Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Monday, February 01, 2016

American Crime Story starts off with a real game changer

One of the big television events this winter season is the debut of FX's American Crime Story series this Tuesday night, which takes a look at actual law and order situations that made a strong impact on the cultural landscape.

Produced by Ryan Murphy, this ten part saga is not shying away from covering a major story as the first season tackles the infamous OJ Simpson trial. Yep, getting right into the thick of things with this one, that's for sure.

The People Vs. OJ Simpson takes it's script from author Jeffrey Toobin's nonfiction book entitled The Run of His Life and has a vast array of stars in the cast such as Cuba Gooding Jr. as OJ, John Travolta as Robert Shapiro, Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark and David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian(yes, the dad of Kim and her numerous sisters).

Unlike Murphy's American Horror Story, the tone of this piece promises to be a bit more grounded in reality yet for some of the younger generation, this celebrity murder trial might appear to be stranger than fiction. Many of us can still remember where we were when OJ was charged and made his break for freedom in the Bronco, not to mention the entire trial that played out on TV practically in real time and seemed as if it would never end:

ACS intends to give the audience a behind the scenes look at what it was like for the people involved in this case, from the prosecutors who were quickly overwhelmed by the media coverage to the "dream team" looking for any which way to defend their client and finding very surprisingly successful tactics that ultimately lead to OJ being not guilty.

That focus should be pretty interesting to watch as it develops over the course of the show.  This trial became the gateway for rather dubious fame for a number of the players, even police witness Mark Fuhrman whose testimony wound up helping the defense way more than the prosecution.

 I'm most intrigued by how Marcia Clark(who is now a novelist) is going to be portrayed. She intended to present this case as a professional yet was being constantly judged by the media for her hair and clothing choices, not something that most male attorneys in the same position would have to deal with. That doesn't excuse her from the mistakes made on her side of the legal fence but it does play a part in what did happen,in my opinion:

From what I've heard, the show is not about retrying the case, it's more to do with the impact on society both then and now that this true crime three ring circus made.

During the trial and for years afterward, the pop culture riffs alone that this celebrity murder case created were of Frankenstein proportions. Some considered it cashing in  on a tragedy while others saw it as a natural consequence of such a widely talked about criminal trial.

One of the weirder aspects is the dark humor that came forth from the case, with stand-up and late night comedians having prime monologue material from this to joke books, parody magazine covers and reoccurring skits like "the dancing Itos"-the latter being a odd shout-out to Judge Lance Ito, who became unexpectedly famous to the point that he got fan letters, including one from late night host Arsenio Hall.

 However, credit goes to Jay Leno for the chorus line of Itos paraded out on a regular basis on the Tonight Show, with Marcia Clark showcased as lead dancer, something that I'm sure made her cringe:

An interest in true crime is something that has always been with us but the OJ Simpson case took that to new levels, which still resonate to this day.

You can argue that a whole new wave of coverage of court room proceedings came out of this one trial, with new elements of how race and fame can play into a prosecution or defense, along with inadvertently making criminals into multimedia superstars. Even the ongoing success of Judge Judy could be seen as an example of turning officers of the court into small screen icons.

At this pop culture moment, a revival of interest in true crime has come via podcast(Serial) and documentaries for cable and streaming services(Making a Murderer, Jinx), so will this series add more fuel to that fire or make the OJ Simpson trial phenomenon look bizarrely quaint? Either way, I hope that ACS: The People Vs. OJ Simpson will give us all plenty of food for thought, even if some of it is hard to digest:

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