I was hanging out with a friend the other day when I mentioned that FX was gonna start airing a miniseries about the O.J. Simpson trial and he said to me, “I saw that, and I realized that, even after all these years, I’m still fucking sick to death of the whole thing.”
And my man was right. We are currently in the midst of a miniature O.J. renaissance, with the FX miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson already a huge hit (over eight million viewers) and a seven-and-a-half-hour long “30 for 30” doc called O.J. Simpson: Made In America coming that has already been hailed as a masterwork.
I am deeply skeptical of how revelatory any 2016 O.J. Simpson documentary or miniseries can be. I feel like discovering he was a murderer twenty years ago was the REAL head-turner. Regardless, I love me some True Crime, and I love bad movie hair, so I tuned into The People v. O.J. Simpson to see if it would refresh my interest in the case and….
Nope. No. Not a fucking chance. With the disputed instance of O.J. holding a gun to his head in Kim Kardashian’s bedroom (this happens in the first episode), I’ve seen all this before. The instant the show began, the O.J. Fatigue came back. This isn’t the fault of director Ryan Murphy, or the highly amusing cast that he assembled to campily re-enact the saga. (John Travolta plays Robert Shapiro and Courtney B. Vance plays Johnnie Cochran—both performances are spellbinding for reasons both good and bad.) It’s me. This is clearly not a show meant for a 39 year-old man who lived through the ‘90s and watched CNN airing live footage from the trial day after day after day after day after day. Remember Jay Leno and his Dancing Itos? Christ.
By contrast, there are far younger people on the Deadspin staff who know next to nothing about the O.J. Simpson case—except, of course, that he TOTALLY did it—and have been sucked in by the miniseries. I envy them. Really, I do. I would have far preferred to digest the O.J. Simpson story in a tidy handful of hours, with Travolta’s fake eyebrows around for comic relief, instead of as a miserable sixteen-month slog of empty speculation and dry courtroom footage. Those kids are in for a treat. For me, seeing some actor dressed up as Kato Kaelin reminded me of just how much Kato Kaelin I consumed back in 1994. It was not a healthy amount.
I was born long after the Kennedy assassination. And when you aren’t alive to be part of such a globally historic moment, it’s hard to comprehend and the feelings and details of what that moment was like as it occurred. A couple months ago I read a book called Four Days In November that painstakingly walked through every last detail of the JFK assassination and its immediate aftermath, without any bullshit truthering to get in the way. (The book is a masterwork, by the way.) I didn’t know a lot of the shit the book covered. I had no idea that hospital officials nearly came to blows while fighting over the right to Kennedy’s corpse, or that Lee Harvey Oswald got a ride to work that morning and stuck his wrapped rifle in his co-worker’s backseat, or that Jack Ruby basically shot Oswald on impulse as he was walking by the Dallas police headquarters (right place at the right time!). I’m sure my parents know all those details intimately, but I didn’t because I didn’t live through the day-to-day coverage of the tragedy. I needed to be schooled on JFK.
I do not need to be schooled on O.J. Simpson. The author of that Kennedy book, Vincent Bugliosi, also did a comprehensive O.J. book, but I’ll never read it. I got it. He killed her. A corrupt police department bungled the investigation and an overly zealous AD blew the prosecution. O.J. walked thanks to his fame and legal resources. The verdict laid bare a racial divide between white people who wanted justice and black people who were glad one of their own finally beat the system like rich white dudes always have.
I remember all the names involved: Bailey and Clark and Fuhrman and Darden and Kaelin and AC. I remember all the props and settings involved: the bloody glove and Bronco and the Mezzaluna restaurant. If you’re as old as I am, those historic tidbits are already all too familiar. You get tired the second you remember them. It does not fill me with nostalgic awe to see those trinkets grace my TV screen once more. All it does is remind me that I’ve lived through this once, and once was plenty. The O.J. story is for you kiddies to re-discover. I’ve done my time with it. There’s not a drop of juice left.
Image via YouTube.