Through the prism of O.J.

When I was young I loved the Naked Gun movies, so when the O.J. trial was going on I had trouble separating that view of his character and the accusations against him, especially based on the heightened style of his dream team defense. Over the last few days I watched O.J.: Made in America (2016), which could reasonably be considered to be five feature length movies on its own.

There is a lot to be said and broken down about this miniseries as it is more like a series of documentary movies. It has come along at the height of true crime documentaries and it fits the style that seems to have been pioneered in Errol Morris's film The Thin Blue Line, and mixes the crime story of Simpson with the history of African Americans in Los Angeles from the 1960's to the '90's. It is interesting how this movie relates in its telling of the riots when OJ was in college and after the Rodney King trial verdict with the 30 for 30 installment about Fernandomania that tells the story of Chavez Ravine forcibly evicting Mexican-American residents to build Dodger Stadium. It is also a fine companion to the 30 for 30 film June 17, 1994 that accounts the many events that happened in sports on the day of the OJ slow speed chase.

It's an amazing thing to watch, it really had me reliving a lot of my childhood of watching the news with my father after dinner. Even though my parents had the amazing sense of decency to have me leave the room during the OJ chase when I was 11 years old (seriously, how did the networks get away with showing it when it looked as though they would be seeing a suicide live on TV?), it was such a major cultural event that I saw every image and heard all the main accounts of it in the following days.

Somehow, OJ Simpson instilled himself in American history for four or five decades. He tried so hard to stay out of civil rights issues and to cultivate his image as a popular squeaky clean personality in order to be in the limelight and over the years managed to create an image as a violent, criminal, sleazy person who inadvertently put a major stamp on race relations in America in a way he did not intend. He managed to go from making wise business decisions to make himself a very wealthy man to losing a $33 million judgment in the wrongful death suit, committing armed robbery trying to take back prized possessions and being sentenced to very probably living out the rest of his life in anonymity in prison.

This is a miniseries that should be seen for years to come to understand the end of the 20th century. It was a strange period of time that was very formative as we moved into the new millennium and was an initial trial run for news media and gossip news as well as creating a shift in race relations and the ways that race is discussed openly.

For a couple of interesting looks at this documentary and true crime in general check out: Pop Culture Happy Hour, and My Favorite Murder, respectively.

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