Follow TV Tropes

Following

Film / O.J.: Made in America

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/img_0678.JPG

"We talk about O.J. as if the story were O.J....the story is O.J. and us."
Advertisement:

O.J.: Made in America is a 2016 documentary miniseries produced by ESPN.

The five-part miniseries is a documentary of the life of O.J. Simpson, former Heisman Trophy winner, NFL star, commercial pitchman, and character actor (Roots (1977), The Naked Gun), now infamous for allegedly murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and waiter Ron Goldman in 1994. The double murder triggered the "Trial of the Century" in which Simpson was ultimately acquitted, although he was later found civilly liable for wrongful death. The series, while examining the life of O.J. and the murders in particular, also examines the history of race relations in the city of Los Angeles and the tensions between the black community in Los Angeles and the LAPD, factors which contributed to Simpson's acquittal.

The series was directed by Ezra Edelman. Before airing on ESPN, as part of that network's 30 for 30 documentary series, it ran for a week in two theaters (in a three-part format), one in Santa Monica and the other in New York City. This made it eligible for the Oscars and it won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It set a record for longest "film" to win an Oscar (467 minutes), beating the mark previously set by the 1968 Russian adaptation of War and Peace.note 

Advertisement:


Tropes:

  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: Remember in The People v. O.J. Simpson when O.J.'s defense team redecorated O.J.'s house to better reflect African American culture for the visiting and predominantly black jury? Yeah, that really happened.
  • Anachronic Order: Part I jumps back and forth in time quite a bit. For example, the series starts off with a How We Got Here clip from 2013, then tells the story of O.J. Simpson's USC football career and his emergence as a star, then deals with the growth of the black population in Los Angeles after World War II, then catches up to the time of Simpson's football career as framed against the civil rights movement and the unrest of the late 1960s, then jumps back to Simpson's childhood in the Potrero Hill neighborhood of San Francisco.
  • Answer Cut:
    • An unrepentant LAPD cop says of the Rodney King cops, "How do you know they were racist? They were not racist." The film then cuts to a stock footage news report in which two of the Rodney King cops were caught on audio describing a prior call as "something out of Gorillas in the Mist."
    • Advertisement:
    • Tom Riccio, who was involved in the robbery that got Simpson sent to jail, says "I didn't rat on anybody!" Cue stock footage of Riccio spilling the details of Simpson's involvement in the robbery. Cue Riccio saying "OK, maybe I did rat on somebody."
  • Armor-Piercing Question:
    • Defense attorney Barry Scheck led the charge against the DNA blood evidence and said in court that the blood was planted. When asked if he actually believes the LAPD planted that blood Scheck gets visibly flustered, hesitating and stammering before saying it's not his job as an attorney to believe and saying he presented sound evidence in court that the crime scene evidence could have been tainted.
    • Simpson friend Peter Hyams (who had directed him in Capricorn One) was a believer in his innocence. That is, until another friend asked Hyams what Mark Fuhrman would have had to know to plant the glove—Fuhrman would have had to know that Simpson had no alibi, that Simpson could not prove himself to be at a party or in bed with a woman or on a plane to Chicago at the time of the murders. But neither Fuhrman nor anyone else in the LAPD knew where Simpson was at the time they entered his house. Hyams instantly realized that O.J. was guilty.
  • Bad Liar: After Nicole and Ron are murdered, Ron Shipp asks O.J. how he cut his finger. He tells Shipp he cut it on a glass in Chicago. Later on, Shipp is in earshot when O.J. gives two different explanations ("chipping golf balls" and "cut it getting the cellphone out of the car") to other people. This is a huge factor in Shipp abandoning and later testifying against O.J.
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: Words like fuck and shit are bleeped in some cases, but only when using stock footage where they were bleeped originally. In the actual interviews, there's no filter. Nigger isn't bleeped, since it's relevant to the subject material.
  • Bookends: Begins at the Nevada prison, ends at the Nevada prison.
  • Broken Pedestal: In-universe, O.J. is this to many, but especially Ron Shipp. Shipp clearly idolized O.J. for a long time, even helping him out of a few jams when he became a cop. He becomes friends with O.J. and Nicole. Shortly after the murders happen, Shipp asks O.J. what happened to his finger (which was bandaged). O.J. says he cut it on a glass in Chigago. Then, O.J.'s story about what happened to his finger changed several times between what he tells Shipp alone and what he tells others with Shipp (perhaps unknowingly) in earshot. From that point on, Shipp distanced himself from O.J., culminating in him testifying against O.J. on the stand and getting torn to shreds by Carl Douglas. This was, of course, the end of their friendship.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Marcia Clark goes into a long series of them directed at a reporter, when he ambushes her outside her home as she's leaving to hear the verdict. A 20-years-later Clark admits that she knew what the verdict was going to be.
  • Les Collaborateurs: As far as the civil rights moment was concerned. Robert Lipsyte calls Simpson "the counter-revolutionary athlete" who offered white America a non-threatening face at a time when black athletes like Muhammad Ali were fighting for civil rights.
  • Corpsing: A camera shot shows F. Lee Bailey unable to restrain himself from laughing after Christopher Darden's epic blunder in asking Simpson to try on the glove.
  • Crosses the Line Twice: invoked O.J.'s defense team redecorates his house before the mostly black jury comes to visit, in order to make O.J. "blacker". They denied doing the redecoration to Clark at the time. Now, Carl Douglas smugly admits if the jury was Latin, he would have had a picture of O.J. in a sombrero, a mariachi band out front, and a piñata at the top of the stairs.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Anticipating the prosecution would ask O.J. to try on the bloody glove recovered from the scene, the defense instructed Simpson not to take his arthritis medicine, as his hands would swell up as a result.
  • Domestic Abuse: The beatings Simpson delivered to his wife Nicole, publicized before and during the murder trial, are discussed for the first time in Part 2.
  • Don't Shoot the Message: Invoked by Christopher Darden when, in a hearing without the jury present, tries to make the plea to never have the N-Word be uttered during the trial. The reason for this is simple: he knows the defense for O.J. will try to present the theory that Mark Furhman - a white cop who faced allegations of racism - planted the glove. If it could be proven during the trial that Fuhrman said the word, that could lend credence to that theory. However, Chris makes a huge misstep in saying that hearing the word "will blind people" to the point they can't be rational, and will force the jury to have to pick sides: "the man" vs "the brothas" (almost exact words here). Cochran, in a famous moment, tore into Chris for saying black people can't hear the N-Word without losing their minds. Chris was basically insulting all blacks. If he was able to somehow get his point across without doing that, things could have turned out different.
  • Double Standard:
    • It's mentioned at several spots throughout the documentary (up until the trial and after) that O.J. got special treatment because he's famous. For instance, the helicopter reporter who caught the Bronco chase notes that he's seen these kind of chases before and they normally end very differently than someone basically getting a motorcade to his house.
    Zoey Tur: I've covered so many of these things. This was not usual police behavior. If O.J. Simpson were black, that shit wouldn't have happened. He'd be on the ground getting clubbed. But because he transcended race and color to this exalted state of celebrity, he got a motorcade.
    • In a less direct (but more cringe-inducing) example, O.J. says on some private interview tapes that Nicole is being "painted divinely" by the prosecution, and if she was accused of killing him, she wouldn't spend a day in jail.
  • Easily Forgiven: For spousal abuse. O.J. Simpson brutally beats his wife and gets off with community service that includes, uh, playing golf. Roy Firestone gives a chummy interview to Simpson in which they commiserate about how Simpson repaired his image. Firestone was motivated to apologize for this interview 22 years later.
  • Face Framed in Shadow: A portrait of Simpson with the left side of his face hidden in shadow is shown for dramatic effect when Part 2 of the series starts to go into how Simpson beat his wife.
  • Feet-First Introduction: In fact that is all we see of Coach McBryant, in a recreation of a story recounted by Simpson's childhood friend Joe Bell of how the coach caught them shooting dice in a restroom.
  • Frame-Up: The crux of O.J.'s defense, as the DNA evidence against him is mountain-high. The sloppy handling of the evidence by the forensic team and Mark Fuhrman's perjury on the stand help a lot.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Both an investigator for The Dream Team (through the doc) and O.J. Simpson (through old tape) say this is what Mark Fuhrman thought he was doing. Fuhrman allegedly had it in his head that O.J. was the murderer and wanted to make sure the charges stick. The investigator even says "they call that framing a guilty man".
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Not a real "bonus" by ANY means, but while Ron Shipp is talking about how seeing the dead pictures of Nicole swayed him toward testifying, you see VERY quick flashes of the photo of Nicole with her throat cut open.
  • Godwin's Law: Did Johnnie Cochran compare the LAPD to Adolf Hitler? Yes, yes he did. An enraged Fred Goldman is shown in stock footage calling this out immediately afterwards.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: Thoroughly averted with the crime scene photos, showing the horrifying scene where Brown and Goldman were found outside her front door. note 
  • How We Got Here: Opens with a brief clip of a 2013 examination of O.J. by Nevada prison officials.
  • Humiliation Conga: O.J. beat his murder case, but loses a civil suit where the Goldmans are awarded $33 million. His financial situation over the years gets so bad he makes a book called If I Did It to try and get some money. He spends most of the 2000's as a punchline and stars in an awkward, painfully bad, straight to DVD Punk'd ripoff called Juiced that bombs and inadvertently reveals how far he's fallen. He tops it off with an armed robbery in Vegas in 2007 that lands him in prison with a 33-year sentence. (Simpson was granted parole in 2017 after serving nine years.)
  • Hypocrite:
    • Mike Gilbert expresses disapproval of how the officers enforcing the civil judgment against Simpson took his personal stuff. He specifically says "how do you take his Heisman?". Not even 30 seconds later, we see old footage of Gilbert, who claims he was unpaid for services rendered to O.J., admitting to taking some of his personal stuff, including his Heisman Trophy.
    • Robert Shapiro was the person who first brought race into the trial, suggesting at the very beginning that the LAPD framed Simpson because he was black. This, despite saying that race shouldn't be a part of the trial. After the ordeal is over, he expresses "disgust" that he and the dream team not only played the race card, but dealt it from the bottom of the deck. Carl Douglas calls him out by saying it was the card he stacked the deck with from the very beginning.
  • If I Can't Have You...: In Part 2.
    O.J. Simpson: If you ever see Marcus [Allen] again, I will kill you.
  • It Will Never Catch On: According to Tom Riccio, O.J. said that Keeping Up with the Kardashians "wouldn't last two weeks".
  • It's All About Me: An aspect of O.J. that is revealed throughout the documentary in a lot of instances.
    • The SWAT guy who was at the house to arrest O.J. on the night of the Bronco chase noted that there were no pictures of any other family or anyone else on the walls of the Simpson mansion—all the photos were of O.J.
    • Simpson's agent Mike Gilbert claims to have said "It's all about you" while upbraiding Simpson for living the life of "a 25-year-old punkass" in Florida, without regard for his children.
    • Even in his early career, this was somewhat evident with O.J. He avoided the racial politics of the time, electing to work solely on his own image instead. This approach actually got him fame and fortune (see Les Collaborateurs).
  • It's Personal: Ron Shipp, though he felt O.J. was guilty, wasn't going to testify until he saw actual crime scene photos of Nicole (who was also a friend of his). They are so gruesome they bring back memories of the first homicide he saw, where a 19-year-old girl was left naked and beaten to the extent her face was unrecognizable. The hatred he felt for the man who later turned himself in for the crime is the same hate he felt for O.J.
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: And how. Years after getting off for a double murder, O.J. is sent to prison for trying to take back memorabilia that was stolen from him from dealers that were now selling it. Since he brought some guys with him (one who had a gun and was pointing) to make sure the dealers stayed, he had kidnapping charges on top of armed robbery. The judge did the sentencing on the 13th anniversary of the original O.J. verdict, and sentenced O.J. to 33 years (to match the 33 million awarded in the civil suit). Carl Douglas says "that was a 2-year crime dripping wet." Marcia Clark for her part can barely contain her glee, calling lowlife Tom Riccio "one of my favorite people!"
  • The Ken Burns Effect: Used sparingly, like with photos in part 1 that illustrate the post-World War II black migration to Los Angeles. In Part 2 the camera zooms out from a photo of Simpson to reveal Marcus Allen, as the documentary discusses Simpson and Allen's relationship and how Nicole Brown was apparently dating Allen.
  • The Millstone: How Christopher Darden is portrayed in the film. From the moment he first appears in the courtroom, everything he does backfires on the prosecution.
    • And, of course, Mark Fuhrman, who even the prosecution throws under the bus by the end of the trial.
  • Never My Fault: O.J. obviously, but Johnnie Cochran too. When Johnnie Cochran derails the point of the trial by making it about race and comparing the LAPD to Adolf Hitler, Fred Goldman is outraged and publicly calls out Cochran for his manipulations. Reporters asking Cochran if he will apologize to Goldman get this response:
    Johnnie Cochran: He (Goldman) should be apologizing to me!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • The prosecution putting Mark Fuhrman on the stand. It was unavoidable, but still qualifies.
    • Mark Fuhrman invoking the 5th amendment on EVERY question asked of him the second time he's called to the stand, including "did you plant or manufacture any evidence in this case?".
    • Christopher Darden asking O.J. to try on the gloves recovered from the murder scene. They don't fit. A juror being interviewed for the documentary even says she would have assumed the gloves fit if O.J. didn't try them on.
    Marcia Clark: Chris says I want to do it and I told him in no uncertain terms why we should not be doing this, and he said if we don't do this: they will, then I said let them and we can show why it was a bullshit experiment why it was never going to work between the shrinkage and the latex, it's never going to fit in the same way, don't do this: it was the biggest fight Chris and I ever had.
    Yolanda Crawford (one of the jurors): [after O.J. has tried on the bloody glove] I looked at Darden like, "I can't believe you did it. You let him play you. You are the weaker one, and you didn't have to be."
    • The police handling the forensic evidence at the scene poorly, which is lambasted in court.
  • Notably Quick Deliberation: Despite the case taking up their lives for the better part of an entire year, the jury manages to reach its verdict in just four hours. This leads to statements of "You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!" from both the prosecution and the defense.
  • N-Word Privileges: Zig-Zagged:
    • Played straight when it comes to the case. Mark Fuhrman lied on the stand about never having used the word. When the lie is revealed, there is a huge public outcry and the case becomes more about race.
    • Subverted with the documentary itself. Plenty of non-blacks say the word (and not just "N-Word") within the doc while either quoting people or talking about its usage within the trial. Famously, F. Lee Bailey used the word when initially grilling Mark Fuhrman on whether he ever said it.
  • Police Brutality: A focal point of the documentary is showing the seeds and roots of the distrust of the LAPD by black people in LA. O.J's trial is thus treated as all of the race relations coming to a head.
  • Precision F-Strike: "What the fuck, dude?" Said by Marcia Clark about Fuhrman's inflammatory tapes. While multiple characters in the doc, including Marcia, don't hesitate to swear, it's the only time she used the F-bomb up to that point, and it's used with much more vigour.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: O.J. beat the murder case that could have had him in prison for life, but was still a pariah in the court of public opinion. He also ended up losing a civil suit for $33 million, and he was soon left bankrupt.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Darden doesn't want the n-word to be uttered during the trial, as he knew Fuhrman had allegedly said it in the past. He says that it will taint the jury away from rational thought and make the trial about race and a potential frame up conspiracy. He is shamed by Johnny Cochran for alleging blacks can't hear the word and be rational. However, later on, Fuhrman perjures himself about having used the word in the past. When that lie is revealed, he goes on the stand again and takes the 5th on every question asked. This spreads a lot of doubt to the jurors about O.J.'s guilt, and makes the trial about race. Darden's fears come true, but it was more because of Fuhrman lying than the n-word itself.
  • Schmuck Bait: The young and brash Christopher Darden's ploy to get O.J. to try on the glove, despite his own team's insistence not to do so; even a juror who felt that O.J. was guilty knew that it was an awful gamble, knowing she and the others couldn't vote "guilty" if the glove didn't fit. Sure enough, the glove did not, thanks to O.J.'s team advising him to not take his arthritis meds so his hands would swell, and the prosecution's case was torpedoed.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
    • Ron Shipp in Part 3, after hearing Simpson give three successive and contradictory explanations for his cut finger, and realizing that Simpson was guilty.
    • Shipp, when he made the decision to testify against O.J., was told a list of other people who'd be testifying. After Carl Douglas tears him apart on the stand, however, everybody "got amnesia".
  • Slashed Throat: An image of Nicole with her nightmarish throat wound is without a doubt the most grisly image from the crime scene photos. It's so disturbing that some networks showing the documentary have a black bar over it.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: There was music playing at Nicole Brown's house when the cops arrived, which is why a jazzy upbeat pop song is playing as the ghastly crime-scene photos flash by.
  • Split Screen: Seen in Part 3 as various heavyweights—Alan Dershowitz, F. Lee Bailey, and an investigator—come onto Simpson's defense team.
  • Staggered Zoom: The last live shot of the movie is a staggered zoom away from the Lovelock prison at sunset.
  • Stock Footage: A tried-and-true documentary trope. Also the only way O.J. Simpson appears, since he did not answer interview requests.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: O.J. tries to publish a book entitled If I Did It. The interviewer for the book left more convinced than ever he was a murderer.
  • Talking Heads: Features many interviews with many principals in the drama, including lead prosecutor Marcia Clark, three of Simpson's surviving defense attorneys (Johnnie Cochran and Robert Kardashian being deceased), and others, but not Simpson himself, and not prosecutor Christopher Darden or Simpson's first wife Marguerite, who declined to be interviewed.
  • Token Minority: Chris Darden is alleged to be this for the defense by Carl Douglas. Juror Yolanda Crawford seems offended by the presence of a Token Minority on the prosecution team (particularly one she saw as weak) and says "He shouldn't have been there."
  • Tranquil Fury: Johnnie Cochran gets pissed when Darden tries to argue that the "N-word" is so racially charged that black people will automatically assume Fuhrman planted the evidence.
  • Trophy Wife:
    Ron Shipp: Nicole was like a trophy to him, something that he possessed.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Even before the murders, O.J. beat Nicole Brown and had multiple affairs.
  • White Like Me: Simpson wears whiteface, getting heavily made up to look like an old Jewish man, for his awful prank show Juiced with O.J. Simpson.
  • The Whitest Black Guy: After he got famous. O.J. stopped seeing himself as black.
    Robert Lipsyte: "He was telling me a story about being at a teammate's wedding with his wife, sitting at a table with mostly, as he said, "Negroes". And he overheard a white woman at the next table saying, "Look, there's O.J. sitting with all those niggers." And I remember, in my naïveté, saying to O.J., "Gee, wow, that must be terrible for you." He said, "No, it was great. Don't you understand? She knew that I wasn't black. She saw me as O.J." And really, at that moment, I thought he was fucked."
  • Young Future Famous People: A young Maxine Waters pops up in historical archive footage from 1979, where she's shown issuing a public statement on the death of Eula May Love. She was just a member of the California State Assembly at the time, but would later achieve nationwide fame as a member of the US House of Representatives.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Simpson was a serial adulterer to both his spouses.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!:
    • People on both sides involved with the murder case had this reaction when the jury came to a verdict in just 4 hours.
    • Marcia Clark says this almost word-for-word when she finds out O.J. Simpson, after beating the murder case, has been arrested for trying to steal memorabilia.

Top

Example of:

/

Feedback