Airtime: Tuesdays at 10PM on FX
Episode: Season 1, Episode 6 (S01E06)
Tweetable Takeaway: In a phenomenal episode @ACSFX makes us walk the courtroom in Marcia Clark’s shoes Tweet
That was hard to watch. For a couple reasons. This week’s installment of AMERICAN CRIME STORY The People v. O.J. Simpson focuses heavily on lead prosecutor Marcia Clark and her struggle with being the only woman in a boy’s club, one who works mandatory 70 hour weeks on top of being a mother, and one who is living under the intense scrutiny of an entire nation. The episode further turned Johnny Cochran and his defense team into monstrous manipulative villains. And it was another solid showing for this FX freshman series.
Man, Marcia Clark had it HARD. For starters during the course of the O. J. trial, Marcia was in custody hearings with her ex-husband for the custody of her children, and her ex was not playing nice. Claiming she doesn’t have time for the kids, that they are essentially being raised by babysitters, her ex-husband wants full custody. And though you’re rooting for Marcia to be able to keep her kids, because you like her, you can’t help but think that maybe the guy has a point. And you feel guilty for thinking that. Which is one reason this episode was so hard to watch.
Over the course of the hour, Marcia was criticized for coming off as “bitchy” once again, for dressing in a frumpy manner, for not being able to stay late in court because she needed to take care of her children, for her new haircut that she at first seemed so proud of (“Curls of Horror” one front-page headline we saw read), for having her period, and on top of all this, had a nude photo released of her to the public. And yes, it was very painful to see Marcia struggle with doing the right thing by her children. And it was heartbreaking to see the girl-like excitement in her eyes dashed when she realizes that her new hairdo she was previously so happy with is something she will now be made fun of for on a national scale.
But what REALLY made this episode hard to watch was that we were watching our past selves, as individuals, as a country. And we were forced to face the fact that even in the 90’s, professional women were subject to all sorts of sexism and subjugation, without the bat of an eye. It seemed more like an episode of Mad Men than something that took place as recently as twenty years ago. When Marcia clark weeps in her office by herself at night, we were all partially responsible for those tears.
And, just a side note before I move on–if anyone has seen Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, you’ll remember that Tina Fey had a turn in the final few episodes as a Marcia Clark look-alike, in which she mimicked her hairdo and unlikeable courtroom personality. And we all laughed. She was even NOMINATED for an Emmy for the performance. After watching last night’s American Crime Story, I feel guilty for enjoying Tina’s performance, and disgusted with Tina and the writers for trotting the character out to beat Marcia’s character down again. I think we all owe the real Marcia Clark a big apology.
The rest of the episode was at turns heartbreaking, funny, sweet, charming, frustrating, and terrifying. This show really runs the gamut of emotions, and nails each one, which is an easy way to tell if a show is good or GREAT. I found myself charmed by Darden insisting Marcia dance with him, and when he scribbles on her pad in the courtroom about her new appearance “I think it looks FANTASTIC.” I was frustrated when, despite Marcia doing everything she can to do right by her children AND juggle the biggest trial of the century, her ex-husband goes to the media to make her look like a liar and a bad mother. I sat and watched in horror as Nathan Lane’s F. Lee Bailey questioned Mark Fuhrman about whether he had ever used the word “nigger” before. And though it is known that Fuhrman is a bigot, I found myself rooting him on and against Bailey.
That’s what this show is best at. Spinning things that we all thought we knew and making us question what we know and, more importantly, what we FELT. Next week’s episode looks to involve the iconic gloves that O. J tries on in court. We’ve seen this image a million times–what new angle (factual or emotional) will the writers and creators of American Crime Story bring to light? I can’t wait to find out.
Paul co-created and writes for SHOWoff, a game that lets players predict what happens next on their favorite TV shows, earn points for what they get right, and see where they stack up against friends and the world (free in the iOS App store). Check out the SHOWoff app at playSHOWoff.com
Paul Gulyas | Contributor