If it wasn’t for my incessant need to have some form of pun in my review headline this would instead be labelled: YOU REALLY NEED TO WATCH THIS. Since the very first episode I have been hooked on this retelling of the OJ Simpson trial and it really is a credit to Ryan Murphy and his team for the brilliant, high quality story telling, for managing to create a tense and suspense filled series with most, if not all, already knowing the outcome. However, it is easy to forget that the characters on screen, that most of these events…are based on truth.
I was a mere two years old when the double homicide of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman was committed, my only knowledge of this entire trial was what my family remembered and even that was sketchy. It was because of this that I found this series utterly mesmerising, shocking and it highlighted subjects that I just could not believe were still so relevant twenty years later. A dramatised, re-enactment this show may be but it was profoundly enlightening and I hope that the commissioned second season at FX has the same impact.
American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson, begins with a harrowing context that I was made aware of for the first time during these episodes. Footage from the 1992 Rodney King riots which you can read more about here, grounded the infamous events to come in a society whose ability in dealing justice was already in serious debate, and the integrity and lawfulness of the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department) even more so. This racial context has a resounding note on the trial and combined with issues of fame and the media, it became a global feeding frenzy. You can read more details of the O.J Simpson case here, as I want to express my opinions of how successful the show was as a television dramatisation instead of my opinions of the trial itself.
The cast. The first sign of genius in this series was first and foremost the cast. Not only were they impeccably picked for their likeness to the real life equivalent and that doesn’t end with the main cast, but it was the sense of pragmatism in the acting of these characters. Who struck me the most as particularly impressive was Sarah Paulson and and Courtney B Vance; the prosecution versus the defense. Their performances ensured that you thought beyond the core plot, OJ being set aside so that their untold stories could as well be revealed and in the process struck an empathy that made it impossible to support one particular plight. The success stemmed from making these characters real: their emotional struggles, their cunning ploys and the effect that this trial imposed on not just their careers but their entire lives. While Johnnie Cochran faced racial prejudice, Marcia Clark faced an eye-opening barrage of sexism that addressed what I believe to be the main problematic factor of the entire case; it was an unorganized, chaotic mess.
Secondly, I think that the writing was impeccable for there was no stone left unturned, there was no worthy story left untold spare for the victims which personally I think to be an purposeful stroke of genius. For what remains absent is as important as what is in clear sight. The mere fact that Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman’s stories were neglected and abandoned in the series reflects how they were treated in the media of the time; this is made alarmingly apparent. This trial was centered on the murder of two innocent people…and yet everyone was just happy to settle upon hearing one name. OJ Simpson. This received backlash from Ron Goldman’s father, and while I can understand his fury over the neglectful telling of his son’s story, I still understand why the move was made. You remember Nicole and Ron because of their abandonment, and this says more of the failing justice system during that time which the series was trying to highlight.
FACT OF INTEREST: Sarah Paulson is also famously known for playing recurring characters on the hit series American Horror Story.
I cannot say what American Crime Story failed to achieve, or where it lacked in re-telling this ‘Trial of the Century’, for I myself did not experience the events that unfolded twenty years ago. However, I think that not only did this series bring to light past problems of racism, sexism, domestic violence and flawed judicial systems but identifies with present day tragedies of the same subjects that still hold relevance. The fact that discussions can once again be had shows exactly how successful this series has been.
I implore anyone who has not yet watched it, to watch it and I would love to know your opinions of it. Being able to have an access to the behind the scenes of this trial was so interesting and enthralling, and even the glimpses of the stories of the jury itself were fascinating to watch. If you were to ask me what my opinion is of the verdict I can honestly say that I do not know. There was so much speculation, yet so much evidence and while my logical mind wishes to believe that the evidence was strong enough to support a guilty verdict, I can’t deny that faults and flaws were present in how this trial was carried out and how the dramatisation presented it.
Have you seen this series? Were you present during all of these events when they happened all those years ago? Did this series change your opinion on the debated innocence or guilt of OJ Simpson? Let me know in the comments! Thank you for reading.
Star Rating: ★★★★★