Sexism and Marcia Clark in “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”

Is she really unlikeable, or is it something else?

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In my last post, I mentioned something about episode six of The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story would wreck you.  It came as part of my prediction of Sarah Paulson winning Best Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie as Marcia Clark in the series (and, thank God, it did happen).  While a majority of the series focused on race relations in the criminal justice system, the episode in question, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” is about the other side of the Simpson case that is barely discussed.  Sexism just in general.  Anything that makes a woman feel worthless.

“Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” takes the focus away from the case and O.J.’s defense team that has dominated the last five episodes, and gives it to the one prosecutor that nobody liked.  There have been a few signs in past episodes that showcase that issue in particular.  In episode three, “The Dream Team,” there is a scene early on that features a test audience grading the personalities on the prosecution and the defense.  The words often thrown around by them to describe Clark are “bitch” and “cold,” making the group give her a personality score of a four.  There are dips into her personal life throughout the series.  During the entire trial, she is dealing with her divorce and obtaining custody of her sons.  At one point in “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” Clark discovers that the divorce and custody battle has been part of the media frenzy; however, it is unclear if this has been fictionalized for television or not.

One of the major points of the episode involves the appearance of Clark herself.  She has admitted that the media should not be involved in judging herself or what she does, but she found herself in a difficult place where she had to change her look to get the public to like her.  As she restyles her hair, to the non-diegetic* use of Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose”, it is a rebirth that she hopes works.  But at the end of the song, the new look becomes another source of ridicule.  The “Kiss From a Rose” becomes a Kiss of Death.  But the worst thing that happened in the episode came from real life.  As written in Jeffrey Toobin’s book The Run of His Life: The People vs O.J. Simpson, the basis for The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, he writes that a trip to the supermarket for Clark became horrible when the cashier looked at the Tampax and said, “I guess the defense is really in for it this week.”  Sure enough, the scene in “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” is a copycat with the line now being said as, “Uh-oh.  Guess the defense is in for one hell of a week, huh?”  This reinforces the double standard in Clark’s life.  She wants it to be about the case, and what she happened.  Instead, people are talking about how she looks and how dreadful her personal life is.

Marcia Clark is not the only woman who has dealt with this.  Sadly, every woman (white, black, Latina, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc.) has experienced this.  We want the focus to be on our work, our legacy, and what we do to help make society great.  Instead, we are constantly judged by our personalities, fashion, the ability to be a good mother, and the ability to be a good person.  We work twice as hard to get what we want, and, sometimes, we get less respect for it than deserved.  I don’t deserve to phrase this as “we,” becoming the spokesperson for all the women out there, but I don’t know how else to phrase it.  I’ve seen the same happen to my mother when she worked as a systems engineer as one of the first women to be hired to work in that field.  I constantly hear stories about sexism and misogyny from my friends.  And, in an election year where we could elect the first female president, it is all about all the negatives that have happened and how cold she looks rather than all of the accomplishments she made (I will not name the person here, but you get the gist).

So the next time you see a woman, and she looks like a hag.  Don’t judge her.  Women are more than just curves and crystal clear skin.  We have brains, you know.

*Non-diegetic refers to the use of music, score, or sounds that are not part of the narrative world, meaning that the characters within a film or television program do not hear it.

Author: Samantha Felmus

Samantha Felmus is a writer with a cinematic vision. She holds a BA in Liberal Arts with concentrations in film from Sarah Lawrence College and a MFA in writing and producing for television from Long Island University - Brooklyn, specifically the TV Writer's Studio Program. In her downtime, she likes to cook and watch all the random things available on Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube. She currently resides in New York City.

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