They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – but when you’re Monica Lewinsky the same rule does not always apply.
In a new column for Vanity Fair, the contributing editor writes about her cringe-worthy experience of being reduced to a sexually-charged Halloween costume in the wake of her affair with former President Bill Clinton.
“Thankfully, I have never gone to a Halloween party where I’ve bumped up against, well, myself,” Lewinsky writes. “I did, however, get an idea of what that might be like when, several years ago, I went to see the movie Made of Honor, starring Patrick Dempsey and Michelle Monaghan. It opens with a scene in which Dempsey, dressed as Bill Clinton, mingles at a Halloween party – with three Monica Lewinskys – all clad in blue dresses and berets, holding cigars. (Cringe Factor: 10.)”
Lewinsky goes on to explore what she calls the “darker side of the Halloween costume as social commentary,” writing that the symbolism of one of the sure-fire most popular costumes of the season – Caitlyn Jenner – has many layers – not all of them necessarily positive.
She offers an explanation from Sarah Kate Ellis, the CEO and president of GLAAD:
“There are so many elements to consider here: the stereotype that being trans can be reduced to what someone wears [or] how they look; the commodification of trans identities in the face of disproportionate rates of poverty faced by trans people; and, of course, making trans women the butt of a joke, since these costumes may be worn by men whose sole intention is to imply that all transgender women are simply men in dresses.”
Jenner herself, meanwhile, says she’s not offended by Caitlyn-inspired Halloween costumes, telling the Today show’s Matt Lauer, “I’m in on the joke.”
But Lewinsky argues that the struggle is especially real for someone like herself, who “begins the year as a private person and ends it in the aisles of a costume store.”
“Regardless of where we consider someone’s behavior to fall on our moral spectrum, we might want to take a long, hard look at whether it makes sense for society to condone mocking such people – especially those who had never intended to become part of a global conversation in the first place,” she writes.
But the “instant-fame-to-costume transformation can be positive,” she notes, if you walk the “fine line between clever and cruel.” 2009 was the year of Captain Sullenbergers; 2010, the year of “rescued Chilean Miners.” And Halloween 2015 could belong to viral heartthrob #AlexfromTarget.
As for Lewinsky, she still counts Halloween as one of her favorite holidays.
“I’m still in it for the candy,” she writes, “but it’s the one day of the year when people seem to refrain from asking me, ‘Are you Monica Lewinsky?’ – a question that is proceeded, less and less frequently, by the charming disclaimer, ‘No offense, but …’ ”
“Instead, I hear, ‘Great costume!’ ”