Did you hear? A major Chinese toy concern issued a Linda Tripp doll, but nobody bought it. The doll came equipped with its own tiny pocket tape recorder. Let Ken or Barbie or G.I. Joe try to get away with anything, and your Tripp doll will have it recorded for posterity. Now who exactly stands to gain by this attempted assault on decent, law-abiding American children’s play time? Is this the Republican Party’s Chinese connection? Are there plans for satellite parts concealed in the Linda Tripp doll’s mounds of plastic hair? Or was the creation of this doll a devious maneuver by the National Organization for Women to embarrass Kenneth Starr by implying that only a child would want to play with Linda Tripp? “Oh, Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be exactly like Linda Tripp and have the Starr prosecutor hold me by the elbow.” I understand that Toys “R” Us, unable to return the unpurchased merchandise, is planning a massive haircut and a reissue. Reboxing the doll as Len or Linda, a sex change doll for transvestite or transsexual children, who, after all, have not up to now had a doll of their very own.
We know why no company has dared to issue the Monica Lewinsky doll, which in fact would sell fabulously among the pint-size set with ambitions for fame, a model spread in Vanity Fair and rotating lawyers to take them to dinner. If anyone dared market such a doll, Maureen Dowd would personally visit every toy store in the nation and stab the miniature Monicas with her leaking pen. She might do worse. She might mutilate them, cutting off arms and legs, right there in front of the shopping mothers and little girls. The subsequent trauma to delicate young souls would leave the store open to large damage suits.
There is no doubt by now in the mind of those who read The New York Times that Maureen Dowd, who is one of my favorite columnists, never failing to interest and amuse, has an idée fixe on Monica. Now this could be just because the jokes come easy and the girl is not Sylvia Plath; her handlers have clumsy hands and sex makes for good jokes. But there’s another agenda there, and it should be right out in the open. Every time Maureen Dowd punches out Monica, blackening eyes, ridiculing, double-entendre-ing, she feeds the fires of the Clinton scandals.
The Republicans hope to bring down the Democratic President and smear the morals of the Democratic Party with a multipronged attack on fishy campaign money and the unfortunate troubles of a President silly enough to behave badly over and over again. Ms. Dowd has not used her column to uphold the most dubious Republican attempt to bury campaign reform or their wishy-washy, pushed-to-the-wall, watered-down effort to fend off decent health care legislation. She has not used her space to defend Senator Trent Lott’s antediluvian views on homosexuality, nor has she ever supported Senator Jesse Helms in his weird attempt to keep us out of world genocide courts. Her job is to strip the President of respect till he is down to his boxer shorts.
Maureen is not really after Monica. Monica is the means to an end: Poor thing, she has become the Achilles’ heel through which Achilles will at last be defeated, or so the plot, according to some, might unfold.
But if a democracy mistakes its entertainment for its real business, it’s going to be further away than ever from a just society, one that attempts to even out the distance between those who have everything and those who have too little.
Monica was criticized for appearing in Vanity Fair as a sexual young woman in great clothes, but most of our daughters, Barbie owners as they most likely were, would like the attention of photographers and makeup artists and would like to feel desirable, envied by others, beautiful by someone’s standards. While this is not my feminist ideal for young womanhood, it does not seem to me either uncommon or uncommonly evil. Take People magazine off the stands. Stop selling everything from cars to coats by showing us the faces and bodies of movie stars and models, and then we can be shocked if a young girl wants to show herself lounging on the beach.
Young girls are always falling in love in ridiculous risky ways. First it’s with a professor who seems to know everything about Baudelaire and then it’s with an actor who’s about to have his big break or with a man who is determinedly gay or with a rock musician who can’t distinguish her from his other groupies. America is chock-full of young women oozing juice and wasting their good womb time on men of power, men who hardly notice them, or who use them and go on to greener versions of the same thing. This isn’t to excuse our sexual mores. I agree with Oral Roberts: Something smells bad here.
But I don’t want to make such a fuss about Monica, who only got caught fishing for the big one. Her romantic blather and the anger at the betrayal that (surprise, surprise) seems to have followed are so typical as to make this ever so wise columnist smile with recognition as well as affection. This is just the pay-as-you-go initiation, the rite of passage, the standard-issue American drama. Someday, Monica will grow up and have a real man of her own, and those shining eyes will shine for him alone, at least for a while, and she’ll find a place in the swirl of things-marketing, TV production, real estate-where her gifts of warmth and easy touch will be rewarded. Maybe she needs a little psychotherapy. Maybe she needs a self-help book. Maybe she needs a good friend, minus tape recorder, who gives her a road map to the real world, but, basically, Monica is an all-American hometown girl and should just be left alone so she can ripen in the sun.
If you don’t like the President’s attitude toward big tobacco or unions or HMO’s, fight him fair, fight where the fight is, don’t peek through keyholes. Let Monica grow up and have her own press-free life. She hasn’t done anything so terrible that she shouldn’t have the same half-doomed grab at happiness as anybody else.
All right, there never was a Linda Tripp doll. Just fooling. But I understand the Paula Jones doll, complete with makeover kit, is selling well in the Bible belt.