Episode four of The People vs. O.J. Simpson introduced us to what I am officially calling “The Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran Show.” But before we get there, let us stop and reminisce about O.J.’s long-lost days of clubbing, where he did cocaine off of females’ chests and eventually met Nicole Brown.
This show giveth, and this show taketh away.
I kid about the wacky Studio 54-ish opening scene about Simpson in the nightclub because I am into the show for different reasons, but this side of the story has to be told. One sub-plot of this episode was Brown’s old friend, Faye Resnick, pitching her “book” to a couple apparent ghost writers, in which we learn about the Simpson’s ex-wife and her wild side. The fact that O.J.’s wife was running around Los Angeles handing out “Brentwood Hellos” is the creepiest and most outrageous thing about this whole story, which did I mention includes a double homicide? I have no idea how much truth was behind Resnick’s wild tales, but telling Larry King you wrote your book for battered women everywhere and then plastering the pages with drug-infused sex romps is not a good look.
I also will not go into O.J. in this episode because really he does not even need a part anymore. Just keep Cuba quiet until it is time to put the leather gloves on and I will be happy. He asked his attorneys about the holidays… when can I leave because I missed Halloween with my kids… That is some Making a Murderer level of stupidity that I have a difficult time believing came out of O.J.’s mouth.
Now to the serious stuff. Some of the smaller plotlines that I mentioned seemed to be poking their head out now as the story develops: I was intrigued by both Judge Ito’s wife taking pause about Mark Fuhrman’s name on the “Conflicts” sheet before signing off that she had none (apparently the judge’s wife is a Captain in the LAPD, because this story was not f’ed up enough). Also, as I mentioned in my last story, I am excited about the role Chris Darden is going to be playing. He has officially joined the prosecution now, and yes, the sole reason is because they needed a “black guy”.
That was a lot of this episode – finding the “black guy/girl” to play a role. The attorneys were puppet masters throughout the hour and fifteen minutes, orchestrating voir dire to find the perfect “Downtown Jury” (hint: that means a lot of black people) to sit in on this trial. As I previously mentioned last week, the jury ends up having nine black jurors, and we see how that happened here. Johnnie Cochran has taken the reins as Simpson’s lead attorney and launched a covert attack through the press to make it look like Clark and her team were intentionally blocking black people from serving. Regardless of how much truth was behind that, it certainly could not have hurt the prosecution to try. Clearly the black population was more sympathetic to Simpson, calling Brown a “gold digger”. I won’t spoil it for you, but you’ll be surprised by how the jury rules in this one…GASP.
The racial divide is blatant and unapologetic throughout the entire episode, and I imagine it will be like this for the entire season now. The jury focus group which we witness for a solid chunk of the show (which apparently was very true to actual events according to the book that this is based off of) separates both race and gender, and it shows how each demographic felt about a character in the trial. Obviously, we see Clark get buried – surprisingly by black women. Black women somehow received an, almost unfair, mis-characterization throughout the jury selection process, as everyone seemed to assume that they hated black men. I do not understand it, and I’m not so sure I want to even begin to try. But it is intriguing to find out the things you can learn from a jury focus group.
There was also an interesting gender stereotype laced throughout the episode with Marcia Clark’s appearance to potential jurors. And despite this taking place in 1994, the same stereotype is ever-present today. The courtroom is a very conservative atmosphere. It probably always will be. The law is always slow to move and very set in its ways. So telling a woman that she should switch from pants suits to skirts is not out of the ordinary – we spent thirty minutes of a class in school last year having this exact same discussion.
Skirt as opposed to pants; stud earrings instead of hanging; make sure your hair is “not too big”; keep your collar close to your neck.
Women face an incredibly unfair disadvantage when it comes to appearance in the courtroom, so it is not surprising, but still all the more troubling to hear someone in 1994 tell Clark all of these things. Image is important – especially to the jurors. Unfortunately, if looking like a meek, deferential attorney in the eyes of the court gains more respect, then some lawyers will do it. I hate it – Marcia Clark is a total bad ass throughout this show thus far and I’m hoping we don’t see it change now.
Johnnie Cochran’s character is really coming into his own as well. Courtney B. Vance has been brilliant in capturing that gospel-ly, lecturing way that Cochran spoke without coming across as jerk, and if the bump in Cochran’s screen time means less John Travolta then hey, I ain’t complaining. I think I saw Travolta’s eye brow move last night at one point. His character, Robert Shapiro, loses out on the lead attorney position on Simpson’s dream team and we get our second F-bomb of the series. Big-time stuff for FX. But seriously – if you think you can keep your job as lead attorney by telling your client: “Hey man, I’m really thinking that you should just say you did – plead to manslaughter and let’s go home. Alright I’m catching a flight to Hawaii, see ya!” then you deserve a demotion.
So now trial is set to begin. We have had our hearings, we have argued over one hair sample presented as an exhibit, or 100 hairs. I cannot believe that was a real argument on screen – most likely did not turn out that way with a random objection but I don’t feel like researching how evidence motions were filed at the moment. I hope, as a budding attorney, that I never end up with a jury pool of 900 potential jurors and 294 voir dire questions. No way in hell am I trying to deal with that. But the pool is set, O.J. has pleaded “100% not guilty” (cannot believe he actually said that), and episode five should be just as intense.
And because we began with the ridiculousness of episode four, perhaps we can end with some more ridiculousness – Kardashian’s got to stop saying “Juice”.
Five times in one night is too much for me. Relax, Rob. Call him O.J. like the rest of the world. Catch you guys next week, if there is anyone even following along with me through this show… I may be talking to myself by now.
By Shaun @slough44FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD