The infamous O.J. Simpson case made headlines again recently due to a new television series. American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson was well received by fans and critics alike for its gritty representation of the trial – a trial many people will never forget. The hype surrounding the new show was cultivated by the notoriety of the case as well as what Kevin B. Blackistone, an ESPN panelist and sports commentary writer for the Washington Post, has called “race and grace.”
The high profile murder trial evokes an emotional response from many Americans who followed the trial or remember it taking place. Most reactions to the case are from two different schools of thought: O.J. was innocent and they agree with the verdict and, on the opposite end, he got away with murder.
The case garnered a lot of media attention due to Simpson’s high profile as a football player. The media attention started with a high speed chase in a white Bronco that lead to Simpson’s arrest. From the start, the case was less than “normal.” There were iconic moments in the trial itself that will forever be engrained in American culture. Sayings like, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” from Simpson’s charismatic defense attorney Johnny Cochran are now commonly recognized as part of that trial.
According to Kevin B. Blackistone, race and grace also played a pivotal part in this monumental case. Blackistone said, “Simpson became the sort of black athlete the media long loved to promote. He was non-confrontational, not unlike the behavior that was expected of and acceded to by many black Americans in post-Reconstruction, pre-Civil Rights era America.” During Simpson’s “grace” period he was loved by the media and reached a celebrity status larger than most other football stars.
The trial became his fall from grace. He received scrutiny not only because of the murder charges, but people began to openly talk about his race and the things he didn’t do for the African American community.
Overall, the trial was complex, riddled with media, and ravaged with twists and turns. The success of American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson pulls from these areas. It plays on nostalgia and pop culture just far enough removed that viewers can look back at the events with hindsight and stirred up imaginations.