Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story 1x06 Review: "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia" (Who’s That Lady) [Contributor: Rae Nudson]

"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia"
Original Airdate: March 8, 2016

Wow, do I have a lot of feelings after watching this episode. I have feelings about hair, putting up with jabs at work, the unfairness of going through life as a woman, and about Chris Darden being adorable. (Don’t lie, you do, too.)


Sarah Paulson does an amazing job in this episode that centers on Marcia Clark as she navigates being a woman and doing her job. That’s it. That’s all Marcia is guilty of: being a woman and doing her job. But at every turn Marcia is punished. She is punished for having children, for having been married, for now not being married, for having hair, for going on a vacation with her husband, for having her period, for having a voice and a body and using them. In the same breath her boss tells Marcia the media is sexist and unacceptable, he also tells her — in front of everyone else in her office — to maybe look into getting a consultant for her image. He does it in a way that sounds like it’s being supportive, and in a way he can deny he meant anything about it other than what’s good for Marcia, but Marcia knows, and I know, that he is demeaning her the exact same way that everybody else is.

Because Marcia is human, she feels every jab, every snide comment that can be disguised as something else, every interruption, every backhanded compliment, every harsh look. And even on good days, all of that can wear you down. On bad days, it can break you.

Part of what is so hard about dealing with sexism is wondering if what someone said is really sexist, or if you, an emotional woman, are overreacting. (Note: That is what they want you to think.) This episode did a great job of focusing on the effects of sexist actions without bothering to debate if they were sexist or not. By showing Marcia’s reactions and her pain, and focusing on her lived experience, it showed how sexism can hurt every aspect of someone’s life.

The standout scene was when Marcia got her hair cut. Like so many other women, she decided to get a haircut to make herself feel better and maybe stave off some criticisms about her appearance. (Note: It will never work, they will always find something to criticize.) She felt great about it — you could see it in her walk and in her face. That is, she felt great about it until she walked into court and saw gaping mouths and heard laughter. You could see every expression on Marcia’s face as she cycled through pride, doubt, pain, embarrassment, and then shame. She broke my heart without saying a word. Sarah Paulson was incredible the entire episode, but this moment was just outstanding.

On top of feeling worthless because tabloids made her bad hair day front page news, Marcia is going through a divorce, and her ex-husband is using the press to belittle her. Both of her ex-husbands, actually. One is twisting her childcare decisions to make it look like she is using her children as pawns in a court case, and her other ex is leaking nude photos of her that they took while they were on vacation. Both men — men she married, men she trusted, one of whom is also taking care of her — are using the media and conceptions of what women “should be” to break down Marcia as a person.

Let’s talk about those nude photos. Marcia was married at the time and on vacation, maybe even at a nude beach. As a married woman, presumably sometimes she gets naked with her husband — that fact should not be shocking. But now pictures of her are in the press without her permission at the worst possible time for her professionally. She has no agency in that decision; he saw an opportunity to remind her that she is nothing, and he took it.

This seems especially timely since Kim Kardashian West released her own nude photos this week, which created quite a kerfuffle. Kim had all the agency in that decision. She decided on the photo, had control of any production work on it, and she released it herself. Kim is also a married woman with children. But Kim made a decision herself about her image and her body; Marcia was left out of all the decisionmaking. Both women were still criticized.

There is no winning if you’re a woman, no matter what you do. Marcia felt that at every turn. Luckily, she had one person in her corner — the adorable Chris Darden.

Chris was wonderful to Marcia this week and is definitely feeling her and her haircut. His note to Marcia that her hair was fantastic was so kind, and his insistence they take a dance break was sweet. I’m shipping it, even though a romance on the prosecution team is not exactly appropriate. Screw it, Marcia doesn’t get any points for being appropriate, so she might as well get some. Chris supports Marcia when everyone else around her is tearing her down. No one else in Marcia’s life was there for her when the pressure finally got to her and she cried in the dark in her office. Both Chris and Marcia respect each other and fight for each other. That is invaluable, especially since they can’t get support anywhere else. Their relationship is formed in fire, and it’s touching to see that amid so much turmoil.


Johnnie is still a shark, and this episode showed him be even more cutthroat than before. Based on some Googling, it looks like Johnnie was actually accused of domestic abuse by his ex-wife, but he has denied it. She also accused him of manipulating women with money. The show took these accusations and ran with them in a scene that fits with what we know of Johnnie. I watched in horror as he called his ex-wife and offered her the profits from selling his home so that she would stay quiet to the press.

Johnnie also showed he was a master manipulator when he was laughing and talking with the cop before he took the stand. In casual conversation, Johnnie got the cop to lower his guard and let it slip where he lived, before realizing that Johnnie was just buttering him up to get information. When it came out that this cop lived in the same town as the Rodney King beating, and that the cop kept O.J.’s shoes with him all night before logging them into evidence, doubt about the LAPD began to grow, which is exactly what Johnnie wanted. Johnnie will do anything to win, and his ethics get hard to pin down when it comes to serving his client.

Bob Shapiro is still blustering about. His attitude is almost the opposite of Johnnie — he’s all hot air where Johnnie is cold as ice. I feel like Bob won’t be able to take much more of being ignored and dismissed. He’s used to thinking himself as the big dog, but everyone knows he’s not.

Watching the men do their macho act on the defense team was a great foil to what Marcia was going through as a woman on the prosecution. Each team is affected by expectations for gender roles, and the men get to use those expectations to their advantage. Being a big dog generally helps men, whereas it just gets women labeled too domineering and intense.

Notes from the case file:
  • “I vote babe.”
  • Marcia and Chris dancing gives me heart eyes for days.
  • The performances this week are all unreal. Props to Sarah Paulson, Sterling K. Brown, and Courtney B. Vance.
  • I really love this show! I related to Marcia so much during this episode and can think of so many times where I felt the same way in my workplace. 
  • Don’t forget to read Marcia’s excellent interview in Vulture that highlights what’s true and what’s not about this episode. In that interview, Marcia says that her boss, Gil Garcetti, was actually very kind and supportive about the media skewering her image and that he very quietly helped her get new suits to wear in court. The “very quietly” part is a key difference from the show. 


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