The model of a wiser woman

A Critic's View

THE TITLE was significant: "Monica - The Interview". She is now up there with Marilyn and Diana as a woman too famous to need a surname.

The effect of Jon Snow's hour-long interview was to give her back her surname: to make the viewer understand that at the centre of the whole sorry affair has been not an icon, a neurotic stalker, or a dumped-on victim, but an ordinary, intelligent and pleasant woman.

The obvious comparison is with Diana's interview with Martin Bashir; and, it has to be said, Monica came off rather better. Clearly, she has thought hard about her image in recent weeks, and here was the model of a sadder and wiser woman as she sat with her hands folded,hair scraped back and make-up discreet. There was little deliberate theatre about her. She gave direct, full answers to most questions, with no shy glances.

Most of her resentment was reserved for the independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr and for her supposed friend Linda Tripp, of whom she said: "She gutted me. She violated me. She um, she knifed me."

The word "violation" came up later, when she discussed the process of giving testimony about intimate sexual acts, and the extent to which her private life had been pulled apart.

By contrast with Ms Tripp, the President - she seemed to find it hard to refer to him by name - got off pretty lightly. Monica was bitter about the manner of his denial that they had had an affair and, showing a nice sense of understatement, she said she could think of people she would rather spend the evening with.

But if there was one message she wanted to get across, it was that this was a genuine affair based on attraction between two adults who knew what they were doing, even if they had not worked out the consequences.

The message was not completely convincing, but the interview did convince this viewer that while Monica's actions may have been flawed - both in the affair and in all that followed - they were comprehensible and human. It was also a triumph for Mr Snow's courteous, sympathetic approach.Give the man a cigar. On second thoughts, maybe not.

Robert Hanks

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