With our current culture so saturated in social media, there’s a temptation to assume that no other era matches the 2010s for creating narratives out of fandom, false familiarity, invasive reporting, and salacious rumors taking the place of fact. But as American Crime Story wonderfully demonstrates, the ‘90s were all over that.
The defense and prosecution are still in preliminary hearings with their primary obstacle being to select as fair a jury as possible, considering the circumstances of the case. But with Marcia Clark stumbling over bad ratings from prospective jurors, Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro conducting a dick-measuring contest, and Faye Resnick releasing a bombshell of a tell-all… It’s really difficult to find a dozen people who aren’t biased. And that’s before the race card.
“100% Not Guilty” seemed to lean into the show’s dark, cynical humor more than other episodes, which worked very well for it. An early scene has Shapiro striding into the room where the defense sits and calling out, “First question: who thinks O.J. did it?” After a protracted, vaguely horrified pause: “Me neither.” Later, Clark and Christopher Darden have a chummy, candid moment over office-drawer tequila in which they trade sly jokes about O.J.’s guilt. It’s gallows humor all around, and it serves to humanize these figures.
Of course, Clark is cracking jokes to cover her insecurities over the fact that everyone already seems to hate her, and she hasn’t even presented her opening arguments against O.J. The reason? She’s too harsh-looking, with her unfortunate haircut and lipstick choice. She should trade in pantsuits for a skirt, consider “softening” her look overall. Sarah Paulson embodies Clark’s simmering frustration, striving not to take such criticism personally when all she wants to do is find a fair jury and she has to listen to focus groups insult her as if they know her.
You know who the prospective jurors really think they know? Nicole Brown Simpson, thanks to an idiotic Faye who’s too focused on her cocaine withdrawal hard candy to realize that every detail she’s babbling to a gossip columnist-turned-ghostwriter is immortalizing her so-called friend. It was brilliant to bring Connie Britton back right as things are revving up; she tosses off mentions of O.J. and Nicole’s on-again/off-again sexual tension (complete with voyeurism and exhibitionism), and her and Nicole’s enthusiastic coke sessions so nonchalantly that you almost miss the bombshells until they hit.
And so begins the false familiarity, in which everyone (from Judge Lance Ito to Larry King) devours this book faster than the two weeks in which it was written, coming up with even more preconceived notions about the Juice’s personal life. Speaking of personal experiences, Ito’s detective wife hesitates upon seeing Mark Fuhrman’s name on a list but doesn’t reveal whatever bias is sure to tangle things later.
Ultimately, both sides agree on a jury composed of several black women, with the prosecution giving up some ground in an effort to look likable (oh, Marcia) and O.J. joking, “If these people convict me, maybe I did do it.” Thing is, he’s not laughing when Shapiro and Cochran endanger the Dream Team’s standing in the press with their ego battle.
John Travolta is downright scary as Shapiro with those shark eyes bound to look even more menacing once we actually get into the trial. Watching Shapiro slowly lose his hold over his team, and realize that his schmoozing is the equivalent of just spinning his wheels, is like seeing a car right before it’s wrecked.
And can we talk about that final music choice? Above the Law’s “Black Superman” blasting while both sides step into court was key.