I did a panel show on USC TV talking The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story with a group of undergraduates, and the students seemed totally unaware that nearly 20 years of conventional wisdom had judged Marcia Clark as the woman who let O.J. Simpson get away with murder, which was the image perpetuated in the media of the day.
The FX show’s sixth episode, cheekily titled “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” exposed the hypocrisy behind that image and almost single-handedly resurrected Marcia Clark as a public figure worthy of respect — thanks in no small part to Sarah Paulson’s glorious performance, which consistently probed beneath a surface we came to reductively view as brittle and needy. Instead, we saw Marcia coping with the push-and-pull of her divorce, flirting with Christopher Darden, dealing with the sexism of her well-meaning boss and getting the haircut that, like so many other innocuous gestures, made her a laughingstock.
The scene with Marcia walking into the courtroom, newly shorn and confident, and getting an obsequiously slimy thumbs up from the Human Eyebrow Monster that was John Travolta’s Robert Shapiro, was one of the year’s best. It’s no wonder that audiences who didn’t live through the Trial of the Century can’t imagine Marcia Clark as anything other than a flawed heroine. — D.F.