Revisiting the Tripp-Lewinsky Tapes: “A Psychological History of Female Friendship”
At Impeachment: American Crime Story and in real life Linda Tripp was tempted to record her friend Monique Lewinsky for a complicated mishmash of reasons, political and personal: his dissatisfaction Bill clintonthe White House and suspicions over Vince Foster’s death, his sense of helplessness in a lifelong civil servant career, his desire to write a book, and his growing frustration with the blatant abuse of power of the president in his relationship with Lewinsky, the 24th – a former White House intern.
And in the Tuesday night episode of Accused, “Telephone time”, after some advice from a literary agent Lucianne Goldberg (Margo Martindale), Sarah paulsonLinda Tripp eventually goes to RadioShack, buys the infamous tape recorder, and begins documenting her private conversations with Lewinsky (Feldstein beanie) proof.
For Accused writer / producer Flora Birnbaum– the daughter of a psychologist – the episode was a dream mission. The first three episodes of the series expanded to feature a set of key characters with competing agendas – between Bill Clinton and his White House advisers; Paula jones and conservatives like Anne Coulter and Georges conway who promoted his trial behind the scenes; Goldberg in his own conservative quest; and news aggregator Matt Drudge in its unscrupulous mission to pick up mainstream media. “But by the time you get to episode four,” Birnbaum says Vanity Fair, “It’s really a psychological story about female friendship and betrayal.”
The episode reimagines the dramatic peaks and mundane moments of the roughly 20 hours of conversations Tripp secretly recorded, Lewinsky oscillating between desperation and distress depending on his latest communication from Clinton. The episode also includes conversations Tripp has with Goldberg (which Tripp also recorded and which was also a critical source for Accused, during which she oscillates between complacency in her deception and guilt.
To better understand the mentalities of Tripp and Lewinsky, AccusedThe writers and researchers have created a master timeline, tracing the conversations women have had with every interaction Lewinsky has had with Clinton, every relevant development in Tripp and Lewinsky’s lives, and other relevant events from the Clinton presidency. This matrix shed a critical light and contextual perspective on the taped conversations and on Tripp’s inner battle with herself throughout this deception.
“It would be an easy story to tell if you thought Linda just wanted to betray Monica,” says Birnbaum. “But when you listen to the tapes [with Goldberg], you get the breadth and complexity of the story. Yes, she’s a woman who has her own agenda and wants to write a book…. but the recorded tapes also reveal that Linda comes and goes – not quite sure if she wants to reveal the information, decide if it is worth it, and then justify herself.
The episode switches from one taped conversation between Tripp and Lewinsky (and also between Tripp and Goldberg) to another, and Birnbaum says she used the actual transcripts for the dialogue whenever possible. But the producer was just as interested in the subtext; Listening to the actual conversations, Birnbaum says she noticed that Tripp became more agitated with Lewinsky as time and the recording progressed – a sign, for Birnbaum, that his deception was taking personal toll.
“Occasionally [Tripp] grows more resentful in phone calls and all of a sudden he lashes out at Monica, ”says Birnbaum. “As she gets closer and closer to this betrayal, she seems psychologically fragmented because she does the weirdest things and everywhere.” I don’t think she consciously felt this because she’s not someone who is outwardly emotional, but I think subconsciously she was tortured a bit by what she was doing… The lawyer said the tapes were mislabeled. She was just in complete disarray, psychologically and mentally.
In a premonitory Accused Conversation between Tripp and Goldberg, Goldberg suggests that Tripp consider the impact his tape recordings will have on Lewinsky in terms of public humiliation and professional repercussions. Paulson’s Tripp brushes aside the consideration, telling Goldberg that Lewinsky isn’t like everyone else in her twenties – she’s in her twenties with a family from Beverly Hills. Tripp mistakenly theorizes that all tabloid attention will be a brief chapter in Lewinsky’s privileged life – another rationalization Birnbaum says she drew from Tripp’s actual conversations.
“There was an interesting dynamic in their relationship – and I don’t think we see a ton of that – that being an older woman who comes under means assuming that a younger woman who has more privilege economically will just be fine. because of that privilege, “Birnbaum points out.” She’s really looking for a narrative justification for doing this thing that she knows is terrible. “
Birnbaum had not listened to the Lewinsky-Tripp tapes before starting work on Accused, and considers his new perspective, in a more nuanced post- # MeToo world, as a bonus.
“When I listened to the tapes all I heard were very relevant female conversations I had with my sister or friends about what was going on in our lives which seemed deeply human and tragic at the same time. “, explains Birnbaum. “These lines of communication are very vital for women who work in systems that are often unfavorable to them…. Tapes are such an intense portrayal of women trying to understand and make sense of their roles in a system where they feel helpless…. Cassettes are truly like the best artifact of female friendship there is.