The People v. O.J. Simpson: The Run of His Life

"Who the hell signs a suicide note with a happy face?"

Alright, my quick take on 'The Run of His Life' -- the depiction of the epic-long day where O.J. maintained distance from his impending arrest -- protocol, at every turn, went out the window. This complex domino stack from the LAPD to the LA DA's office fell perfectly into a consciousness that, it seems, permeated the rest of the trial. I mean, that wasn't so much a car chase (as I had always believed), it was an escort of black and whites, that served the emotionally convoluted desires of a staggeringly mentally unstable man, ill-equipped to handle his situation.

What happens when he gets home, we cannot say... Tom Brokaw reports to whomever is watching as the other white Bronco rolls up on O.J.'s home post-highway situation. What's very apparent in this iteration is that no one in any authority capacity knew what to do or how to do it. Not only were the circumstances novel, they were conflated with grand societal issues, race and celebrity being the two most pervasive. But to me, there is a bigger umbrella under which these two institutions huddle, and that's narcissism. And history has told us many times over that narcissists fail at improvisation.

The most thorough offender in this story is O.J., himself. But every moment when the camera lingers on his inconsistent emotional state, it's a challenge to jettison sympathy. Watching him surrender, when he finally exited the Bronco, framed pictures of his kids tucked under his arm while he apologized profusely, brought on a seriously disarranged set of emotions! We project every human emotion and experience on our rich and famous. What the far-reaching effect is for those individuals is so obviously not good, and that's the best case scenario, when one appears to have the constitution for such glorification. In some ways, the worst part of that day was that so much of it played out without the cool light of reality coming to bear on O.J.'s actions. Yes, he ended up in handcuffs, but in his extremely compromised state, he was able to call the shots along the way. What kind of message is that? To anyone?

Marcia Clark sure as hell knew! And despite her own needs, to appear in control, was likely the player in this situation who kept a reasonable grasp on the weight of things. That seemed true for Gil Garcetti and Chris Darden, to a lesser extent, too. All had a stake in their image, collectively and individually, as well, but didn't lose sight of the capacity to recognize how truly sideways this case was unfolding. I thought the first look at Darden's conflict when he was surrounded by his family in their home, was very effective. We know from the way the trial played out that he didn't heed his dad's advice. Each DA lawyer, though circumspect, was still creating a prison of their own making, even at this stage. Was narcissism at the root of that, too? I don't know but in an atmosphere of vainglory, can authenticity ever prevail?

Now the defense lawyers. The design inherent in criminal defense law does seem to be geared for the more impudent personalities portrayed here in Johnnie Cochran and Robert Shapiro, and to a lesser degree, Rob Kardashian. After all, they seem to have more at stake personally than the DA's office. They also understand the game from a different angle. (Angle being the key word, perhaps.) They've placed enormous value on the altar of public opinion. All three are represented here with loads of nuances, each is compelling, in his own right. (I can't wait for the Dream Team to be assembled in a more official capacity to see these unique charms interact.) Robert Kardashian is depicted very well by David Schwimmer. He is an amalgam of honest and hanger-on, the likes of which I have never seen.

Okay, so let's say the retelling of this trial serves a purpose, even a fairly highbrow one. In its style, this show is an antidote to a societal disease, our impossible flaw to only filter experiences through our own eyes. It's aim, thus far, has been to bring us a fuller picture, one that we can't help but step outside the limitations of our madly self-important psyche to see.

Closing Statement

* There's a lot of watching the people who are watching the people who are watching this thing unfold. (And it's as trippy as that sentence.) It happens in multiple contexts and it's so utterly voyeuristic.

* You guys, Ryan Murphy has mastered the zoom!

* Sabotage by the Beastie Boys.

* To the 90s car wrangler -- a round of applause.

* The coalesced madness of the highway drama, the cops, the drivers on the road who were forced to pull over who then rooted the Bronco on, the fans cheering O.J. from the overpasses (with signs!!!) and O.J.'s emotional state throughout is just simply unprecedented in modern human history. 90 million people watched it on TV.


Gil Garrett: "If it were our absolute goal, could we look more incompetent?"

Robert Shapiro: "What we need is our own press conference."

Johnnie Cochran: "I wouldn't be falling back on the pronouns 'me', 'myself' and 'I'."

Robert Shapiro: "Good for you, O.J. Good for you. We're still in the game."

TV station exec: "O.J. is news, entertainment and sports."

Tom Lange: "Believe it or not, there are two white Broncos."

Crowd of people: "We're not cheering O.J., we're booing the LAPD."


sunbunny said...

More filling in the blanks for me. I knew OJ had signed something important with a happy face but I had no idea what. And there was a lot I didn't know about the car chase. I knew it wasn't a high speed thing, but I didn't know OJ had a gun or that the police never really approached him for fear of what he might do.

Watching the whole thing was really weird. I kept imagining my parents watching it - they told me they did - and trying to keep me out of the room. What was I doing while this dramatic, once-in-a-lifetime moment in pop culture was happening? The only connection I could make between it and something I have experienced was to the day Michael Jackson died. Lots of news coverage and people in the streets.

I never realized there was so much presumption of innocence for OJ, although I probably should have. Not only famous, he was black man going against the LAPD not long after Rodney King. Like the guy on the bridge said, their support came from a place of hating the LAPD more than applauding OJ. I kept thinking about the presumption of innocence celebrity carries with it and wondering if Malcolm-Jamal Warner's casting hadn't been a deliberate choice, creating a juxtaposition between Simpson and what's going on right now with Bill Cosby.

I have to say Cuba Gooding Jr really stepped up his game this week. The scenes in the car were so tense, I caught myself being scared, not knowing what was going to happen, before remembering, wait, I do know what's going to happen.

ChrisB said...

As sunbunny points out, what the producers, writers, and actors have done so well in these first episodes is to create an atmosphere of tension and terror that is palpable. We all know how this is going to end up, yet I was terrified that OJ was going to pull that trigger.

There is also an enormous sense of deja vu as I watch this. I was one of those 90 million, glued to a television set unable to completely believe what I was seeing.

For an astonishing take on the day, watch the documentary June 17, 1994 available on Netflix. Truly gripping account of how the media tried to cover a huge variety of things all at one time.

Billie Doux said...

1994 was a long time before I moved to L.A. but I kept thinking how awful it must have been to commute home from work that day. :)

What a terrific review, Heather. I guess I'm more interested than I thought I would be. I found Rob Kardashian sort of fascinating. He was so wrapped up in what was happening to his friend and acting so emotionally inappropriate -- like telling O.J.'s family that he had killed himself when he hadn't as yet. And the LAPD is so aggressive that it's weird to see them so hesitant to arrest someone, and yet I know that's what happened. Cuba Gooding did a great job.

Josie Kafka said...

Robert Kardashian is depicted very well by David Schwimmer. He is an amalgam of honest and hanger-on, the likes of which I have never seen.

This! I'm still not 100% into this show. Maybe not even 50% into it. But Robert Kardashian is, in my mind, the protagonist. I really didn't see that coming.

1994 was a long time before I moved to L.A. but I kept thinking how awful it must have been to commute home from work that day. :)

Billie, that's exactly how I felt! Especially since Obama just came to LA again this past week, creating yet another Obamajam. I loved the way the script acknowledged it; some character said that traffic on Sepulveda must be crazy. Even amid great tragedy, Angelinos think of traffic before all else.

However, I think it's the cheeky humor that's making it hard for me to love this show. The shots of the Kardashian kids, for instance: that's all about spectacle for the modern viewer; their TV watching would have been irrelevant in 1994. Or Garcetti and his line about wanting to be mayor: his son is the current LA mayor. Everything feels like one big in-joke.

I'm having a hard time reconciling those tongue-in-cheek moments with the sympathy for OJ that the show seems to be trying to create; I'm also struggling with actually having any sympathy, given that he spends this entire episode whining and getting an extraordinary amount of special treatment. Who on earth says "Clear the freeways!" and expects to be obeyed?!