American crime story 1

When Netflix first recommended that my husband and I should watch The People v O.J. Simpson, I rolled my eyes. I then proceeded to tell him how I knew all about the trial because I had watched it as a kid. It was one of the first current event and news stories I’d followed religiously growing up (yes, I’m showing my age, but too bad) and it captivated the whole country – it was all anyone talked about and I figured I knew the story backwards and forward. Well, I was wrong. American Crime Story: The People v O.J. Simpson is still compelling, surprising and absolutely worth watching, even if you followed the original trial every day.

For something that took place over 20 years ago, the themes and issues of the trial are still incredibly relevant. DNA isn’t new science anymore, and thanks to all the crime procedural shows a modern jury would probably convict based on the evidence. However, the question of police integrity is still alive. Watching the scenes of the Rodney King beating, the tension and riots in LA just a couple of years before the O.J. trial, it makes sense why the jury didn’t trust the police. It’s like the events recently in the US – after cops have killed so many unarmed black kids, I now immediately assume the police are at fault when I hear yet another story about a police shooting.

American crime story oj 2

20 years later and racial tension in America (and worldwide) is still high. In fact, looking at some of the right-wing movements around the world, it feels particularly applicable today. Can people trust cops of a different race? Is there corruption in the system, and how high up does it go?

But it’s not just racial issues that are at play. To watch the media circus of the O.J. trial as an adult now, I couldn’t help but empathize with Marcia Clark. Beyond the fact that Sarah Paulson gave a magnificent performance, Clark’s character is going through the same things women deal with today – going head to head against a dream team of men in a male-dominated career, trying to juggle important work with childcare, and then getting shamed in the media for the way she dresses or her hair style. I remember those things happening, but it’s only now that I understand how perfectly her experience mirrored the sexism we see today, how even high-powered women are undermined or viewed negatively simply because of their gender.

It’s also interesting to see the various characters and understand their impact on our pop culture today. I always saw Robert Kardashian sitting next to O.J. in the trial, but I never really knew what he did. Now I understand that he was more of a friend than an attorney, and yet he was the one with the greatest doubts about if his friend was innocent. And of course it’s intriguing that O.J. Simpson’s trial was one of the first doses of reality TV for the American audience, and Kardashian’s kids would go on to epitomize that genre.

American crime story marcia

Then there are all the details and behind the scenes elements that simply weren’t covered at the time. I always assumed there was a romance between Marcia Clark and Chris Darden, but when you see the situation they were in, their closeness and friendship makes more sense. I also finally got a better feel for the drama within the “dream team” and how the lawyers weren’t necessarily working well together, even if they did eventually get their client off. The experience of the jurors, the way Cochran played the press and even swayed Judge Ito… the list goes on and on. Sure, I watched the trial happen at the time, but now I feel like I really understand it and can see its importance today.

The Oscar Pistorius trial highlighted for South Africans the differences in the justice system that still exist for white and black citizens. We ended up talking about domestic violence against women, about gun control, and about celebrity justice. It seems that some issues are still deeply ingrained in our society, but at least that time the verdict proved to be vindication for the victim. For the locals who heard comparisons with the O.J. trial and never really understood it (beyond the high-profile nature of the case and its ubiquity), this is a fantastic opportunity.

American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson is on Netflix (yes, including South African Netflix) and truly is phenomenal. If you watched the original trial, you will be amazed at the deeper insight the series offers. If you never knew about the original trial, at least you can enjoy the truly phenomenal performances from the likes of Sarah Paulson, John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr., David Schwimmer, Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown, Kenneth Choi and Nathan Lane.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Critical Hit as an organisation.

Last Updated: February 23, 2017

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • Skittle

    “after cops have killed so many unarmed black kids, I now immediately assume the police are at fault when I hear yet another story about a police shooting.” – He didn’ do nuffin’!

    That aside, is it a docudrama or a documentary? I find documentaries far more engrossing.

    • HvR

      Docudrama, events in the courtroom is pretty accurate but there was zero consultation with the people involved on the storyline of events outside the court.

  • HvR

    “The Oscar Pistorius trial highlighted for South Africans the differences in the justice system that still exist for white and black citizens.”

    Actually rich vs poor. Or rather rich/poor vs fooked middle class if you ever get into trouble.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      Like they say, you get the justice you can afford.

      • HvR

        That and the poor have access to very good lawyers in South Africa.

        All lawyers in South Africa are required to provide free legal service to poor people.

        If you are middle class and SAPS and NPA decide to target you (case in point the prosecuation of Fred van der Vyver) and you do not have millions for a trail and your own specialists your ass is grass.

        • Alien Emperor Trevor

          Really? I didn’t know that.

          • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

            Yeah, South African lawyers have to provide about 24 hours per year of pro bono legal services, but it’s not a “get out of free” card – and there are no guarantees that you’re going to get a Barry….

            At the end of the day, it’s always going to boil down to whether you have a sizeable bank balance and whether or not you can afford that high-priced high profile lawyer.

    • Zoe Hawkins

      i dunno – look at the difference in treatment of that black rapper who killed people who drag racing, as compared to a white athlete who shot his girlfriend through a closed door. not just about money, IMO.

      • HvR

        The one that got out on parole after 4 years after murdering 4 kids with his car?

        • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

          It boils down to intent: did Jub Jub go out that day with the intent of driving over 4 kids… as opposed to Oscar who actively decided to shoot at the door with black talon bullets with the intent of killing whoever was behind it (whether it was his girlfriend or a potential intruder).

          • HvR

            That is why the FULL legal system took its course Jub Jub was mitigated to 10 years and Oscar Pistorius increased to 15 years.

            Both should rot for 25 years IMHO. Which would probably be the sentence that I (or my brown, black counterpart) will get since we neither a RICH rapper nor RICH athlete.

            Cherry picking single instances to judge a whole system to fit into your confirmation bias is stupid and dangerous. Hell looking at just those 2 instances I can make the claim black judges are incompetent (which they are NOT since you look at the whole system and the technicalities of each case)

      • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

        You mean Jub Jub. I have to agree with you on that one. It’s not just the differences in sentences that they received but also how they were treated in the court of public opinion. I remember reading the comments on news24 about Jub Jub and the vitriol was disgusting and focussed primarily on his race.

        • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

          I’ll just add that the sentence that Oscar received (on the appeal) is still one of the most disgusting events in South African history. He should have received at least life (25 years).

          • HvR

            Because that is the standard minimum sentence for murder without aggravating circumstance

            There are murders (mostly black since we are majority black country) who received 8 years. (mostly mitigated because they grew up poor)

            That is low ridiculous sentences most liberal people want and got in South Africa.

  • Banana Jim’s Final Form!

    I’ll check it out Zoe, although at the moment I’ve been mesmerised by this weird prison show on Netflix called “Women in Prison”.

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