Skip to main content

The People vs OJ Simpson | A Cultural Significance




Last night concluded what was, arguably, the finest drama series to hit television screens in a long time. American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson has span over ten, excruciatingly tense weeks telling the story of how celebrity footballer OJ Simpson was famously acquitted with the murders of Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. Given that the trial took place when I was less than a year old, I can only commend the writers, actors and everyone involved at FX for bringing this story into the twenty first century and to ground the cultural repercussions of the trial that are still strikingly relevant today.

   
      Issues of intense media scrutiny, racism, driving sexism toward women and the pressure of fame are just a handful of topics handled in the series, but what makes it more illuminating if a tad concerning, is how most of these issues are still present today. Riots in the street after the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of the police can be contextualised further in hindsight of the OJ Simpson riots, women like Marcia Clark are STILL scrutinised under the magnifying lens of the media every day, subject to ridicule from the likes of Heat or Glamour magazine on their appearance, rather for their work, and the pressures of fame take their toll on a whole array of celebrities, from the simple attention-seeking to the more tragic, such as Heath Ledger or even Amy Winehouse. The fallout from this, leads to a repressed sentiment of anger, that the series taps into oh so well, making it remarkably powerful television; it becomes accessible to a whole new audience and it forms a new catalyst for the debate on OJ's 'innocence' all over again.




    Of course, none of this would be of importance if it wasn't for the talented ensemble of writers and actors to fully immerse us in this slice of history. Stand out performances from Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran and Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden navigate this drama through its many twists and turns, at points I would forget that this actually happened, making it more insightful yet unnerving at the same time. Cuba Gooding Jr's portrayal of OJ is carefully crafted around a man who is on the brink of a meltdown. Determined of his innocence, he carries himself with an arrogant swagger but with a hint of vulnerability. It is this unpredictability that makes his performance so compelling and so intriguing. Furthermore we are given more insight into the characters outside the courtroom, though in a heavily dramatised way. Marcia is locked in an on-going custody battle of her children, Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) becomes our moral centre of the story, struggling to cope with pressures of the trial and Johnnie's attempts at keeping his violent past secret are eventually thwarted. This balance of work and personal life allows the audience to empathise with these people, to show everyone's humanity still in tact despite everything. But this point is hard hitting at times, the show constantly reminds its viewers that beneath the televised circus that is the trial and OJ's wavering popularity, two people were brutally slaughtered and their killer is not brought to justice (the final, haunting shot of the series is Ron Goldman's family asking "What do we do now?), reinforcing how much faith can be had in the justice system. It becomes a game of race, prejudice and position, rather than finding reason, and perhaps the final shot re-establishes the ludicrous spectacle of the whole ordeal when it should have been about Nicole and Ron. 

    There were moments that seemingly paralleled the Steven Avery trial in the Netflix series Making A Murderer, both series seemed set on the corruption of the Police Department and the importance of truth and justice. Racial tensions boil beneath the surface episode to episode and every use of the n-word sent chills down my spine, deliberately done to make me nervous; to put me on the edge of my seat. In other words, put me in the shoes of every person watching the trial live day-by-day back in 1995. It was a brave move by FX to go as far in as they did with the racial slurs, especially in the horrendously uncomfortable scenes involving the Furman tapes, but it was a risk that was necessary in order to connect with the audience. Everyone will have their own personal opinion on whether OJ was the murderer or not, though the show shows no signs of favouring his innocence, but everything is done to make the viewer think, not just of the people involved but in the wider context of race, sexism and intense media scrutiny. Perhaps this series can get people talking more broadly about the problems that surrounded the case, as well as apply them to issues that face us today. A new generation will now be talking about this case, much like the world was back in 1995, but in a completely different light. Like I said, it still shocks me that these events actually took place. 

    Powerful, brave and completely compelling in its own right, The People vs OJ Simpson is incredibly important television that remains as poignant today as it was back in 1995, and is now a strong contender for my favourite television series of all time. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Goldfish Boy - Lisa Thompson

It's a new year which means it's time to shake off your dusty wigs and get your reading glasses back on as I'm back on the old blogger! It's been a rather busy few months (what EVEN was December?!) but I'm back, with a promise to you all of at LEAST one post per week. So, let's kick things off in style with a good old fashioned book review; what better place to start than January's Book of the Month for Waterstones, Lisa Thompson's debut 'The Goldfish Boy'.

  Matthew Corbin suffers from OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and rarely does he leave his room. He washes his hands until they crack and bleed, he douses everything with antiseptic spray and he has a secret box of latex gloves under his bed. To pass the time, he observes his neighbours as they go about their daily routines and jots it down in his notepad. Everything is as regular as clockwork, until Mr Charles' grandchildren come to stay, and the youngest, Teddy, goes missing. As the …

How to Stop Time - Matt Haig

"I suddenly realise it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that we age differently. It doesn't matter that there is no way of resisting the laws of time. The time ahead of you is the like the land beyond the ice. You can guess what it could be like but you can never know. All you know is the moment you are in."

Imagine, for a second, that you were different to everyone else. To others, you may seem like a rather ordinary forty year old, but the reality is you're closer to four hundred and ninety. This is the problem of Tom Hazard, the protagonist of Matt Haig's incredible new novel How to Stop Time. Tom suffers from a rare condition that has caused him to be alive for centuries, ageing one physical year every fifteen years. Always on the move to avoid suspicion, Tom now works in a secondary school as a history teacher, but the one rule he is told never to break keeps making itself known; never fall in love. 

  The joyous quality with Matt Haig is that he trul…

The Bookshop Girl - Sylvia Bishop

If you're reading this, chances are, you probably like books. You probably would go as far to say you LOVE books, that if you chance upon a bookshop on your travels that you just HAVE to pop in for a browse and end up losing the rest of your day in there. This love for bookshops and love for reading is encapsulated perfectly in Sylvia Bishop's The Bookshop Girl, her follow up to Erica's Elephant

  Perkily illustrated by my bookselling chum Ashley King, The Bookshop Girl follows the adventures of Property Jones, who lives in a second hand bookshop after she was left there in a cupboard when she was a baby, who wins the opportunity of a lifetime to look after the renowned Montgomery Book Emporium. But can Property save the day when a sinister Mr Pink shows up demanding a rare and valuable manuscript? And will she ever reveal her biggest secret? 

  One of the biggest perks of Bishop's writing is how charming and breezy it is. The story reminded me of Dahl's 'Charl…