The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The People vs. OJ Simpson – A challenging look at controversy


By Nicholas Cirone
Photo credit: FX

It was a little more than 20 years ago on the morning of Oct. 3, 1995, when a simple announcement of a verdict would send shockwaves of emotion shooting through an American public that had been anxiously glued to their television screens for months.

Or was it that simple? This was after all the trial for the murders of both Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman. And who was the main suspect and defendant? None other than Orenthal James Simpson, American football superstar, one of the most well-known and loved celebrities in America at the time, and ex-husband of the deceased Nicole.

On second thought, this trial was anything and everything but simple. The trial of such a greatly adored public figure is guaranteed big news, as it was for months while the brutal trial was televised for America and the world to see. To call the trial high profile would be a severe understatement. It divided America, mainly on racial bounds, which continues to be an inflammatory subject. Instantly, Americans were forced to be on Team Guilty or Team Innocent, Team O.J. or Team LAPD, and more prominently Team White or Team Black. The reaction to the decision was guaranteed to be an ugly one, whether Simpson was acquitted or convicted of the murders.

So it comes to no surprise that on that morning O.J. Simpson was acquitted of the murders, the nation was in a frenzy. People cheered and people cursed, Simpson walked away, and two people were still dead. The outcome of the case divided us then, and it continues to divide us today, remaining an ever-hot topic that still has people asking, “Did he do it?”

Enter FX. Now 20 years later, the network is tackling the famous case in “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which premiered Feb. 2 to rave reviews and ratings. Since FX announced the series in mid-2015, people have asked how the show would present the case and which spin it would take: was Simpson truly innocent or could he have actually been guilty? This has been quite a controversial question to ask, as it has been asked since the initial decision was made in 1995 to acquit Simpson. Rather than ask this question and offer possible answers one way or the other, an angle that certainly would’ve been bound to polarize viewers, “American Crime Story” takes a different route altogether.

The series is based on the book “The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson” by Jeffrey Toobin, and rather than preach a verdict, “American Crime Story” intends to capture the attention of the nation today, just as the actual trial did years ago. And in my opinion, it has absolutely pulled it off. Setting a network record for a series premiere, the docudrama opened to a 5.1 million views and with absolutely stellar reviews coming in at a 97 percent “Certified Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 90 out of 100 on Metacritic. This absolutely sets in stone that the O.J. Simpson case is bound to remain relevant for years to come, even more so now in an environment where police brutality and race relations have received the utmost scrutiny.

However I think the true genius of “American Crime Story” lies not in how relevant the themes of racial divide that the story portrays remains today, but in the fact that the series so far brilliantly executes just how ridiculously sensational this story was back when it occurred. Many college-age Americans in 2016 weren’t even born at the time of the murders, let alone would they have any chance of remembering the historic and dramatic events of that case. I consider myself to be very well-read and well-informed about many significant events in history, and even I can’t fully understand just how significant this trial was for America, and what it was like to see it unfold. The only possible hypothetical analogy I may have is the situation that all of a sudden somebody so universally admired like Derek Jeter, or Shaquille O’Neal, would suddenly be accused of murdering their ex-spouse.

Rather than say “he did” it or “he didn’t,” “American Crime Story” offers a window into the middle of the historic trial, putting you right in the midst of meetings of the defense and the prosecution, right in the courtroom, at the scene of the crime, and even the inside the White Ford Bronco in that infamous police chase. And it does so in such a brilliant and cinematic way.

Excellent writing and a star-studded cast that includes John Travolta, David Schwimmer, and Courtney B. Vance as famous lawyers Robert Shapiro, Robert Kardashian, and Johnnie Cochran, respectively. Sarah Paulson as lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, and Cuba Gooding Jr. portrays O.J. Simpson himself, leading to an amazingly acted spectacle that in my opinion does the event absolute dramatic justice.

Another thing the series so far seems to get right is the portrayal of both sides of the story. It’s very careful to capture just about everything that happened during the case, showing the defense’s perspective, the prosecution’s perspective, O.J. Simpson’s perspective, and even — humorously I might add — the perspective of the Kardashians, or more specifically Robert Kardashian who, as Simpson’s best friend, was personally torn up by the case. As a viewer I find myself constantly switching teams. One scene from the prosecutor’s perspective convinces me that Simpson was guilty after putting together some damning evidence and that the trial is “in the bag,” and the very next scene from the defense and Simpson’s perspective may have me question that a bit, as a defeated Simpson breaks down into tears lamenting the loss of his beloved Nicole.

As I wrote earlier, the entire ordeal was anything but simple, and “American Crime Story” presents it as such: a complex ordeal involving many people that had took the entire country by storm. Twenty years after the fact, we obviously already know the outcome of the case. “The People V. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” completely disregards this fact, and undoubtedly takes us along for the dramatic ride that keeps us engaged for the long haul.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Greyhound Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The People vs. OJ Simpson – A challenging look at controversy