the Oscars who wrote from the POV of “diversity and inclusion.” I remember when no one used the word “inclusion” at all and then suddenly just using “diversity” was wrong. I pushed for movies by black directors to be recognized, and for black actors to be recognized. I did this every year because I thought it mattered.

Walking through the museum you’d never know what their history was or why activists fought so hard for inclusion in the first place. Sacheen Littlefeather is now a point of pride for the Academy when it was a point of embarrassment way back when.

To date, only one black female has won in Lead, Halle Berry in 2001, but she is featured at the Academy Museum. They have devoted an entire room to Spike Lee and walking through you might think Do the Right Thing was nominated for Best Picture. It was not. He has won a single Oscar for writing BlackKklansman. You also might think that Citizen Kane, featured prominently at the museum, won Best Picture. It did not. How Green Was My Valley did but it is nowhere to be seen.

They have the gorgeous backdrop for North by Northwest hung on a wall. You might think Hitchcock won an Oscar for directing. He did not. Or that he was nominated for North by Northwest. He was not. They could not even show Mount Rushmore, however, without affixing a mea culpa:

Then why use it at all? Why hang the backdrop to begin with if you are ashamed of it? And if you are ashamed of it, why not put up all of the things you are ashamed of? I guess because this way they can have their cake and eat it too. They can display the cool art as long as they slap down the whites for their bad bad dirty rotten behavior of the past. Gee, sounds fun, doesn’t it?

What you won’t see are the icons the Oscars were actually made on, maybe because their histories are too problematic? The big studios aren’t even represented a little bit. The major icons who won Oscars aren’t there - no Marlon Brando, or Dustin Hoffman or Meryl Streep? Where was Meryl? Did I see her there, icon that she is? I cannot recall.

Steven Spielberg’s Jaws was nominated for Best Picture, but not Director. He is a big donor and has quite a presence in the museum. There are bits and pieces of the empire that Hollywood once was but they have been sidelined in order to amplify the marginalized faces and voices who fought so long and hard to be seen in an industry that was driven by the market and a market that was driven by the white majority. That’s the truth. But Hollywood does not want that to be the truth.

That’s why you’re seeing so much awkward colorblind casting now. I just watched a movie that took place in the late 70s that was based on a memoir of a working-class white male who got into Yale and pined for the Westport girl who was simply out of his league. She slept with him but never really considered having a relationship with him and ends up marrying the right kind of man. This is based on a true story but they thought casting a black female in that role was “inclusive” — in fact, it throws the whole thing off because you’re thinking about Yale and Westport and WASPS and the Great Gatsby and actual white supremacy and the white wall - and working-class New York who aren’t exactly woke and weren’t then. You can’t just erase that history. That is what led to the activism now. Otherwise, there is no need for diversity and inclusion.

But the point is to look good. That is what everyone in Hollywood and on the left wants more than anything.

I felt a little funny walking around the museum, knowing everything I know about the Oscars. But it’s very much in keeping with how I feel now, as a person from the left trying to make sense of what has become the left in 2021. I barely recognize it and they barely recognize me.

The good people of the Left will love this museum. It is a monument to their new religion, after all, their utopia’s screed writ large. This is who they will be going forward, and all they ever wanted to be looking backward. They are happy to have the heat of accountability taken off, even if it means sweeping everything under the carpet for a time. Maybe someday it will all be told, the good, the bad, and the ugly. But that day is not today. And that museum is not this one.

Kim Kardashian is Finally Accepted

It was a long hard road for Kim Kardashian. Hated for so long by a culture that just didn’t know she was what it wanted. She hung on. Her family has built an empire worthy of the gilded age and is maybe the best example of America in decline. How many billions do they make in a year? Kim is vegan now, as is her sister Kortney and Kylie Jenner has announced her entire product line will be going vegan. They display their massive wealth - their many cars - their huge mansions - their luxurious vacations - their revolving door of men - their next generation ready to carry on in their high heeled footsteps. America’s new aristocracy.

Twitter and Reality TV might have birthed Trump, but Instagram and Reality TV birthed the Kardashians. There isn’t any stopping any of them, especially since Kim is now part of the ruling class and an accepted member of the new woke elites who have gamed the system in order to indulge in their excess, guilt-free. Just signal your virtue and you’ll be fine.

I can’t criticize Kim too much. After the 2016 election, the only thing I could do was watch Keeping up with the Kardashians. I watched the entire show, season by season because it was so empty-headed, so pointless, there would never be a single thing to trigger me in any direction. I could just lay there and stare at them under all that makeup, eating their Health Nut salads and blathering about this or that. But Kim has made it. She hosted SNL. She is now one of them.

Like all of Hollywood, especially comedy, finding anything funny is not easy. They have sadly been sucked into the overly sensitive ideology of the new left where offending anyone is off the table. It’s a win-win to bring on Kim, a subject often mocked by the likes of SNL. Now they can scramble for ratings somehow, some way. Their ratings were way down for their premiere so they are in desperate need of Gen-Z love.

Kim’s appearance boosted SNL’s ratings from a 3.5 to a 3.8. They saw a similar boost when Elon Musk hosted, according to The Wrap. It’s not hard to figure out why that might be. Hollywood overall is alienating people with its politics. Take out politics completely, or people whose identities are wrapped up in politics and maybe you can start to bring around the rest of the country. It’s a trade-off. Success via the market or virtue without it.

It’s a beautiful thing, revisionist history. Gen-Z would never know, and will never know, just how hated the Kardashians once were. They’ll never know why anyone would care whether there was Reality-TV or not. The Kardashians aren’t doing anything major corporations haven’t been doing for decades: selling beauty to women whose identities still depend on it. It’s funny that in a time when gender is fluid and female sexuality is being purged from Hollywood action movies, the Kardashians wear their hyper-extended curves with such pride, caked in layers of makeup, stuffed full of fillers and implants - so female it’s practically visible from outer space.

How do those kids make sense of all of it? The cameras everywhere, the social media personas, the millions of likes on pictures of them, the massive birthday and Christmas displays of their lives for Instagram, the balloons, the flowers, the private jets, the makeup tutorials, the closets, the playhouses. Gobs and gobs of money and stuff.

Kim can now tell her life’s story with pride about all that she’s accomplished in the time she’s been in the spotlight. She’s finally gotten back her old body from before she had kids. She’s working on her law degree and freeing people from prison.

The Academy, Kim, Monica have erased how others saw them and have reimagined a better story. Those stories have become legends and will one day be myths. No one ever has to know the truth. After all, isn’t truth, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder?