The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story Discussion: I’m Not Black! I’m OJ!

OJ Simpson series

Starting the episode with the Kardashian kids was ridiculous. Apparently that fabricated crap is going to continue in every episode. On the one hand, they do show Marcia Clarks’ kids  on the series and I realize that there was a lot going on with Robert Kardashian’s divorce and the fact his family was so close to Nicole, but this just seems like pandering to the nth degree to me.

Is it me or is John Travolta becoming “less Liberace” with every episode. With a toned down Shapiro and the short, dark-skinned  OJ in lockup, it’s a bit easier for me to get into the series this week.  Racial tensions escalate when Time releases a cover of a very dark skinned OJ. This makes no sense when you cast  a darker skinned actor in the role of OJ. Especially when colorism is part of the storyline.  Literally every time I see Cuba Gooding Jr. I wonder WTF they were thinking with this casting?  Thankfully we see him very little this week.

When we do see him, he delivers the infamous line, “I’m not black, I’m OJ.” and is dead set against hiring Johnny Cochran. Shapiro  used some football references to try to convince OJ to agree to adding him to the team. Meanwhile, Shapiro reluctantly added F. Lee Bailey to the team, along with Alan Dershowitz and Barry Scheck. Scheck was on the forefront of DNA evidence which was brand new at the time. We’ve come a long way since then. There are a lot of huge egos on the defense team which will result in a lot of jostling for alpha dog. However, Shapiro was always the lead attorney and never came off as insecure as Travolta plays him.

OJ Simpson series 2

On the prosecution side, Clark pulls in Chris Darden. The  District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, focuses on venue and jury selection. This will pan out to be two of their biggest issues with the case. Marcia is focused on witnesses, Darden makes her aware of the Furman issue.  Clark struggles to keep witnesses from selling their stories to the media. She scratches those that have from the witness list. Later she is furious that the 911 tapes are being played on every station to the media. All of her evidence is leaking before the trial.

The defense is gleeful that Furman is a racist. It will become the focus of their defense. For now, the defense team is very  optimistic. Their entire case will be against the racist police force. The necessitates OJ calling Cochran and getting him on board. This is Cochran’s major issue at the time. We have a manufactured scene that seems included simply to show that Cochran believed in OJ’s innocence. Which is absurd given that the entire team knew he was guilty. Cochran says that he just needs one juror to hang. Does that sound like he believes he is innocent?

So the “dream team” is finalized and the prosecution is coming together. Next week we might get to the courtroom. Maybe.

What did you think of this episode? There weren’t many surprises for me. Were there for you?

UPDATE:

A commenter, Chi feels that OJ was in fact dark skinned based on photos she has seen. I thought I would amend this to show OJ’s color transformation after incarceration. It was a matter of some discussion over time that he went from “white OJ to black OJ.” During his incarceration prior to trial, in all of the books on the subject I have read, there was a discussion about how the trial became a trial about the racism in the LAPD. This was in fact why Cochran was hired. They could not win the case off evidence, which the prosecution had plenty of, but they could, and did,  get a jury nullification verdict based on the systemic racism within the LAPD at the time using Mark Furham as a prime example.  The irony of the situation was that OJ had deliberately distanced himself from the black community. To the point where his attorneys had to take down all the photos in his house that had not a single black person in them, and replace them with black people, a fact that was shown in episode two.  It seems apparent to many that OJ was deliberately lightening his skin. Let’s look at some photos.

Here is OJ giving his deposition in 1996

oj pre incarceration

I would consider that light skinned and certainly lighter than Cuba Gooding Junior.  But perhaps it is the lighting. So let’s look at another photo

OJ Light and Dark

 

On the left is OJ on trial for double homicide. On the right is OJ years later on trial for the trial that actually sent him to prison.

And finally,

Cuba as OJ

 

Here is Cuba as OJ. In my opinion, the Cuba version on the show, is much darker than the OJ Simpson we saw on out TVs watching the trial.  While actors can certainly be cast of all colors,  OJ’s disavowal of his color and the fact he was light skinned was an ironic part of the trial which ultimately turned out to be not about double homicide, but about the racism that was prevalent in the LAPD.  So for me, Cuba was quite miscast. Not just due to his skintone, but that was certainly an issue, but for his height, his effeminate voice he selected for his portrayal and his general lack physical stature that would be believable as a professional athlete.

Hope that clears it up for you.

28 Comments

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28 responses to “The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story Discussion: I’m Not Black! I’m OJ!

  1. JoJoFLL

    Marcia Clark never had a chance against this team and OJ’s almost bottomless wallet.

    Everything that could go wrong for her went wrong.

    I think the Ryan Murphy hates the Kardashians. Why else would he cast Ross as Robert and make them out to look like such fools?

    • Psylocke

      I’m sure Murphy was just pandering to the critics, but I still liked his meta description of them including the Kardashian girls — basically that Robert Kardashian was, ironically in retrospect, the “moral center” of the defense team, the least publically known of all the major players, and the most camera shy. The OJ trials famously gave birth to the 24 hour news cycle, and a life time later his family is now at the center of reality television itself.

      It’s all very interesting. Societal commentary aside, Murphy just can’t help being campy as fuck.

  2. Lurker

    It was a good episode. I’m so glad Travolta toned it down. He’s much more believable.

    Cuba is still a hot mess with the high pitched whining. OJ had a famous baritone voice. Cuba isn’t even trying.

    I don’t think the writers actually like the Kardashians. The scene in the restaurant where Rob Sr. tells the kids how important it is to become ‘famous’ off talent and achievements was pure shade.

  3. Chi

    Hey TT! Love your blog, read it daily, multiple times a day, actually. I’m not really a commenter and you don’t have to post this comment if you don’t like. But I’m just curious about your take on Cuba Gooding Jr. as darker than OJ. As much as I don’t find him to be who I would have imagined would be cast in the role, the one thing that is similar is their skin tone. To make sure I wasn’t being hypersenstive because I live with the reality of colorism within the Black community, I looked at a few side-by-side images and they’re pretty spot on in terms of color match. Anywho, I had to pause and haven’t been able to finish your recap yet cause that struck me a little bit. I’m looking forward to getting back to it though.

    • tamaratattles

      Thanks Chi! It would be impossible for me to give a great explanation of my position without some photos, so I updated the end of my commentary with photos that reinforce my opinion. I understand that you have a different one, but I hope this clears up my thoughts for you.

      • AmberKnows

        I don’t believe OJ was considered light skin. He was and is brown skinned. The darkened photo not only was done for skin tone but also to set a more ominous image for readers, As for the darker photo later, after five shadow, no access to sun protection and possible allergies could be the culprits.

        Other OJ’s could have been… Columbus Short, Will Smith, Rick Fox, Blair Underwood…

  4. GirlFromKY

    I feel a sense of disgust as I’ve watched the last two episodes. The fabricated race angle the Dream Team manipulated and OJ’s obnoxious ego puts me into an upset state as I watch what unfolds. I thought the first episode was really good, but I don’t know how long I can take rehashing the ridiculous circus, boldface blatant lies, and the unbelievable sense of injustice this case represents.

  5. Dee

    Was it Chris Rock who said this case wasn’t about race, it was about fame? I agree. Everyone was star struck. OJ was bigger than life, people loved him and thought “he couldn’t have committed this horrific crime”

  6. Layla

    You are so right about this case being at the forefront of DNA. I was in law school at the time, and our professors and everybody was in all of the evidence and you at information on DNA that came about; arguably, Barry Scheck was the superhero of this defense.

    Regarding your comments about Johnny Cochran needing to believe that OJ was innocent, I can see that going either way. I haven’t ever read his book, I guess I should do that. Maybe he wanted to believe he was innocent or needed to believe it, but deep down thought otherwise? Who knows, so many emotional issues.

    Thanks for your recap and commentary, it’s always nice to feel that I have watched a show with somebody else when I read your recaps.

    • Dee

      Layla, Tamara, I agree, no one really knew much about DNA. All the defense had to do was provide some doubt. I’d love to know what the jury thought back then and now. I read that Nicole called 911 8 times but there were many things Judge Ito did not allow placed in evidence. No one won in that trial. I’ll never forget Robert Kardashians face, when the jury said, not guilty. Back then I heard he was one of OJ’s lawyer so he wouldn’t be called to testify. He hadn’t practiced law in a while, alledgedly.

  7. Layla

    In awe of the evidence….. speech text app not the best

  8. It wasn’t just his skin color. OJ had Caucasian features. His nose, his lips. He might have been the painted Laurence Olivier, in Othello. And he was a football player. A very big man. I love me some Cuba, but not for this role.

  9. Pip

    What a trip watching how they built this case. And I agree with you, Tamara- Travolta was far more believable and authentic then the previous two episodes. I also find it annoying how they continue to use the Kardashian name and these pointless scenes with the kids… Total pandering.
    And yeah… Why is Cuba so whiny? I don’t recall OJ having that whiny voice.

  10. Undine

    I agree Cuba was horribly miscast. He’s playing the pathos but none of the swaggering alpha charm the real OJ had. He is just not physically imposing enough and the voice is so wrong. Despite the OJ miscast the rest of the cast is great, I spotted Evan Handler as Alan Dershowitz and he will always have my love from the ol Sex and the City days. I think the Johnnie Cochran/OJ innocence scene was more about Johnnie laying the foundation to establishing a deeper rapport with OJ than Shapiro.

  11. rebecca

    After watching the first three episodes, I can’t help but wonder if Robert Kardashian was even half as insipid as David Schwimmer portrays him to be. I thought he was annoying as Ross Geller, but wow – he’s really annoying in this role. I also thought the scene with the kids at the restaurant was unnecessarily gratuitous.

    I definitely agree with the theory that Ryan Murphy hates the Kardashians based upon how the entire family is portrayed in this series.

  12. Dee

    I remember alot from the first trial, how Nicole was killed, almost decapitated, I guess there was so much emphasis on Nicole, I missed the injury inflicted to Mr Goldman. He was stabbed in the neck 60 times. How horrible for both victims

  13. Home

    Thanks for the Blog TT,,,I love the series! I was absolutely fascinated with the trial back in the 90s. I remember taking a half day off work when the verdict came in…I was SHOCKED because personally I thought he did it, but believed he PAID for freedom and the LAPD didn’t help. I was very disappointed that he didn’t take advantage of his good luck and wound up back in prison again….smh

  14. Espi

    Being one that did not see the original trial… The kardashian scene was more about showing how the public attention to the trial changed everyone’s lives of those involved. Some capitalized like the blond guy living in OJ’s house (who was flashed by women and talked down on by men but still was booking jobs) or the witnesses who were getting paid for interviews. The whole episode balances that fact. Maybe because we are TT’s audience and she does a lot of reality tv review, we are hyper sensitive to the Kardashian highlights. I’ve read all three episode recaps here and people continue to focus on the kardashians.

  15. I was watching it in real time at the time and thought OJ was a devil. I hope he offers his brain for study. The footballer’s brain trauma may have contributed to his violence. When a guy sees himself as a human god and has brain trauma… Dangerous guy. Makes you wonder how many of those guys are walking around today. High school gods who got hit too hard, too often. Opens new areas of thought.

  16. BamaBelle

    Watching this has made me go back and watch some of the actual trial footage on YouTube. Kardashian’s face as the verdict is being read is is something I missed the first time around. He looks stricken, and not in a good way. OJ claps his hand on Kardashian’s shoulder and he gives him a “don’t touch me look”. At the end of the verdict reading as OJ is hugging and shaking hands with the defense team after they are seated, watch OJ’s face when Kardashian gets his hug. I’d give anything to know what Kardashian said in that moment, because whatever it was OJ’s mood dropped quickly.

  17. SB

    Boris Kodjoe would have been a better OJ in my opinion…and I definitely would not mind watching him every week!

  18. K

    Does anyone know if they were allowed to film at the Criminal Courts building? It looks exactly like it.

  19. Cat

    So…OJ is finally showing his true colors? :)

  20. captivagrl

    Hot mess. I’m enjoying every minute!

  21. Zy

    TT you’re spot on about the casting of Cuba!

    OJ spoke softly but with lots of confidence, and the baritone in his voice is menacing. Cuba just sounds like a whining child.

    Question is: who would you cast? I say Idris Elba.

    Your blog is one of my favorites. I don’t comment a ton, but I feel like this is the place for intelligent and fun discussion,not negativity. I will add some $ to the pill fund. Thanks!

  22. THe whole shebang ( except Marcia) is miscast but Cuba is the worst.

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