Feminist, Fictionista, Foodie, Francophile

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

O.J. Simpson is not Othello

It's been 20 years since Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered in Los Angeles. Nicole's ex-husband, football star-turned actor/pitchman O.J. Simpson was accused of the crime and the ensuing eight month trial became a media circus that, among other things, first brought the name 'kardashian" to public awareness. (The now-deceased K clan patriarch, Robert, was Simpson's good friend and attorney.)

Simpson, who was acquitted of the murders, was represented by a multicultural "dream team" of laywyers and prosecutors Marcia Clark and Chris Darden were a diversity duo as well. And that's worth noting becaue race was all over this case from the start. The victims were white, first of all--a beautiful blonde woman and a handsome young man.  The accused was a black man who'd been a household name since his days as a Heisman Trophy-winning college athlete. Simpson's defense team was originally led by legendary attorney F. Lee Bailey, but increasingly other members of the so-called "Dream Team" began to dominate the headlines, Barry Schreck (now known for his work with the Innocence Prject) and the late Johnnie Cochrane, whose closing argument was brilliant as an examination of the concept of "reasonable doubt."

The crime seemed to be personal and stories of dogs howling in the night and tracking bloody pawprints from the alley where the victims died were the stuff of a horror movie. NIcole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were not strangled like Desdemona but hacked to death with a knife. The attack was frenzied and because this case was at the dawn of the murder-case-as-entertainment era (Court TV became Tru TV and the Simpson case was the catalyst), anyone who cared to know could view the autopsy reports and find out just how many knife wounds were in the bodies.

So passions were high all through the case and the long months of trial that followed. And afterwards there was a lot of second-guessing. And talk about race relations. Some media outlets really wanted to frame this as a Shakespearean tragedy, painting OJ as Othello and Nicole as Desdemona. (They forgot that in the Shakespeare tragedy there was also "collateral damage" in the form of Cassio, which would I suppose have been the Ronald Goldman role, except in Othello, Cassio survives.

In Othello, the murderer confesses and apologizes. In real life, that never happened.

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