Los Angeles Times

Who's laughing now? Rethinking 'infamous' women — Monica Lewinsky, Lorena Bobbitt and our cultural mea culpa

If you were anywhere near a television in 1998, chances are you heard a joke - or a hundred - about Monica Lewinsky. Whether it was David Letterman rattling off the "Top Ten Possible First Lines for Lewinsky's Book" (No.6: "I knew someday I'd go down in history") on "The Late Show" or Molly Shannon as a junk-food-loving Lewinsky on "Saturday Night Live," the ridicule was ubiquitous - especially after 11 p.m.

Then just 25 and legally bound from speaking up in defense of herself, the former White House intern had been reduced to a beret-wearing caricature by the country's (overwhelmingly male) political journalists, cable news pundits and late-night personalities.

While the news cycle eventually moved on, Lewinsky languished in what she has called "infamous person prison" for nearly two decades. But she has staged an unlikely comeback that culminated when the Emmy-nominated anti-bullying advocate and Vanity Fair contributor sat recently for a rare interview in "The Clinton Affair," an A&E docuseries about the impeachment scandal.

While the sordid details of the relationship are nothing new, it is a revelation to hear Lewinsky's perspective on the "devastating humiliation" of her turn in the media spotlight - especially since, as she notes poignantly, the first time most Americans heard her voice was on the tapes secretly recorded by her supposed friend,

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