In 'The People v. O.J. Simpson' It's Easy to Forget That the Story Isn't Fiction

I was 25 when O.J. Simpson took his white Bronco from Orange County to the driveway of his Brentwood estate, leading police on a low-speed chase with more than 20 police cars involved. Simpson, one of the most famous figures of all time, an NFL Hall-of-Famer, a Heisman Trophy winner, and an actor, was sitting with a gun in the back of a car that was driven by his best friend and former NFL teammate, Al Cowlings. Simpson had just been charged with the brutal slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. It's a story that played out like reality TV. It's a story that is being retold on FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story.

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When I was 25, no one had the Internet. There weren't as many TV channels as there are now. TMZ didn't exist. You couldn't turn on your TV without seeing the trial of O.J. Simpson. It dominated the news cycle for over a year. It is reported that more than 150 million people watched the court proceedings on TV.

It truly was the crime of the century. 

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When you watch the first episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson, it's easy to forget that this actually happened. This isn't a fictional drama. Some of you may know how the story ends -- that on October 3, 1995, O.J. Simpson was found not guilty. He's now serving time in a correctional facility for an unrelated robbery and will be eligible for parole in 2017. But it's the details that surrounded the Simpson trial that make The People v. O.J. Simpson such compelling viewing. It sort of feels like, "If we knew then what we know now..."

It helps to keep in mind that the real-life Simpson trial took place about three years after four LAPD officers were found not guilty of beating Rodney King and the LA riots ensued. This city was still recovering from this when the Simpson trial began, and The People v. O.J. Simpson reminds us that we are still confronted with the brutality with which black people are treated in places like Ferguson and Baltimore. The Simpson trial had a huge racial component to it, and still divides people to this day on whether he was guilty or innocent. 

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It also helps to keep in mind that Brown and Simpson were married for seven years before she filed for divorce, and Simpson pleaded no contest to the charge of spousal abuse. Police were called to the Simpson residence eight times to intervene in domestic abuse calls. I'd like to think that over 20 years later the public is a lot more aware about the issues of domestic violence and how to support victims of abuse. 

It's also interesting to be able to put lead prosecutor Marcia Clark in context, because when I was 25 years old the fact that she was so blatantly discriminated against for being a woman barely registered with me. Everything about her was critiqued. Her appearance. The custody battle she was having with her ex-husband over their two young sons. Her "bitch face." During the time of the O.J. case, the National Enquirer even discovered topless photos of Marcia Clark and published them.

A more titillating fact is that O.J. Simpson threatened to kill himself in Kim Kardashian's childhood bedroom. It's easy to forget that Robert Kardashian, who was a close friend of O.J.'s, was also the father to one of the most famous reality TV people ever to be born from this Godfather of the whole reality TV genre. 

I'll keep watching The People v. O.J. not only because it will fill the hole that Making a Murderer has left in my heart, but also because I think it will be even more fascinating now that I'm older and I can understand the greater issues at hand in this case that happened over 20 years ago -- race, sexism, and and how the cult of celebrity places into the criminal justice system. 

 

Image via FX Networks 

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