This week’s episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story featured the defense poking important holes in the prosecution’s evidence, and our first look at Mark Fuhrman on the stand, and Nathan Lane saying the n-word kind of a lot, but none of that is where we need to start. We need to start with Marcia Clark.
1) For all the bits of campiness so far (everything with the Kardashian kids, most of what Travolta is doing, etc.), the series has been defined by some really strong performances. Last week, it was Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown as Johnnie Cochran and Christopher Darden, respectively, driving home the racial aspects of the case. This week, it was Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark, just putting on a clinic in an episode titled, appropriately enough, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia.” Marcia Clark — “Marcia Clark” — became a caricature during the trial, and it’s an image that remains so burned into people’s minds today that Tina Fey can pop up as an incompetent, tight-curled prosecutor on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and I was immediately like, “Hey, it’s Marcia Clark.” Paulson took that image and added shading and nuance and backstory to the character (and by definition, the real person), and by the end of the episode when she was crying in her office, my entire heart was breaking for her. It could not have been fun to be Marcia Clark in 1995.
It’s way too early in the television year to make outlandish claims like “Sarah Paulson should win an Emmy,” because who knows what’s going to happen between today and nomination time. But let’s at least say this: Goooooood luck to every other actress on television. Work’s really cut out for you.
2) The episode showed what Clark was dealing with through a mix of public and private moments, from radio shock jocks holding “Bitch or Babe?” polls and style experts calling her “frump personified,” to the nasty divorce she was going through during the trial. Even her boss was suggesting a “media consultant,” which was a nice-ish way of saying “people don’t like you.” But even with all that going on, the hair thing still hit the hardest. Oh God. We’ve all been there at least once, where you’re feeling really, really good about something…
… only to be immediately deflated.
There’s no way producers of the show knew it when they were lining up the schedule for the series, but the fact that it aired on International Women’s Day was kind of perfect. We should have been way nicer to Marcia Clark.