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Series / Impeachment

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Impeachment is the third season of the Ryan Murphy-produced true crime docudrama anthology series American Crime Story, aired by FX in 2021.

Adapted from the non-fiction book A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President by Jeffrey Toobin, it covers the infamous impeachment trial sparked by an affair between President Bill Clinton (Clive Owen) and White House intern Monica Lewinsky (Beanie Feldstein) in the latter half of The '90s. The real Lewinsky herself is an executive producer on the series.

As with other seasons of American Crime Story, Impeachment features an All-Star Cast including the likes of Sarah Paulson as Linda Tripp, Margo Martindale as Lucianne Goldberg, Billy Eichner as Matt Drudge, Edie Falco as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Anthony Green as Al Gore, Annaleigh Ashford as Paula Jones, Taran Killam as Steve Jones, Cobie Smulders as Ann Coulter, Elizabeth Reaser as Kathleen Willey, Judith Light as Susan Carpenter-Macmillan, and Colin Hanks as Mike Emmick.


Impeachment: American Crime Story contains examples of:

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  • '60s Hair: Monica's grandmother has a tight little bouffant she maintains well into the late 90s.
  • '70s Hair: Juanita Broaddrick has a flicked and feathered blonde hairdo framing her face.
  • '80s Hair: Linda's Christmas photo with the Bushes showcases a permed edifice.
  • The '90s: President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky start their love affair in 1995, with the scandal blowing up later in the decade threatening Clinton's second term well into 1998 and 1999.
  • '90s Hair: Monica's and Ann Coulter's long supermodel waves and feathered bangs, Linda Tripp's and First Lady Hillary Clinton's more sensible pageboys, Paula Jones uses a scrunchie to hold her long crimped curls. The series even showcases the changes in fashion for hair where the early 90s showcase Hillary with long hair held by a headband and ends with Paula having straightened and lightened her hair and Monica with a shoulder-length Rachel haircut.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
  • Adaptational Curves: A couple:
    • Bill Clinton was known in real-life to be battling with his weight, often appearing on the huskier side and one account said that during their affair he sucked in his stomach and stopped when Monica told him she likes he has a tummy. Here he is portrayed by the comparatively svelte Clive Owen.
    • Monica Lewinsky was known for a curvaceous figure that fluctuated, but she was nowhere near as plump as the shorter Beanie Feldstein (who for her part, wore constricting shapewear to match the dimensions of Monica's figure). Other than that, they are Jewish brunettes with green eyes and possess a Buxom Beauty Standard figure.
    • Hillary Clinton was a slim woman but known for maligned thick ankles and a pear shape that was often lampooned, Edie Falco possesses longer, slimmer legs.
  • Adaptation Title Change: A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President is succinctly reduced to the One-Word Title of Impeachment.
  • Amicable Exes: Played With. Monica's parents, Bernie and Marcia, are established to have had an ugly divorce after a marriage that was "a house of lies" in their daughter's words to her False Friend and are quick to correct Starr's team when misidentified as still married to one another. By the end of the series, as part of working together with a legal team to secure Monica's immunity from federal charges and being her emotional support system, they get along better.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Bill to Hillary in "The Grand Jury", it doesn't seem to take the first time but it was enough to bring her around by the end of the episode.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: Linda Tripp defends her actions on the basis that the Clintons could have easily had her killed for coming forward with her suspicions. One of the juror then asks why she didn't grant Monica that same consideration. She stops herself from answering that Monica's life isn't as important as hers.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • In "Exiles", part of the initial deal Paula and Steve Jones demand from their lawyer in 1994 is that Steve be given a recurring role on Designing Women, and Steve suggests he could play Delta Burke's love interest. Not only was Designing Women cancelled more than a year before this meeting, Delta Burke had been fired from the show in 1991, three years earlier.
    • In "The President Kissed Me", Ann Coulter says she was fired from MSNBC for telling a paraplegic Vietnam veteran, "People like you caused us to lose the war." This is a frequent misquote; the actual exchange went as follows:
      Bobby Muller: In 90 percent of cases that U.S. soldiers got blown up—Ann, are you listening?—they were our own mines.
      Ann Coulter: No wonder you guys lost.
    • In "The Telephone Hour", during the montage of Linda taping her calls with Monica, Linda is shown writing the date that each tape was made on the label. In real life, Linda did not date the tapes, or even keep them organized.
    • In "Stand By Your Man", we see Huma Abedin working as an aide for Hillary Clinton in 1992. Abedin was around 16 during that time and didn't start working at the White House until 1996 as an intern.
  • Audience Surrogate: The series is primarily shown from Monica's perspective, which is fitting since Lewinsky herself is an executive producer on the series. Though prior to its airing, she made a statement that she did her best to not let herself off the hook for her own willingness to engage in the affair.
  • Awful Wedded Life:
    • Monica's parents are hinted at having had this before their divorce, being quick to correct Starr's team on their marital status and Monica's mother Marcia being quick to halt an argument with her ex-husband, Bernard on the phone. In Real Life, their divorce was so contentious that Marcia pleaded "intolerable cruelty" on his part and he pleaded that she was Ms. Red Ink. Monica even regretfully tells her mother that she did tell Linda that the marriage was a "house of lies".
    • Paula and Steve Jones, where Steve is selfish and idiotic while slut-shaming Paula. In "The Grand Jury", with the lawsuit having ended in failure, Paula finally has enough of Steve's abuse and throws him out.
    • Linda's marriage to her ex-husband was noted to be one.
    • Bill and Hillary, with Bill's past infidelity and his Freudian Excuse and later his confession that he lied to his family and the American people about the affair, Hillary has to face the fact that their marriage has become a Marriage of Convenience.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: The poster shows young intern Monica Lewinsky from the back as she looks up at the White House, an ironic display of hope considering what's in store for her there.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Linda asks to see the dress Monica has told her about. To anyone familiar with the scandal, this brings to mind the blue dress on which she preserved Clinton's semen, but it's actually a red dress that she's wearing to the Congressional Ball.
  • Basement Dweller: Justified.
    • The media fallout from her case against Clinton forces Paula to move in with her mother after she divorces Steve and moves back to Arkansas, where she can't even get a job at the Dairy Queen and thus takes on less than respectable jobs to make ends meet.
    • Double-Subverted with Monica at the end where she moves to New York City in her own apartment but close to her mother. In Real Life, after the scandal wore off some, Monica found it hard to get a respectable, steady job (even after getting a Master's degree in Psychology) and had to rely on her parents and friends to support her, even moving back and forth to stay with them and her brother.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Averted. Poor Paula Jones is coerced into a nose job and we next see her face bandaged up and with several ugly bruises over her face.
  • Beauty Inversion: Paula Jones and Bill Clinton were never ugly, but to play them both Annaleigh Ashford and Clive Owen had to wear prosthetics to mimic their famous large noses.
  • Before My Time: Justified with Monica (b. 1973) when it comes to her interactions with Bill (b. 1946) and Linda (b. 1949); when she meets Linda, Linda said the young and stunning Monica must be some D.C. power player's "Pet Rock" and Monica said Bill compared her to "The Face" from a 1960s detective show.
  • Believing Their Own Lies: Monica insists before the Grand Jury that no one told her to lie. But in previous episodes Clinton was shown "encouraging" Monica not to tell the truth about their relationship. Monica sincerely does not believe that Clinton did not pressure her to lie.
  • Benevolent Boss: Vince Foster, according to Linda, was the rare person in the Clinton Administration who made her smile and she saw him as a man of integrity. He is shown, despite his depression, to be a friendly boss who tries to treat her.
  • Betty and Veronica: Depending on whose view you adopt, Hillary (blonde pageboys, not noted for her fashion, Ice Queen image, middle-aged wife and mother from the Midwest) and Monica (fashionable dark hair, stylish, bubbly and insecure, young Sexy Sweater Girl from Beverly Hills) could fall into either role with Bill Clinton as the Archie.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: Deconstructed with Monica Lewinsky. She is noted to be a very beautiful young woman by both Linda Tripp and President Bill Clinton, and is portrayed, like in Real Life, by the full-figured Beanie Feldstein. However she is presented as a young woman who is in over her head as she has a relationship with the older and married Bill and when the scandal broke out, the media (as seen in a comedy writer's room expressing disbelief that Clinton would cheat with a full-figured woman with a bad ID photo in "The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky") slut-shamed and body shamed her for her weight.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Oh boy. Paula has a hard time making money and engages in less-then-respectable ventures, leading to being abandoned by her Moral Guardian allies, but she divorces Steve, who spent the entire series being a toxic influence to her. Juanita Broaddick never gets the closure she needs for her rape allegations against Clinton; Bill is impeached and acquitted but his reputation and marriage is now tainted, while Hillary enjoys a surge in popularity for standing by him and supporting him and starts her own political career but is saddled with her marriage. Linda is one of the most infamous women in the United States but also becomes widely hated and the media ridicule forces her to get plastic surgery that radically alters her appearance and still believes she did the right thing for Monica. Monica is enjoying some popularity and her freedom is ensured, but she is shown to be exhibiting PTSD from all the press coverage, the Starr investigation, and the insensitivity of her fans and has to publish her memoirs as a way to pay off her legal fees. At least she is able to reconnect with friend Kat after having to ghost her to prevent a subpeona on her friend and moves to New York City where people mostly leave her alone.
  • Black Boss Lady: At least a couple.
    • After Linda learns she is being transferred to the Pentagon, she follows a Black woman above her in position, who tries to politely wave off Linda but when Linda becomes more demanding and rude, the woman yells at Linda that she is being transferred because of her unlikable attitude and behavior.
    • The Grand Jury Forewoman who interviews both Monica and Linda, with the former she comes off as stern and disapproving and then she melts seeing how Monica isn't a one-dimensional homewrecker but a naive young woman who was in love and betrayed by her best friend and intimidated by Starr's team; later this woman is seen raking Linda over the coals over how she used and betrayed Monica, even risking her life (in Linda's view).
  • Blonde Republican Sex Kitten:
    • Ann Coulter, the famous blonde Republican pundit, is portrayed as alluring by Cobie Smulders, who is considerably more attractive than the real person.
    • To a less prominent extent, the blonde Laura Ingraham also counts, with her actress Kim Matula being just as attractive as the real-life pundit.
    • Susan Carpenter-MacMillan is an older example of the trope, with Judith Light mimicking her look perfectly.
    • Linda reaches a downplayed version of this trope at the end, as the ridicule from the media about her looks was enough to make her undergo plastic surgery to alter her appearance.
  • Brainless Beauty: Paula and Monica are treated by the press as such in-universe; if the press isn't insulting their appearance, then it was insulting a perceived lack of intelligence and their ample physical desirability.
  • Break the Cutie: "The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky" in spades.
    • First Paula suffers a breakdown after Clinton denies all allegations.
    • Monica gets beaten down by the media, Kenneth Starr, her exes, and has to face the paparazzi and Clinton denying any involvement with her and vehemently calling her "that woman".
    • Then later in "The Wilderness", we see that after her classmates at Stanford are abuzz at reading the Starr Report, Chelsea eventually read it and the camera catches a glimpse of her sad eyes.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Hillary initially isn't fazed at all by the scandal, absolutely trusting Bill that nothing actually happened. When he finally has to admit he lied to her, she is absolutely furious and lays into him for ruining everything they were working toward just because he wanted to get off.
    • After a whole episode where Linda is gloating over the possibility of being considered a national hero and the attention of the press, she deflates as soon as she sees John Goodman's portrayal of her on Saturday Night Live. The finale sees her undergoing plastic surgery that slims down her appearance.
  • Brainy Brunette: Monica, while downplayed due to her naiveté, is well-educated, intelligent, well-read; having gifted Clinton a copy of her favorite book in college, the very non-light monograph Disease and Representation: Images of Illness from Madness to AIDS. She is also a gifted communicator who majored in psychology and was qualified to intern at the White House; she also savvily keeps Kenneth Starr's team lingering as they detain her for questioning. In Real Life, she later studied and graduated from the London School of Economics and has become an executive producer.
  • Bullying a Dragon: William Ginsberg manages to run circles around Mike Emmick and Jackie Bennett, but when he starts training his fire on Kenneth Starr, it backfires; an enraged Starr yanks the immunity offer he'd prepared to give Monica and threatens to give her a full sentence. In order to save Monica, she and her father fire him and hand her case over to another attorney, at which point Starr restores the immunity offer.
  • Bust-Contrast Duo: Hillary and Monica, for Bill. Hillary is older, stoic, no-nonsense and possesses a average-bustline while the younger and busty Monica is passionate, awestruck, and bubbly.
  • Butt-Monkey: Susan, Linda's deskmate who puts up with Linda's dismissive manner and Linda's tendency to have strict rules for everyone but herself, making her stuck with Linda's ringing phone while she gossips with Monica.
  • Career Versus Man: Hillary is an example of how even a working woman can sacrifice her own ambitions and priorities for her husband. "Stand By Your Man" points out that Hillary once had a boyfriend who was serious about her and she went with Bill due to her love for him and their shared ambition, even turning down a lucrative job offer in Chicago to move to Arkansas. She bitterly notes that it was All for Nothing and she is now stuck with a man who periodically cheats on her because she will be shamed for staying with him or divorcing him.
    Hillary: I lose either way because I never invested in me, I invested in us.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: William Ginsburg's glorious "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Mike Emmick is basically a spaced-out version of these:
    William Ginsburg: Negotiating? Really? Is that the new term for unlawful detention?
    Mike Emmick: Sir, she could have left at any time.
    Ginsburg: Shut the fuck up you motherfucking cocksucker!
    Emmick: Excuse me?!?
    Ginsburg: We already heard what you want her to do. Now tell us what she's going to get for it.
    Emmick: Full transactional immunity from prosecution!
    Ginsburg: I want that in writing.
    Emmick: Well it's nearly midnight here, we've been down this road.
    Ginsburg: Too bad, so sad, write it up now.
    Emmick: We don't have a typewriter here!
    Ginsburg: Then write it up by hand and fax it.
    Emmick: We don't have a fax machine either.
    Ginsburg: I know that hotel, I stayed at that hotel. They got a fax machine, it's a GD Ritz-Carlton!
    Emmick: Sir we are not going to use a communal fax!
    Ginsburg: You are a lying sack of shit!
  • Coattail-Riding Relative: Steve Jones, who thinks that his wife Paula's lawsuit will result in him getting a guest role on a TV series, for some reason.
  • The Cobbler's Children Have No Shoes: Monica, who studied Psychology as her major in college, tends to fall for unavailable men who pay her the slightest attention and gets obsessive over them. She is also insecure enough to deprive herself of food for any guy, a clear red flag for disordered eating.
  • Coy, Girlish Flirt Pose: Monica employs this with Bill, when her hands aren't in front of her waist.
  • Cringe Comedy: After being cornered by Ken Starr's team in the Ritz-Carlton, Monica insists they wait for her mother to get there from New York, leaving them with half a day to kill with the hotel as basically a Gilded Cage for everyone. Helped by Monica's increasingly transparent requests to use the bathroom.
  • Daddy's Girl:
    • Averted with most of the other women in the show, who are shown to be closer to their mothers (Allison to Linda, Chelsea to Hillary, Monica to Marcia, Paula to Lee).
    • Linda used to be one, as she "worshipped" her father who was popular with the whole town, until she found out he was cheating on her mother with half the women in the county after he decided to walk out of the family and marriage. This is used as a Freudian Excuse for her vendetta against Clinton.
    • Downplayed with Monica, whom after a ugly divorce between her parents was much closer to her mother, but repaired her relationship with Bernard during the scandal, where he assures her he doesn't think anything less of her.
  • A Day in the Limelight: After most of the series previously focused on the point of view of Monica Lewinsky (and by extension Linda Tripp) and Paula Jones regarding their scandals with Bill Clinton, "Stand by Your Man" shows more of how Bill's scandal with Monica affected Hillary Clinton.
  • Defiled Forever: Discussed in-universe, the media has labeled Monica with a scarlett letter with personalities like Dr. Joyce Brothers pontificating that Monica will have a hard time finding suitors because no young man wants to bring the notorious Monica Lewinsky home to their parents. In Real Life, Monica has pointed out that the scandal has affected her ability to trust in relationships and intimidated suitors and as of 2021 is still unmarried.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The series touches on the misogyny rampant throughout The '90s.
    • Linda Tripp is not very concerned after her friend Kathleen Wiley claims to have been sexually assaulted by Bill Clinton.
    • Michael Isikoff brushes off the secret recordings of Monica Lewinsky as evidence of sexual harassment as there was no quid pro quo and the relations are consensual. Nowadays, the power disparity of the sexual relationship combined with the unacceptable behavior in the workplace would make it seem much more potent as evidence of sexual abuse.
    • In "Man Handled" the planned interrogation of Monica was called "Operation Prom Night" because it'd be 30 minutes in a hotel room with a girl, bringing chuckles from Kenneth Starr and his team as they plan to threaten a young woman in her 20s over her having an affair with Clinton.
    • Susan said "We got them, even the little Jewish lady" in reference to Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
    • "The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky" shows off all the sexism of the '90s media as they accept without question the claims about Monica being an obsessed groupie and not someone who was taken advantage of by an extremely powerful man.
    • The constant talk of dieting or starving oneself stands as another example of how lipophobic the 1990s were towards women, that some immature writers found it amusing that Bill Clinton would have an affair with a young Big Beautiful Woman.
  • Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Hillary, in "Stand By Your Man", heartbreakingly tells Bill how much his affair and lying has hurt her and how his actions have caused her so much pain and chaos especially given how much she loves him.
  • Disappointed in You: The Voiceless Chelsea Clinton gives Clinton a look of this after he confessed to Hillary and the nation that he has lied to them about his involvement with Monica.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Monica gets vilified by the media for being more voluptuous than considered fashionable and for being a sexual young woman with a crush on Clinton and then finds a hard time getting her life back to normal; Starr punishes her for being involved with President Clinton, sexually liberated, and having the mouthy Bill Ginsberg as her attorney, even to the point of trying to imprison her.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: In a scene when Monica is working and Bill walks by with some aides, he gets momentarily distracted when Monica flashes him her thong.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • Linda Tripp, whose most famous act is secretly recording a friend's phone call, tells someone in her office that listening to other's phone calls is inappropriate. She also mentions a fair weather friend to Monica when they first meet.
    • Feminist and independent woman Hillary Clinton casually dismisses the type of woman embodied in Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man" song. Sadly she all but embodies the lyrics of the song as she stays married to Bill Clinton after his infidelity is exposed to the world.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Within the first twenty minutes of the pilot, Vince Foster commits suicide, setting off the chain of events that sends Linda Tripp off to the Pentagon.
    • In "Man Handled", Monica contemplates suicide after all of the OIC's threats and her realization that Clinton is going to be impeached because of their affair. Thankfully, her mother is wise enough to keep an eye on her.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Bill and Monica do this to each other the first time they see each other, Monica gives him a Longing Look while Bill sneaks to check out her body shape when her back is turned.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Linda refuses to endorse her fellow conservatives' speculation that Vince Foster was murdered, as such theories were based on the assumption that Foster was party to some wrongdoing, and she refuses to believe that her friend did anything wrong.
    • For all Clinton's other faults and vices, he is genuinely livid with Monica when he finds out that she yelled at his secretary.
    • While Mike Emmick is no less eager to force Monica to turn against Clinton, he is disgusted by colleague Jackie Bennett's hardball tactics, if only because they end up making Monica too upset to testify. Later in "Grand Jury" when, while talking to lawyer Karin Immergut about the case she complains that Starr never gave her anything more than secretarial work, Emmick lets out a sigh and comments "he's old-fashioned".
    • Many members of the public, even those who would look down on Monica for going with a married man or mock her feminity, are agast that she was betrayed by a woman (Linda) that she thought was a friend with a young man telling Linda to her face that she did a hideous thing.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Evil is a stretch (as the series suggests she's Right for the Wrong Reasons at worst) but Cobie Smulders emulates Ann Coulter's famously deep voice.
  • Eyelash Fluttering: Monica does this when flirting with Bill, helped by her long, dark lashes, especially with the thong moment.
  • Exact Words: The show recreates some big chunks of Clinton's grand jury testimony, where he famously went so far as to bicker over the meaning of the word "is" to explain why denying he had sex with Monica wasn't perjury.
  • Fallen-on-Hard-Times Job: The final episode sees Paula, desperate to pay her mounting legal bills after her lawsuit is dropped, accepting an offer to pose for Penthouse, angering her Moral Guardian supporters.
  • False Friend:
    • Linda pretends to befriend Monica in order to get her to open up about her affair with Clinton so that Linda has something to help her sell her book.
    • Linda in turn is on the receiving end of this trope from Lucianne Goldberg, who encourages her to befriend Monica and tape their conversations (nevermind that it's illegal to do so in Maryland where Linda lived which Lucianne was aware about), then cutting to Lucianne doing the same.
    • In the second episode, Paula Jones falls in with "conservative feminist" Susan Carpenter-McMillan, who claims to be trying to protect her interests in the lawsuit, but is actually using her to elbow her way into conservative legal circles, which are still dominated by men. She also manipulates Steve into sabotaging the effort to settle Paula's lawsuit so that it will go to court, even though she knows Paula would lose.
  • The Fashionista:
    • Monica, a Girly Girl who loves shopping for stylish (but conservative enough for the staid work environment of the U.S. Government within the notoriously non-sartorial city of Washington D.C.) designer clothing, most of which were constructed based on Lewinsky's actual 90s wardrobe and showcase her youth and curves. As we see later in the series, she has inherited this trait from her mother Marcia.
    • Susan is an older example of this, thus inspiring Paula to want to change her look.
    • Lucianne is an example, wearing elegant suits and caftans at home, in contrast to Linda's dowdier presentation.
  • Fat Bitch: The heavyset Lucianne Goldberg is often unpleasant with a very withering sense of humor that she targets to Linda and even double-crosses the woman when advising her to record her calls.
  • Female Misogynist: Ann Coulter attributes Clinton's enduring popularity to "dumb American females" and being an Alpha Bitch to Laura Ingrahm. After listening to the surprisingly boring Tripp-Lewinsky tapes, she also casually quips that she now understands why some cultures kill their female children. She is also among those who turn against Paula in the season finale after she does a Penthouse photo shoot (even though she only did so in order to pay off her considerable legal bills after the failed lawsuit), denouncing her as being just as trashy as the Clintons said she was, and in the same episode, when Monica is called for her testimony, she makes a crack that Monica is going to be someplace she likes: in a room surrounded by old men.
  • The Finicky One: Linda Tripp, aside from her ideological beef with the Clinton's, can't stand that they give casual pizza parties to staffers and that Hillary uses the same restroom as the staffers. We also find out she isn't fond of 1960s rock 'n' roll.
  • Foolish Husband, Responsible Wife: Deconstructed with Bill and Hillary, as Bill defines himself as a weak man with a basket of Freudian Excuses while Hillary tries to do any damage control to save his career, often at the expense of her own likability and career. In the end, her campaigning to save his role as President is impressive enough for her to run for political office.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • Clinton will be ultimately acquitted of all charges and finishes his second term.
    • The first episode treats the identity of Monica's White House lover with an air of mystery, and depicts the final scene revealing him to be Bill Clinton as something of a surprise…even though promotional material (let alone history) make it abundantly clear everybody will already know this.
  • Formerly Fat: Linda at the end of the series not only gets plastic surgery to alter her appearance but also drops weight.
  • Formerly Fit: The plus-sized Linda Tripp invokes this to Monica saying that in 1993, when she last worked in the West Wing, she was trim and apparently First Lady Hillary Clinton worried about her being around Bill Clinton. Her photo under I Was Quite a Fashion Victim did show her to be thinner (and oddly more petite than then-First Lady Barbara Bush) albeit not quite as enticing as she paints herself to be.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • Monica, as gorgeous and likable as she is, had low amounts of self-worth and self-esteem where she settled for being The Mistress to married men because she didn't see herself as a woman worthy of being number one all due to her history of body image issues; add to that a messy divorce between her parents. The media ruthlessly seizes upon these to ridicule her.
    • Linda's bitterness is attributed to her divorce and a history of being bullied for her Huge Schoolgirl appearance. Later she reveals that she is still hurt by her father being a philanderer who slept with half the county and leaving the family.
    • Bill has been noted to have grown up in a poor Southern family where his grandmother (who was the one who raised him) was stern, his biological father died before he was born, and his stepfather was an abusive drunk. In Real Life, his womanizing during his political can also be attributed to him growing up as "the fat kid from Hope" who didn't get girls' attention.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: Hillary during her "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Bill says that she is tired of giving him passes over his difficult childhood.

  • Gambit Pileup: The impeachment is the product of multiple conservative factions all working towards their own ends, including the Office of Independent Counsel desperately looking for a crime to charge Clinton with after years of costly investigations; the Federalist Society and Susan Carpenter-McMillan both manipulating Paula Jones into a lawsuit against Clinton that they know she will lose (because the Federalists want to get Clinton to commit perjury, while Carpenter-McMillan wants to expose the supposed hypocrisy of liberal feminists); and Lucianne Goldberg manipulating the deluded Linda Tripp into pumping Monica Lewinsky for information about her affair with Clinton (which in turn leads to Linda desperately seeking to escape felony charges after accidentally admitting to taping her conversations); and Matt Drudge seeking to make a name for himself by being the first to break the story of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair.
  • Genius Ditz: Monica, who was a Psychology Undergraduate and is qualified enough to intern and work at the White House and the Pentagon, is a naive young woman who trusted the wrong people.
  • Gleeful and Grumpy Pairing:
    • Monica and Linda, respectively. It is evidenced from their first meeting at the Pentagon where Linda is temporarily working in the office of a co-worker who was on vacation, after demanding an office and being a grump, particularly when the starstruck Monica gets excited over the poster of Bill Clinton and Linda acts dismissive.
    • Earlier, Linda and Kathleen Wiley, who is a good-natured woman with a smile on her face.
  • Good Bad Girl: Downplayed with Monica, who is actively flirtatious and makes a few maneuvers to Bill (including flashing her thong) and despite her insecurities over her weight dresses to showcase her femininity and curves. Under it all, she is a sweet girl who is quite naive despite her intelligence, and gets targeted by older men who want to take advantage of her.
  • Good Cop/Bad Cop: Failed spectacularly. The prosecutor's office attempt to ensnare Monica by playing this with Mike Emmick and Jackie Bennett. Both attempts are bungled as they know they don't have the means to keep her there.
  • Good Stepmother: Barbara Lewinsky, Monica's stepmom, is shown to be a cheerful and loving woman who encourages Monica to knit. In Real Life she taught Monica to knit and was as fierce a Mama Bear as Marcia, protecting Monica from the press and being outspoken in her criticism against Clinton calling him "a butthead". Later she is shown to be happy that a day with Cat made her stepdaughter cheerful again.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Averted hard where we get a lovely scene of Linda getting her plastic surgery with the scalpel cutting her face.
  • Graceful Ladies Like Purple: Monica wears a light purple dress when discussing her affair with Linda, also wears an eggplant shade for one of the promos when speaking of her attraction to the President and holding a sultry gae, Linda wears lavender pajamas when having a sleepover with Monica.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Linda is jealous of Monica, making comments about Monica's privilege, youth, and beauty while at the same time nursing a low view of the girl and uses her for her own ends.
  • Hair-Contrast Duo:
    • Played with regarding Susan and Paula. Paula is a naive, dark-haired woman from a working-class background in the Deep South who is distressed about her harassment by Clinton and the wild rumors spreading about her while Susan is a vivacious blonde determinator who is manipulating Paula as part of her plans to infiltrate the elite of the mostly male right wing.
    • Inverted with Linda and Monica. Monica (the dark-haired half) is young, naive, bubbly, and fun-loving while Linda (the blonde half) is middle-aged, cynical, grumpy, and a "Stop Having Fun" Guy who hates pizza parties at the office.
    • Inverted once again with Hillary and her aide Huma Abedin. Where the dark-haired Abedin is shown as young, soft-spoken, and hesitant to give the bad news to her blonde boss who is older, frank, and shows a defiant attitude towards the idea of being disliked.
    • As far as Bill Clinton is concerned, Hillary and Monica could stand here with Hillary being a tough-as-nails woman who deeply hurts about not being considered likable or feminine enough and her husband cheating, lying, and humiliating her while Monica is outwardly emotional but reveals she is strong-willed and intelligent.
  • Heel Realization: In "The Telephone Hour", after Monica confesses how she was groomed and sexually exploited by a drama technician in high school, Linda realizes how naive she is and begins doubting the morality of her plans to use Monica to get back at the Clinton Administration, realizing that her actions could end up destroying Monica's life. Unfortunately, Lucianne Goldberg convinces her that the best way to help Monica is to expose Clinton by any means possible, and thus Linda arranges to get herself subpoenaed in the Jones lawsuit, which in turn gets Monica subpoenaed.
  • Heroic BSoD: Paula undergoes a mental breakdown after a meeting with Clinton and his lawyers as he denies everything that has happened.
  • Historical Beauty Upgrade:
    • As noted above, Linda Tripp wasn't noted to be a great beauty or particularly feminine looking and had a tall, wide build. Here she is, despite extra pounds and prosthetics and conservative costuming verging on dowdy, is portrayed by the conventionally beautiful and delicately built Sarah Paulson.
    • Also noted above, Ann Coulter was always raked across the coals for her appearance and her skinny build, she is portrayed by the pretty Cobie Smoulders in a shiny and wavy blonde wig who is slim but not distressingly so.
    • Bill Clinton was on the huskier side with a large nose and less refined look, despite the prostetics, Clive appears more fitter, refined, and James Bond-esque.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade:
    • For most of the time period of the events depicted, Paula Jones's claims were widely dismissed, or considered denial of consensual relations, with the word "bimbo" often used in association with her. Now, while not necessarily portrayed as the smartest woman, the show is firmly on her side and heavily implies her claims are true.
    • While William Ginsburg is agreed to have been supportive of Monica and lost sight of that as he went on a media warpath against Ken Starr in Real Life like he does in the show, in real life, when Monica had some tasteful vintage pin-up style photos done with Vanity Fair, he cracked to Bernie that Bill Clinton was going to "cream his pants" when he saw them, and Monica dropping him didn't go so amicably, with him accusing her of being ungrateful.
    • Played With regarding Monica. While the real-life Lewinsky uses this series to tell her story and reclaim her narrative, she doesn't stray away from having her flaws painted out where the younger Monica can come off as a obsessive, somewhat bratty Valley Girl but is still depicted as a likable Nice Girl who was a strong and intelligent woman in her own right.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard: Paula Jones's lawyers provide Clinton with such a weirdly specific definition of "sexual relations" that he's able to argue he wasn't committing perjury by denying he ever had them with Monica, despite the oral sex.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Tragically Monica, who has been groomed by her high school teacher and trusted that Linda and Bill care about her. They don't.
  • How We Got Here: The series begins in January 1998, when Monica receives an invitation to meet with Linda, which turns out to be a trap organized by the FBI, who escort Monica to a hotel suite to be interviewed by the Office of the Independent Counsel. The series then recounts the events during the previous five years that lead to that moment, ultimately not returning to the opening scene up until the sixth episode.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: Linda claims to not know why her classmates fat-shamed her to the moniker of "Gus" when talking about it to Monica. A few episodes later Linda confides to her daughter Allison that "Gus" was a reference to NBA player Gus Johnson, meaning that not only was Linda shamed for her size but also for her height and apparent lack of feminine appeal.
  • Humiliation Conga: Linda Tripp spends the entire first episode going through one, ending up bitter enough to manipulate her new friend Monica to get petty revenge against the White House. After the scandal breaks out, the glow of fame wears off on her when she starts getting hated on for her character and looks.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Linda is happy to team up with Kathleen Wiley in an attempt to save both of their jobs when Bernie Nussbaum resigns and a new boss comes in, but immediately trash-talks her after Kathleen is promoted to her old job. She also refuses to corroborate Wiley's story about being assaulted by Clinton out of sheer spite. Linda insists to anyone who will listen that she was trying to protect Monica, but the only reason Monica ended up in the prosecutors' crosshairs in the first place was because Linda told the prosecutors about Monica's affair with Clinton in order to escape prosecution for her own crimes. Futhermore, Linda casts herself a concerned citizen worried about family values and women, is often dismissive of her daughter Allison and betrays Monica.
    • Clinton loves to invoke all of the women he appointed to positions of power in his administration whenever someone brings up the sexual misconduct accusations against him.
    • Emmick reacts with shock and scolds William Ginsburg for delivering "The Reason You Suck" Speech laden with curse words, never mind he was listening to his co-worker Jackie cuss out and verbally abuse a twenty-four year old woman and even her mother.
    • Starr and his team are happy to exploit claims that Clinton sexually harassed Paula Jones and abused his power to pursue a relationship with Monica Lewinsky, but when presented with sworn testimony that Clinton raped Juanita Broaddrick, Starr shows no interest, telling his investigator to stick the testimony into an appendix.
  • I Am Not Pretty:
    • Discussed by Monica, despite being a strikingly gorgeous and fashionable young woman, didn't fit the standard for beauty in the Heroin Chic 90s and after growing up in Beverly Hills where the standard was for thin blondes and she is a voluptuous brunette. This is soon invoked when comedy writers rooms target her physicality along with her crush on Bill and sexuality.
    • Poor Paula in "The Grand Jury" succumbs to a nose job at the behest of Steve and also due to the abuse thrown at her by the media for her appearance.
    Paula: Because I got a bad nose, which I didn’t even know I had until you made me do this.
    • Averted with Linda, as the ridicule from the media was enough to make Small Name, Big Ego Linda turn to plastic surgery to alter her appearance. Granted it was implied she was jealous of Monica's beauty.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Linda's reasoning for outing Clinton as a philanderer even if it meant throwing her young friend under the bus is invoked here with Linda claiming that Monica "will thank me later".
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: The sole reason that Monica is willing to be The Mistress, and likely because she endured a childhood where she was made fun of for her weight or boys overlooked her for her friends, is because she wants to find a guy who loves her. This marks her as someone for older, more powerful men to take advantage of.
  • I Was Quite a Fashion Victim: Linda, as revealed through her Christmas photo with the Bushes where she had the requisite big, poofy '80s Hair and huge shoulder pads. With her glasses, it made her look like a blonde version of Didi Pickles.
  • Ignored Expert:
    • Gilbert Davis, one of Paula's lawyers, tries to warn her against letting her lawsuit go to trial, pointing out that the President has more credibility with the public than her and that his lawyers will dig up everything they can about her and ruin her reputation, but she prefers to listen to Susan Carpenter-McMillan instead, who has ulterior motives for wanting the case to go to trial.
    • At the end of "The Grand Jury", one of Ken Starr's investigators gathers testimony from Juanita Broaddrick that Clinton raped her. Starr tells the investigator to relegate Broaddrick's testimony to an appendix, as he only cares about Clinton committing perjury or offering bribes.
  • Important Haircut: A couple in the series.
    • Paula Jones goes from wearing her hair in a long perm, often held by a scrunchie to wearing it blown out and straightened with heavy bangs to present a more sophisticated image for the cameras.
    • Monica, who wears her hair in long, blown out tresses, cuts her hair in a shoulder-length hairdo that is a cross between The Rachel and a bouffant when she is fighting for immunity and being targeted by the media.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Ann Coulter gets fired from her job on MSNBC for telling a paraplegic war veteran that people like him were the reason America lost The Vietnam War, apparently unaware that he'd lost both his legs.
    • Monica's fans in the finale, who show up dressed in berets and blue dresses or asking if she still loves Bill, triggering a panic attack.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: A few examples in this series.
    • Monica has what she believes to be a tight bond with Linda and hopes to maintain a platonic relationship with the President (both figures being over 20 years older than she) after their affair ends, she is sorely mistaken before February 1998.
    • Subverted with Paula, who looks to the twenty years older Susan as a confidante, they are rather close but Susan looks down on Paula as a rube to manipulate and turns against her when the younger woman starts making money in measures that Susan considers un-Christian and inappropriate.
    • After all these one-sided relationships, Hillary has a tight relationship with her loyal aide Huma Abedin (herself being more than 20 years Hillary's junior).
  • It's All About Me:
    • Linda's primary motivation throughout the affair is to protect her career.
    • Steve Jones appears to be more concerned about how his wife Paula's lawsuit might affect him rather than Paula herself. His first appearance has him angrily complain that he had just attended a casting for a TV show when the news of the lawsuit broke out and that it might affect his chances of getting cast.
    • Hillary's opinion of Monica in her "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Bill is that the younger woman is a "narcissistic looney toon" and calls Bill out on his selfishness.
  • It Will Never Catch On: Everyone is skeptical of Matt Drudge when he suggests that he is the future of journalism, considering that he doesn't have a journalism degree and has never actually written for a newspaper. Then he manages to steal Michael Isikoff's scoop about Kathleen Wiley, and suddenly Drudge Report becomes a major player in the impeachment scandal.
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: In Monica's case it's "Having an affair with the President, talking about it with a nosy older friend, and lying about it on a affadavit will ruin your life".
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the Grand Jury, especially this older forewoman who is seen giving Monica a side-eye during Recess but as the young woman opens up with her bubbly personality and talks to them about how vulnerable she was and about her experience with the OIC, the Grand Jury come around to her side and encourage her to move on from Linda Tripp as a friend and then grill Linda for her treachery of Monica.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Susan Carpenter-McMillan's "conservative feminism" is sure to raise an eyebrow to both sides of the aisle. But she fairly points out that just because you are socially or fiscally conservative does not mean you do not believe that women should be treated with respect. She also actually bothers to ask if Paula is happy with the settlement offer.
    • Dimwitted and self-centered Steve Jones points out that Paula began her lawsuit solely for an apology and for her reputation after a news article implied she had consensual extramarital relations with Clinton. He says that the money was never the point of the lawsuit and the public apology was the end goal. Though his anger at Paula later on for not getting any money makes him come off as a hypocrite.
    • Linda Tripp, while possessing a patronizing attitude and delusions of grandeur, genuinely believes that Clinton's behavior to Monica is beyond immoral and abusive. She also recognizes that Monica is too head-over-heels in love with Clinton to recognize he's treating her horrendously and abusing his power.
    • Ann Coulter (of all people), points out in the aftermath of the impeachment the bizarre reality that the world has been exposed to how awful Bill Clinton is as a person, and yet he has come out more popular and would likely win re-election if he could run again and that as a result any con artist could run for president and win.
  • Jewish American Princess: Deconstructed with Monica. She is the daughter of an affluent Jewish family from Beverly Hills, loves to shop and choose her outfits, fixates on her appearance, makes a snotty dismissive remark about Glendale not being "it" a la Cher Horowitz; but she is also shown to be a soft-hearted, if naive, young woman with ambitions of working in law and isn't frigid, as evidenced by her relationship with Bill but is easily manipulated by older figures she admires.
  • Jury and Witness Tampering: Regardless of how you feel about whether Clinton truly was guilty of perjury, the series makes a crystal clear presentation that Clinton subtly coaching several key-witnesses to deny allegations that could incriminate him.
  • Kavorka Man: In this series Bill Clinton is made out to be a unfaithful husband, a selfish coward, a manipulator, and even a sexual harasser and if Juanita is to be believed, a rapist. Somehow with these traits and his middle-aged, Bumbling Dad appearance, he managed to attract Hillary (a smart and hard-working lawyer), Gennifer Flowers (a reporter and former Miss Arkansas), and Monica (a younger, voluptuous intern).
  • Lady in Red: Monica hopes to invoke this at the Inaugural Ball when President Clinton and Hillary pass through, a bit of artistic license was taken with the design of the gown.
  • Large Ham: Matt Drudge deliberately projects an image of an old-timey Intrepid Reporter, with a healthy dose of Billy Eichner's real-life Camp Gay persona.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Throughout the series, Linda Tripp attempts to manipulate Monica Lewinsky to continue her affair with Bill Clinton so she could expose it, bring down the Clintons, be seen as a national hero and get a book deal out of the whole event. Not only does Bill Clinton end up getting acquitted for his actions, but Linda becomes reviled by the public as a snake who sold out her closest friend for the sake of advancing her own career. To pour further salt in the wound, it's Monica who ends up getting a book deal regarding what happened, while Linda is relegated to being interviewed by a single reporter who only has a fleeting interest in her actions.
  • Leg Focus:
    • Ann Coulter, as per her real-life clothing choices, tends to always appear in short skirts that showcase her long legs.
    • Monica gets to do this when she wears conservative suits that still show off shapely gams.
  • Lighter and Softer: At least in comparison to the first two seasons of American Crime Story, which were based around murders.
  • Love Makes You Stupid: See above for most of Monica's relationship with Clinton. But it becomes a clear example of such and a mix of Honor Before Reason where the FBI are threatening to heavily prosecute Monica unless she gives over information on Clinton. Monica believes that she could never bear being responsible for the downfall of the President (and because she still cares deeply for Clinton). Monica's mother and others think it's moronic to defend Clinton when he obviously has no intention of doing such for her.
  • Love Martyr:
    • Monica and Hillary are both this on opposite ends of the love triangle with Bill, the former not wanting to give over information on Clinton even at the cost of her freedom from prison and during their affair was willing to skip meals so her appearance is still alluring for him, and the latter having re-directed her career for his political ambitions and their relationship. Both of them realize that he was likely not worth all the trouble.
    • Paula Jones to her husband Steve. She tries to advance Steve's acting career and is so submissive that she even goes under the knife for Steve. She finally dumps him in "The Grand Jury".

  • Madonna-Whore Complex:
    • Deconstructed, Played With, and discussed in-universe, both Monica (the "Whore") and Hillary (the "Madonna") receive the blame from the media for Bill straying from his vows; with Monica being accused of being oversexed and undisciplined while Hillary is accused of being a frigid Ice Queen. But Hillary for her part was rumored to have had an affair with Vince Foster which even her Unknown Rival Linda Tripp denies while Monica fervently desires a life with a husband and children. Hillary receives a boost in the opinion polls for supporting Bill while Dr. Joyce Brothers says that no boy would want to bring Monica home to his parents. The point made is that both the women are on losing ends of the spectrum due to misogynistic standards for womens' behavior as opposed to that of men.
    • Also used in a montage contrasting Hillary, this time with Paula, while both take part in photo shoots; the former with the respectable Vogue and the latter with the slightly-less respectable Penthouse.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: Of the sexual encounters Bill and Monica had, none of them were in a normal location. In a couple of them, Bill was on the phone while Monica was fellating him.
  • Male Gaze:
    • One of the show's first teasers shows Lewinsky walking down a hall to the Oval Office with a gift for Clinton. The camera focuses on her curvy shape and breasts as she sashays on her way.
    • Deconstructed in "The Wilderness" when Paula is told to strip for the camera (not given the tasteful photography she was promised), camera focusing on her long legs and slim body, then cutting to her face as she looks hurt.
  • Mama Bear: At least a couple in the series.
    • Delmar Lee Corbin, mother of Paula Jones is suspicious about Susan manipulating Paula into not accepting the large monetary deal and over her condescending manner. She tells Paula to be careful and also desires for Clinton to apologize to Paula.
    • Marcia Lewis, Monica's glamorous mother who is close to her daughter and rushes to her aid after being questioned and cornered by Kenneth Starr's team; she also stops Monica from calling to warn Betty (in case the room is bugged) and tells her that she needs to focus on protecting herself. In Real Life, she kept a constant vigil by her daughter's side for her safety and kept a suicide watch.
    • The Grand Jury (except for one Papa Wolf) who are shocked at how the OIC forbade Monica from calling her lawyer and intimidated her, this was enough for them all to grill Linda about her treatment of Monica and how she was willing to throw a younger woman under the bus to ensure her own well-being.
  • Misplaced Retribution: Monica is on the receiving end of these from both Allison Tripp and Hillary (not to her face):
    • When Linda ties up the phone line for recording her calls with Monica, preventing Allison from calling her friends, Allison doesn't blame her single-minded and obsessive mother.
    Allison: Fucking Monica!
    • Hillary refers to Monica as a "narcissistic looney-toon" while calling Bill out for making their marriage so hard, although she places the well-deserved blame on "that psychopath Linda Tripp" and Ken Starr, one would say that beyond having an inappropriate relationship with a older married boss and being a Horrible Judge of Character, Monica isn't to blame and she didn't jumpstart this scandal.
  • The Mistress: Monica's scarlet letter, as she has been with a couple of married men before Bill Clinton. In Real Life, she told Barbara Walters that she never possessed the self-worth to be a man's number one woman in his life.
  • Moral Guardians: The Federalist Society members, including Ann, George, Susan, Drudge, Isikoff, Lucianne, and Linda all want to hold Clinton responsible for his indiscretions. Later on, Ann gleefully admits that most of them are really more concerned about gaining power in politics rather than any ethics or morality broken.
  • Morton's Fork: Invoked by Hillary when she tells Bill what happened to their marriage in "Stand By Your Man".
    Hillary: If I leave, I'm the woman who left President Clinton. If I stay, I'm the woman who stayed! I lose either way!
  • Never My Fault:
    • Linda Tripp habitually assumes that all of her career woes are the product of a conspiracy against her, rather than simply being consequences of her own actions and attitude.
    • In "The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky" Bill and a few boyfriends of Monica, including two older married men, paint her as a crazy seductress who made them helpless against her feminine wiles; keep in mind that they were all older and in authoritative positions over her (and one was grooming her as a teenager.)
    • In "The Grand Jury", Steve accuses the Clintons and their allies of getting him blacklisted at his day job. Paula suggests that his work woes might have more to do with his insistence on arranging his work availability around auditions. He also refuses to take any responsibility when Paula's lawsuit is thrown out, even though he was the one who insisted that she try and go to trial rather than taking a settlement. He even mocks her for getting a nose job, despite the fact he (along with the media ridicule) pushed her into it.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Monica, from her introduction in the series, is shown to be this. Bading farewell to a barista at Starbucks where she is a regular, with him giving a positive affirmation of hope for her (later to be squashed) dreams of working in NYC for Revlon. It is quite a lapse when Monica drops the Jerkass Ball and yells at Clinton's secretary Betty for keeping Clinton from her (despite the fact that it was Clinton who was ghosting her) on Betty's own personal number.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: Clinton confides in Monica that he was actually furious that his election to a second term, the last such challenge he'll ever have in his life, was such an obvious landslide victory. Of course, he could never predict he'll be going through one more hard challenge thanks to the affair he was having with the very woman he's talking to.
  • Obnoxious Entitled Housewife: Linda Tripp to a T. She is a condescending, patronizing Moral Guardian, and feels entitled enough to demand a closed office despite just starting out in the Pentagon and she is rather uptight when it comes to personal conduct of the President and First Lady, complaining about minor things like pizza parties for staff and using the same restrooms as staff instead of more serious transgressions like harassment and assault toward a friend. She also feels that she is restoring "honor" to the Presidency, name-checking Clinton's Republican predesscors as examples (despite their own history of committing acts that are just as discisive, like the Iran-Contra Scandal) and being willing to punish Monica for being a entitled young beauty who is sexually liberated and climbing the career ladder.
  • Oh, Crap!: Gilbert Davis and Joseph Cammarata are horrified when Paula Jones brings her new friend Susan Carpenter-McMillan into their lawsuit.
  • Omnidisciplinary Lawyer: William Ginsberg, a medical malpractice lawyer. He is a friend of the Lewinsky Family so it makes sense that Bernie Lewinsky would turn to him for help when Monica is cornered by Ken Starr's team but as the case goes on, it appears that Monica is going to need legal help that possesses a cooler head and a knowledge of Washington D.C. and changes him for two savvier lawyers.
  • One-Steve Limit: The series includes two Georges, Conway and Stephanopoulos, and two Bills, Clinton and Ginsberg.
  • One-Word Title: Impeachment.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • Betty Currie, Bill Clinton's professional and loyal secretary, who deals with the going-ons between Bill and Monica.
    • Allison Tripp, Linda's teenage daughter, who rolls her eyes at her mother's grandiose plans and her relationship with Monica.
    • Marcia Lewis, Monica's mother, who tells the girl that she needs to focus on protecting herself and not Bill Clinton.
    • Kat, Monica's best friend from college who visits her one episode and tries to urge her (unsuccessfully) to move on from Bill Clinton and enjoy some chow mein.
    • George Conway, who acts more cautious about his mission and is more compassionate towards Monica than his allies.
  • Papa Wolf: Dr. Bernard Lewinsky, as soon as he hears that Monica is cornered by Starr's team, calls his lawyer friend William Ginsburg (who'd promptly help free Monica and gives a through dressing down to Starr's team). In Real Life, he stated his firm belief that Monica's sex life and who she has it with is none of anyone's business and that her privacy was broken.
    • The lone male juror on the Grand Jury falls into this trope after learning how the OIC mistreated Monica and threatened her with imprisonment to intimidate her and joins the rest in grilling Linda for her treachery.
  • Parental Sexuality Squick: Invoked and inverted with the sexually explicit Starr Report being put online where Bill and Monica are respectively horror-striken by the idea that Chelsea (Bill's daughter) and Bernard (Monica's father) would read it. Poor Chelsea did end up reading it but Bernard was spared, due to the warning from ex-wife Marcia not to read it.
    Marcia: Bernie, don't read it!
  • Parenting the Husband: Hillary with Bill. Her "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Bill reveals that she sacrificed career opportunities, protected him, tried to be understanding that he is a "weak man" with a dysfunctional childhood, and focused on helping him build his political career even at the cost of her popularity and career and that it was all for nothing because of his infidelity.
  • Parents as People: Linda Tripp, Bill Clinton, Monica's parents, and even Hillary are all shown as parental figures who, despite a love for their children, are flawed in their own way.
  • Pink Is Erotic: Monica wears a bubblegum pink lacy thong to signal interest to Bill Clinton.
  • Pink Is Feminine: The Girly Girl Monica wears pink nightwear and flashes a lacy pink thong at Bill Clinton. Hillary and Linda wore light pink suits (the latter when she worked at the White House and last saw Vince Foster alive after serving his lunch and the former for a promo where Hillary is voicing the Morton's Fork Bill put her in).
  • Plain Jane: Linda, has settled into this trope in her middle-age, not doing much to spruce up her appearance and giving up on dating due to her age, size, and comparative lack of appeal (especially compared to women like Monica and her mother Marcia). She buries this insecurity under an image of unflappable Small Name, Big Ego and admits in the last episode that until the paparazzi filmed her, she didn't know how ugly she was.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Monica drops these a few times, both when she discloses the identity of her boyfriend who "works in the White House" ("Linda, he's the fucking president") and during an argument with Bill that leads to them breaking up ("Fuck you!").
    • Linda Tripp doesn't care for this trope as evidenced when she refuses to let her daughter use the phone to talk to a friend so she can tape her call with Monica.
      Linda: Language!
    • Ann Coulter's reaction to being informed that the FBI has Monica under their custody: "Fuck me!"
    • Hillary drops a couple after Bill confesses to her that he has been lying about Monica ("I'm the fucking fool!" and "You fucking promised me!").
    • Paula launches one these when she finally throws Steve out after realizing he never cared about her.
      Paula: Well if you want to say I'm stupid, then fuck you!
    • William H. Ginsburg launches into an almighty rant when put on the phone with the feds.
      William H. Ginsburg: [to Mike Emmick over the phone] Shut the fuck up, you motherfucking cocksucker!
  • Promoted to Scapegoat: In "The Grand Jury", Karin Immergut, one of the few women serving in the OIC, is assigned to question Monica before the Grand Jury, solely because Ken Starr knows it would look terrible for a man to be asking the questions. This also leaves her in the unfortunate position of representing the OIC when Monica starts talking about Operation Prom Night.
  • Race Against the Clock: Upon getting their hands on Monica, Ken Starr's team has just one day to get her to cooperate before Clinton gives his testimony in the Paula Jones case, allowing for a quick perjury indictment.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Subverted; upon learning of a plausible rape accusation against Clinton, the OSC dismiss it as another sexual digression from the President, as irrelevant to their case, and reduce the claim to a footnote.
  • Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Monica, who has pale skin and dark hair, whose beauty draws admiration (from Linda) and awe (Bill tells her she lights up a room).
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: An attitude that got Hillary in trouble after her 60 Minutes interview where she made a dismissive comment about the type of woman sang about in Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" as being insensitive to traditional values; this also comes out when she screams at Bill for cheating on her with the much girlier and more emotional Monica.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Monica confronts Bill about leaving her hanging around for his calls and alone.
    • Bill and Monica give each other a heated version of this when they break up.
    • After an episode where Monica is kept hostage and was verbally abused by Jackie Bennett and Starr's team, William Ginsburg delivers a glorious speech to Mike Emmick on the phone after the younger man claims they were negotiating with Monica.
    • Hillary delivers a fiery one at Bill after his birthday dinner at the Jordan's for what his lying and infidelity cost them, especially in terms of sacrifices on her part.
    • Paula launches one at Steve in "The Grand Jury" after he shows that for all her ordeal of courtrooms, supporting his career, facing the media, and undergoing a nose job, he still doesn't believe her that she wasn't sleeping with Clinton, which was the most important thing to her.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Linda and Monica are both sent to the public affairs office. In Monica's case, it's because the White House staff are trying to hide her affair with Bill Clinton. In Linda's case, it's because everyone at the White House Counsel office was sick of dealing with her.
  • Reassignment Backfire: Monica was reassigned to the Pentagon's public affairs office in the hopes that it would keep her out of the spotlight. Instead, it put her in proximity with Linda Tripp, who had a grudge against the Clinton Administration and was looking for material for a tell-all.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni:
    • Monica and Hillary, respectively. Monica is young, impulsive, excitable, emotional, passionate, bubbly, and sociable. Hillary is older, cautious, strategic, reserved, stoic, and more introverted.
    • William Ginsburg is the loud and opinionated Sir Swears-a-Lot who loses sight of the case and goes on a media rampage against Kenneth Starr, in contrast to the duo of lawyers (Plato Cacheris and Nathaniel Speights) Monica hires for the case who are able to give Mike Emmick Twerp Sweating with just a warm smile.
  • Refuge in Audacity: In "Stand By Your Man", Clinton's argument that he didn't technically commit perjury boils down to haggling over the definition of the word "is".
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: The Republicans and other conservatives want to remove Clinton from office and prosecute him. The claims of Katherine Wiley and Paula Jones strongly imply that Clinton is a serial sexual assaulter, and the accusations of Juanita Broddrick suggest he's a rapist. But the Republicans simply want him removed from power for his moderate liberal agenda rather than justice for women.
  • Rules Lawyer: In "Stand By Your Man", Clinton (himself a former lawyer) argues that he and Monica did not have sexual relations based on the definition of sexual relations used by Paula Jones's lawyers.

  • Sassy Black Woman: A whole jury of them in "Grand Jury" face Monica and Linda. With the former, they approach her with trepidation but soon come around to affirming her when she reveals how much Linda Tripp has hurt her and then lay into Linda for betraying Monica.
    Monica: And I hate Linda Tripp.
    Grand Jury: I know that's right! Forget her! Mmmm hmmm. What goes around comes around.
  • Self-Made Man: Bill Clinton and his friend Vernon Jordan both grew up poor in the Deep South, but Bill is now the President while Vernon became his advisor and a affluent business executive.
  • Serial Homewrecker: Deconstructed with Monica, who had a history of inappropriate relationships with older men who possessed a power over her and were married; it's stated that Monica's insecurity and naivete marked her as a target for these men.
  • Servile Snarker: Betty Currie, Bill's secretary. She is too reticent to qualify for Sassy Secretary but she carries off a Deadpan Snarker attitude when it comes to Bill's and Monica's affair and isn't afraid to make a dry comment about Bill's taste in presents for Monica.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Monica, in her first meeting with Bill Clinton, she wears a light blue sweater that shows off her large breasts and gets a compliment on it from Bill. She then wears these in her meetings with him or anything that shows off her curves.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely:
    • Paula, who is given a wardrobe and hair makeover by Susan to appear more polished and sophisticated. Later in "The Wilderness", we see Paula's hair get teased and she telling the hairstylist that she never liked her hair flat and appreciated the volume given to her hairstyle for the Penthouse shoot and said she likes wearing clothes that showcase her body and make her feel pretty.
    • Linda after her plastic surgery procedure amazes the reporter from George magazine with her new look.
    • To Paula's chagrin, she is told to downplay this feature to appear more respectable. The photoshoot in "The Wilderness" gives us a full view of her long, slender legs.
  • Signature Headgear: Monica is seen wearing her Real Life iconic berets, often with a hat pin, when she meets Clinton in crowds. In "The Wilderness", she wears a wide-brimmed straw hat to shield her face from the sun and wears baseball caps to evade the paparazzi.
  • The Silent Bob: Chelsea Clinton, who expresses so much through supportive hand-holding with her parents and a withering glance to her father.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Played straight and with. Monica grows into this trope, from her natural strong will and emotional and soft nature to showcasing her natural intelligence and strength against Moral Guardians but ends the series with PTSD.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Monica's motivations for pursuing Bill Clinton, most of the other single (and closer to her age) men are either obnoxious name-droppers or gay.
  • Sleazy Photoshoot: In the finale, Paula Jones reluctantly takes an offer to pose for Penthouse, as she desperately needs money after her failed lawsuit against Clinton. While at first she believes it will just be a few tasteful topless photos, she is soon forced to pose completely nude, and in the aftermath, most of her former conservative allies turn on her.
  • Slobs Versus Snobs: One of Linda's gripes against the Clintons involves the fact they throw pizza parties for the staffers, the First Lady using the same restroom as the staffers all in contrast to the previous presidents she worked for with Reagan always entering the Oval Office in a suit and Barbara Bush likely would have chose being catheterized over using the same restroom as the staff; also inverted as Linda has a hidden disdain for the upper-class Monica.
  • Slut-Shaming:
    • "The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky" covers how the media started making sexist jokes about Monica's promiscuity in the talk shows (along with her weight) and bringing out her ex-boyfriends to talk poorly about her, especially when Clinton denied the affair and labeled her as troubled and a stalker, never mind that one of her exes started outright admitting to grooming her when she was a teenager.
    • In "The Wilderness", the Federalist Society members all turn against Paula Jones after she resorts to doing a Penthouse photo shoot in order to pay off her considerable legal bills after the failed lawsuit, with Ann Coulter denouncing her as being just as trashy as the Clintons said she was.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Linda Tripp, a staffer in the White House who throws her weight around to get her way and sneers at others, not even abandoning this attitude when she is transferred to the Pentagon and after being told that no one likes working with her. This is even more evident in "The Assassination of Monica Lewinsky" when she tells her children that the media will call her a hero.
  • Spotting the Thread: After hearing the supposed charges against Monica, Bill Ginsberg quickly realizes that they're scare tactics, as there has never been a case of the government prosecuting someone for committing perjury in a civil case. When he finally gets through to Monica, he tells her to simply stand up and walk away from Emmick and Bennett.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Played With. Monica starts out obsessed with Bill Clinton, even trying to attend meet-and-greets to be close to him, Clinton doesn't discourage this and is partly guilty as he is stringing her along despite the fact he has a wife and daughter. The media seizes upon these moments to paint Monica as a desperate stalker.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Ken Starr apparently holds this view as he never gives the women on his team anything more than secretarial work, he is targeting a twenty-four year old woman for the fact she had an affair with the President, and named the operation to corner her "Prom Night" which implies getting a young woman coerced to do something a man wants in 30 minutes.
  • Stepford Smiler: Hillary often deflects from unpleasant facts concerning her marriage; at Vernon Jordan's house, Mrs. Jordan asks her to talk about how she is feeling and Hillary focuses on the painting on the wall; when her aide Huma tells her that the 1992 60 Minutes interview was successful in terms of Bill's poll numbers but that it did a number on her likability with the heartland, Hillary smiles and replies "Do you know what the problem with most politicians is? No pain threshold" but the episode later showcases how hurt and vulnerable she has been made by Bill's infidelity and his lying.
  • The Stool Pigeon: Linda, who is a dominant Snobby Sara with shades of Disgruntled Daria and Petty Patty, but sees herself as a Concerned Claire and Whistleblower Wilma.
  • Take That!:
    • Brett Kavanaugh (whose Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 2018 were overshadowed by accusations of sexual assault) briefly appears in his role as part of Ken Starr's team and is portrayed as extremely creepy by trying to make the Starr report look as sleazy as possible. Plus at one point he offhandedly says "I don't like taking no for an answer."
    • As the scandal breaks, we get a random scene of a bunch of comedy writers pitching horribly sexist jokes attacking Monica, which many of the people who did so have since expressed regret for.
    • Coulter angrily says that if Clinton gets away with perjury it will clear the path for more "flabby con men" to become President.
    • Laura Ingraham is implied to be secretly gay (or at least bi) as it's mentioned she's spending time with a "female golf partner" which is a knock on how Ingraham quickly became infamous for her numerous homophobic statements.
  • Technologically Blind Elders: Averted with Linda, Susan, and Betty; who all work with computers and are north of 40. Played straight with Monica's parents in "The Wilderness" where they are trying to see the Starr Report get loaded online, Monica having to explain how the internet works to her mother while Bernard has his nurses look up the Congressional website to avoid troubling himself with the internet. That being said, Marcia is seen on a late 90s-model cell phone.
  • Technology Porn: The show is a treasure trove for people interested in '90s technology, basically the decade's equivalent of what The Conversation was for the '70s when the phone recordings get going.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Girly Girl Monica learns to knit as part of de-stressing from her issues with the media and her legal issues with Starr. In Real Life she was advanced enough to design and create handbags for a short-lived line.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Monica is deeply betrayed by Linda luring her into an interrogation by Ken Starr's team, and insists she stay in the room for it, after this Monica declares she has no love for her former friend in "The Grand Jury".
    Monica: Let the treacherous bitch see what she's done to me.
    • Paula's feelings about Steve not believing that she didn't have an affair with Clinton falls under this and this drives her ending of the marriage.
  • Token Minority: Betty Currie and Vernon Jordan are the two regular characters of color in the series, which is ultimately reflective of how white the Washington D.C. scene (even in The '90s) was and still is. There are so few colleagues of color in the White House and the Pentagon, if any, and "The Grand Jury" features a jury with several Black women, a Black security guard, and one of Monica's lawyers (representing Nathaniel Speights).
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Hillary and Monica, respectively. Hillary is depicted as stoic, to the point of being labeled an Ice Queen, and verbally eschewed the image of the traditional pathetic wife who stands by her philandering husband and wears a pageboy while Monica is emotional and seductive with long hair and a concern for her appearance. It's even reflected in their voices, where Monica has a high, whispery voice, Hillary has a lower pitch and she is straight to the point.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Played With and played straight.
    • Paula becomes confident enough to kick Steve out of the house and divorce him. She sadly still gets humiliated and taken advantage of.
    • Monica becomes bold enough to not be intimidated by the media or people looking to shame her and tells a group of powerful men to stop wasting her's and her lawyers' time but has developed PTSD as a result of her being humiliated and shamed by the media.
    • Hillary, while being the opposite of an Extreme Doormat, gains more popularity and admiration for how she campaigns to save her husband's administration and is seen as a viable political figure in her own right and then runs for the Senate.
  • Tough Love: The Grand Jury's MO, especially the forewoman, at first they seem to dislike her for sleeping with married men but as soon as they see how insecure, naive, and bubbly Monica was and how she was mistreated by the OIC it becomes clear that they do care about Monica and want her to do better and feel better.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Linda to Monica. Linda encourages Monica to stay in her affair with Clinton and even enables Monica's own body image issues and manipulates her all so she could get a book deal.
  • True Blue Femininity:
    • Monica appears in blue a handful of times. One when she first meets Bill Clinton in a blue sweater mentioned above, possesses a bright blue DKNY shirt she tries to give to Linda, wears a blue fleece when she is being detained by Starr's team after exercise, an ice blue suit when organizing her legal team, a navy blue suit to meet the Grand Jury, and the infamous Gap blue dress.
    • After Bill admits to the affair with Monica, Hillary wears a blue suit when he confesses on TV, a blue jacket when going to Martha's Vineyard with Bill, and a shirt with blue stripes as part of her mourning as the wronged spouse.
  • Twerp Sweating: Plato Cacheris and Nathaniel Speights, Monica's highly professional and cool-headed lawyers, give Mick Emmick a dose of this when he is forced to wait outside the courtroom while Monica testifies about her treatment at the hands of Kenneth Starr's team all without a sneer or a frown at the younger man.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Steve Jones is a paunchy, somewhat frumpy man married to the pretty but unsophisticated Paula. Unfortunately this trope isn't enough to save her from abuse from the media over her large nose and Steve coerces her into a nosejob.
  • Uptown Girl: Played With. Bill Clinton grew up poor in the Deep South, but by the time he enters into an inappropriate relationship with Monica, an intern from a wealthy family, he is no longer a backstreet guy; he's the frickin' President. The resulting power imbalance taints their relationship.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The feds underestimate the Lewinksy family lawyer, William H. Ginsburg. Whilst on the phone he demolishes their position line by line.
  • Unknown Rival: Hillary doesn't know that a young intern was involved in an affair with her husband or that the young woman's friend nurses a powerful hatred against her and her husband. She finds out as soon as the scandal breaks and Bill reveals his role in it.
  • Unwitting Pawn:
    • Paula and Steve Jones are portrayed as comically naïve hayseeds being manipulated by the likes of Ann Coulter to bring down Clinton.
    • Monica, by Linda, who she was counting on as a friend, for the same. Linda even states she made her peace with the fact that the media would savage Monica. Bill even puts Monica in the spot by asking her to lie about the affair, which gets her in trouble with Kenneth Starr.
    • Linda lands in this by way of Lucianne Goldberg using her to find ways to discredit Bill Clinton and even taping Linda herself after advising Linda to do the same to Monica. Then Linda has to learn the hard way that what she has been doing to Monica is illegal in her state, something that Lucianne smugly dismisses.
  • Wacky Parent, Serious Child: Linda with her daughter Allison. Small Name, Big Ego Linda is fixated on taking down Clinton and is obsessively taping her calls with Monica while Allison is polite, good-natured, and tries to be the voice of reason.
  • Walking Disaster Area: Hilary considers Bill this during her verbal lashing of him in "Stand By Your Man".
    Hillary: You know what you are Bill? You are chaos. You are mayhem. It's like everywhere you go, everything you do, it just disorients people long enough for you to have your way.
  • Warts and All: Despite Monica Lewinsky's presence as a producer, the show doesn't mince words on how she'd long had a crush on Clinton and actively pursued the affair, even flashing him a whale tail in the Oval Office.
  • Weight Woe: When Linda Tripp and Monica Lewinsky first talk, they discuss the frozen dinners marketed by Weight Watchers, with Linda remarking that the young and gorgeous Monica doesn't have to worry about her weight. Monica then remarks that she isn't gorgeous by Beverly Hills (where she grew up) standards where in grade school she was called "Big Mac", Linda then shared that kids in school called her "Gus" because of her weight. Then Linda convinces Monica not to wash the notorious blue dress by saying it makes her look fat.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: Invoked at Bill's birthday dinner with Vernon Jordan and his wife, when the Jordans ask if Chelsea is having fun at Stanford with Hillary replying "Fun is not a priority" and Bill snarks "She gets that from her mother" before he realizes his mistake and tries to deflect.
  • Wham Line: A member of the jury asks Monica if there is anything she'd like to conclude her testimony with and Monica gives one at the end.
    Monica: I guess I want to say that no one asked me to lie and I was never promised a job for my silence. Mostly, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry for everything that happened. (Tears up) And I hate Linda Tripp.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Clinton to Monica, after the latter yelled at Betty Currie over the phone for not being transparent about his schedule. He points out that Betty didn't work this hard after growing up in the Jim Crow era to be yelled at by a young woman at Monica's level, never mind that he practically put Betty in that position after pursuing Monica.
  • Women Are Wiser: A deconstructed example with Hillary and Bill, showcasing how even a sharp, professional woman can lose herself in a relationship with a man who keeps committing mistakes as a result of his "weakness".
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: The Jewish Monica doesn't speak Yiddish often but when she sleepily moans "oy vey", it isn't with an exaggerated accent nor nasally tone as depicted in the media.
  • You Are Fat: Linda manipulates Monica to not dry clean the infamous blue dress by telling her she'd look heavy in it, a major Kick the Dog moment and a dark source of Hypocritical Humor as Linda is larger and less shapely than Monica.
  • Young Future Famous People: The show features appearances by Jake Tapper, Huma Abedin, George Conway, Ann Coulter, and Matt Drudge, who would all become better known in later years. One episode also features a young Brett Kavanaugh, who was part of the OIC back then and is now a Supreme Court Justice.