Paulson had just won the Emmy for lead actress in a limited series or movie for her portrayal of the former L.A. County prosecutor in FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” and she used her time onstage to both thank and apologize to Clark, who failed to win a conviction in the case.
As Clark offered a smile and serene nod from her seat – she had come as Paulson’s guest – the moment crystallized just one of the several new perspectives that a belated Hollywood arrival has been able to shine on the case.
At the fore in the Microsoft Theater on Sunday was how the program – along with the ESPN docuseries “O.J.: Made in America,” which will be eligible for Oscars and Emmys in 2017 – furnished a chance to view the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman through a 21st century lens, a rare do-over of sorts in American culture.
The first episode of “People” aired less than three months after controversial video of the Laquan McDonald shooting by Chicago police was revealed, and its finale aired less than three months before the shooting death of Alton Sterling by white police officers in Baton Rouge, La. That made the processing of the O.J. case different, and arguably deeper, than in the 1990’s, when the debate about criminal justice had yet to reach this level of awareness, particularly among whites.
The re-living of the trial through a television season – and the chance to marinate in its various elements at a Hollywood awards show – would seem to afford a historical perspective a more immediacy-minded pop culture these days rarely offers.
“People watching these contemporary representations are looking at something different than what people lived through back in the ’90s. ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ is fictional and the documentary has a rather overt political slant to its interpretation of the events and the people responsible,” Todd Boyd, a USC professor who specializes in race and popular culture, wrote in an email.
‘People v. O.J. Simpson’ at Emmy awards: A new verdict on the case.