The People v. O.J. Simpson: Marcia, Marcia, Marcia

"I'm ready for anything."

Marcia Clark is once, twice, three times a lady in ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’ while Sarah Paulson and Ryan Murphy convey with heartsick accuracy the inherent shame that comes just from being a woman.

The structure of this episode is pretty fabulous. Each act centers around Clark entering the courtroom and taking her seat on the bench after some personal or professional challenge has been leveled her way. It's the intersection of the two that finally collapses her emotionally. (Clark said that Ito showed real empathy the day he called a recess when she broke down after the National Inquirer picture was published.) 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia' allows us to really consider the mental stamina of the lead prosecutor, and the only prominent woman, on this case, in light of the facts and circumstances that piled up around her during the trial. But as is this whole show, this feature of the story is told in hindsight, so knowing what the outcome is makes these adversities even more troubling. I'm not saying if O.J. would have been found guilty, Clark could have waved away her issues as somehow less devastating but I suspect, given the verdict, it makes these problems we see here a lot more bitter and painful.

It stands to reason that every situation of Clark's on display here is as personal as it is professional, the media made sure of that, but also so does the society we live in. And the one thing she might have been able to keep compartmentalized, her divorce, was also tangled up with the law. But the fact that a custody battle was raging over the divorce proceedings, over the very public O.J. trial, where a camera was thrust in every tangentially connected face, had to have been the perfect storm for her already-complex emotionally charged feelings of motherhood. The scene of her soon-to-be-ex in front of the cameras claiming she lied to the court about her obligations was a new level of lurid. That custody battle reduced her children's father to his most demoralized form. Whereas if he had been her ally, things might have been different for her. So her identity as a mother, aggressively intertwined with her identity as a woman, is shaken. And that was the foundation she had to take into her public persona.

Though ludicrous, horrifying and inconsequential beyond measure, the constant 'analysis' about Marcia's appearance only added to any destabilization she would later claim was a feature of this time period for her. That would never happen with a male prosecutor. Or just a male. LIKE SERIOUSLY NEVER. It's honestly a giant credit to her constitution that she did persevere though the rest of the trial, by all accounts, 100% composed. Sarah Paulson artistically reflects all of these complexities. And with her whole being, as far as I can tell! (Murphy does a fantastic job here, too. I suspect he came back in to direct this episode because of his affections for Paulson, as well as, the portrayal of the plight of women.) I spent most of my time watching 'Marcia, Marcia, Marcia' suspended in a state of rage, but Paulson understood where to punctuate the injustice with the crushing hopelessness of shame from being female. In a way, I've never seen anything like it on TV. It was Boys Don't Cry levels of sadness. By the way, it was the creators who had the foresight to feature Marcia Clark in this light. They were set on telling this side of her story from the inception of this show. Bless.

Closing Statement

* Oh shite that O.J.'s shoes went to Simi Valley for a night?

* Johnnie's ex-wife wrote a book about their divorce right after the O.J. trial alleging physical abuse. He was never brought up on charges. She never retracted her initial allegations.

* From that first zoom, I knew Murphy was behind the camera.

* Kiss From a Rose.

* Portishead.

* I love that moment where Angel Parker's Shawn Chapman looks over at Clark from the defense table with utter grrrl sympathy.

* Jesus, thank god for Chris Darden.

* Exhibit A:

* Exhibit B: “I vote ‘babe’.”

* Exhibit C:

* Exhibit D: “And if it helps any, you do look mighty good in that picture.”

* I really really hope this was John Travolta's idea.

* Excellent article here from the episode's writer, D.V. DeVincentis. I highly recommend it!


Lawyer: “Marcia, please, just let the lawyers handle this.”
Marcia: “I am a lawyer.”

Darden: “And now that I’m on TV I’m the cool dad.”

Garcetti: “The trial is in here, not out there.”

O.J.: “Oh, the crazy cleaning lady wasn’t as planned?”


Billie Doux said...

Sarah Paulson got "performer of the week" from TV Line for this episode. Not a surprise.

Mallena said...

Poor Marcia. I know well the horror of the bad perm, hoping to look like Farrah, but winding up looking like a poodle. Marcia was besieged on all sides, it must have been horrible. She does keep going, though, I admire her for that.

ChrisB said...

An amazing job by Paulson who managed to show us how hard Clark was struggling to keep it together. I was particularly moved when Ito suspended court. I had forgotten that had happened.

I particularly enjoyed the scene with Simpson and the Dream Team. It is easy to forget that he is employing them and not the other way around.

Josie Kafka said...

Watching this episode, I was forced to revisit what I thought I knew about Marcia Clark (I was 14 during the trial). If you'd asked me to describe her, I would have probably said something like, "She was a real bitch, right?" And behold the power of sexism in the media.