"Monica's Place," the Web site of "Monica S. Lewinsky" (whose America Online profile declared, "Oh, What a Tangled Web We Weave"), was spotted last week by several reporters. It linked to sites like the White House and Greenpeace and included declarations such as "This is My College, its [ sic ] located in the most incredible state in the world." AOL quickly identified the site as a hoax and pulled it Jan. 22. "It seemed designed to deceive people," a representative for the company said.
Indeed, it already had. On Jan. 22, the Detroit News reported, "Web page gives insight to intern." The paper quoted lines from the page that did not shed a lot of light on Lewinsky's soul. "The WhiteHouse, This is where I used to work. ... Of course when I am not working I am usually watching my MTV." Home page Lewinsky came across as banal at best, empty-headed at worst. And a Jan. 23 Washington Post piece noted that "Monica's Place" "sure looked like the real home page of Ms. Lewinsky" (though it didn't say why) before acknowledging that it "could have been a hoax. Of course, the whole thing could be a hoax."
The more we hear about Monica Lewinsky, the further removed from reality she becomes. She's been transformed into a prototypical lovesick teen (even if she's in her 20s), a vulnerable ingénue, a slightly clueless betrayed friend and, most recently, a deranged hussy. Each "identity" is fully developed on Web sites devoted to Lewinsky, which essentially take news accounts and reflect upon them in a deeply silly manner.
Lovesick Teen: A "photo analysis" page (part of a site called Cary's Crap) examines shots from the CNN tape of Lewinsky and Clinton's postelection hug, noting the "ecstasy look on Monica's face" as she and the president embrace--"Here Monica is obviously giving the President the 'Fuck Me' stare. If she hasn't been, she wants to start. Notice the chick to the right with the similar expression. She's Presidentialy [sic] Plump"--and her wistful expression as he moves off through the crowd: "The girl is obviously out of her mind with lust." A site pretending to be Monica's home page (this one isn't out to deceive a soul) makes her a total Southern California teen, whose favorite TV show is "BEVERLY HILLS 90210 (WHAT ELSE? - BRANDON IS SOOOOO CUTE!!)."
Vulnerable Ingénue: "Your [sic] young and were taken advantage of as far as I see it. I know you will do the right thing. I know you fear for your safety but be brave and do the right thing," says one concerned supporter in the letters section of the Monica Lewinsky Online Fan Club.
Slightly Clueless Betrayed Friend: The fan club, whose support is clearly less than 100-percent sincere--"Don't worry about the blown job with Revlon ..."--includes a "Linda Tripp" section, which attacks Linda in no uncertain terms but also portrays Monica as a dupe:
What kind of person tape records a "friend" without them knowing it? What if this "friend" then uses these tapes to put you in the international spotlight, facing federal criminal charges, as well as ensuring your place in the history books as the penultimate stupid bimbo?
Why, that is no friend at all! Better pick better friends next time, Monica, especially in the big city!
The site then imagines what might have become of Lewinsky if Tripp hadn't tattled:
[Y]ou would probably be traipsing through New York right now, enjoying many misadventures, like a latter-day Ann Marie, Marlo Thomas' character from the 1966-1971 TV sitcom That Girl. Why, there is even a resemblance!
(Head to the page to see what they mean.)
Another Fan Page has a set of good links about the affair and a message board, too, though on last visit, it was no longer available. It will no doubt return soon.
Deranged Hussy: Messages posted to the "Fan Club" span the range of opinion on Lewinsky. Here's one typical posting from Jan. 29:
Monica is nothing but a 2 bit BIMBO. She's a liar, has lied her whole life and will lie to her grave. Anyone who puts a valentine message in a news paper [sic] on her own free will for a married man has got tom [sic] be a sicko stalking bimbo. Thats [sic] Monica, her and her mother belong together, like 2 peas in a pod.
Postings on the scandal can be found in any number of newsgroups and sites. Zipper Gate is one place to go for some even cruder entries. At the "I Love Monica Lewinsky" site, a gentleman with a powerful crush pleads with Lewinsky to do the Penthouse nude spread:
Do this nude layout for Penthouse. See, it's all I have. IT'S ALL I HAVE!!!! I have nothing but you Monica, please hear my cries. You know a little about obsession, don't you?
A nd yet, we also have everything we're supposed to need to construct our own vision of the girl. There's a résumé, courtesy of ABC, and photographs (some from her high-school yearbook), which are being displayed all over television and the Internet. None of us would want judgments formed about our character on the basis of high-school-yearbook pictures, but it is worth noting that the high-school Lewinsky seems fairly heavy and does not look happy. From her résumé, we learn that she worked in a men's tie shop for four years. The document is also marked with résumése, some of which now takes on an unfortunate cast, given the scandal: "Excellent interpersonal ... skills." Her e-mail and former work addresses have been uploaded--not to encourage harassment, of course, but "simply ... to point out how useful the Net has become in gathering personal information." Her alma mater can be visited, as can her high school. She has yet to suffer the fate of having school papers, personal letters, or other artifacts put on the Web by "friends" or foes, but don't dismiss this possibility. Meanwhile, the site that has claimed her name for its domain, www.monicalewinsky.com, says it's reserved "For Monica Lewinksy [ sic ] to use to convey to the American People, the TRUE Story of the White House Incident."
Then there's the pornography--not of Lewinsky herself, though someone has posted a fairly ubiquitous fake picture of a nude Lewinsky under the header "She had to go run her mouth." There are at least a dozen "Lewinsky sites" that capitalize on users' interest in Lewinsky to entice them toward more profitable pleasures. Search for "Lewinsky," and you may find a site that reads "MONICA LEWINSKY NUDES FREE MONICA LEWINSKY NUDES FREE MONICA LEWINKSKY ..." At first glance, this scans as "Free Monica Lewinsky," but it probably isn't meant as a political statement. (Let Lewinsky out of the Watergate!) A link that promises "Monica Lewinsky News Updated every 14 Minutes" delivers SexKing.com. Monica Lewinsky Profile.com ends up taking you to the same hard-core site, counting on the fact that you will click on the link marked "naked photos." Oh, and if you inadvertently type ".com" after White House instead of ".gov," you'll find a very different sort of establishment. It's not just XXX sites that are up to this trick; see, for instance, "Monica Lewinsky, we hereby invite you to use City Auction." "Need money to pay for your lawyer? We guess that you will ..."
F inally we come to the sites about Lewinsky that are too sick or crazed to categorize. Monica Lewinsky Ate My Balls boasts that it is the "original" Monica Lewinsky Ate My Balls page, a claim that presumably will be hotly contested. The Ate My Balls "joke," however, is not an original concept. MLAMB is one of a series of sites (created by different people) based on the premise that a famous person or character has eaten balls or likes to eat them. Generally, there are photos and captions to this effect. Yahoo has helpfully collected the series. A "photo lab" does fun-house-mirror tricks to Lewinsky' face. Another site manipulates her mouth. It also lets you stimulate the "president's penis" with your mouse, producing predictable results.
Because you can count on a proliferation of Lewinsky-related sites in the days to come, you may want to bookmark this one, which compiles Lewinsky links ranging from news reports to idiotic jokes.
We can't really expect Lewinsky sites to define the "real" Monica Lewinsky. Nor would we want them to reflect a grassroots campaign of unwavering support. There's something about typing the name "Monica Lewinsky" into your search engine that forbids the raising of serious expectations. But we might have hoped for a little pop-cultural imagination, for Lewinsky sites to exhibit some personality--a "drag personality," at least, that could make light of Lewinsky's situation without slandering the girl herself. If nothing else, Lewinsky's a twentysomething pitted against middle-age baby boomers--Linda Tripp, Lucianne Goldberg, Kenneth Starr, Bill Clinton. We'd quixotically hoped that she could turn to the Web in the middle of the night and find herself becoming a hip cultural icon. At latest search, though, her generation has let her down.