a murderer made in america

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The Hubs and I recently started watching O.J.: Made in America on Hulu, a five-part documentary on O.J. Simpson's life. What I didn't expect from the film is its scope--it covers so much more than The Juice's trials. The mini-series juxtaposes O.J.'s ascent to celebrity, his early desire to transcend race, the LAPD's history of police violence and racism, and how O.J.'s rise and fall become the lens by which these other issues are viewed. Three out of five episodes in and we're so immersed in this documentary, which was directed by Ezra Edelman and produced for ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary series.

O.J.: Made in America is at once about O.J. and also about America, and that's what makes it brilliant.

I can compare it to Making a Murderer in that O.J. also exposes flaws in the American legal system, mostly because the people in the system themselves are flawed. And so it follows that the system as a whole creates problems for everyone involved. Truth becomes relative, conspiracies arise, there are prejudices on both sides. In O.J. Simpson's case, his defense attorneys leverage the color of his skin so that a predominantly black jury would be able to better identify with him. Early in his life, O.J. works hard at transcending racial categories but after the 1994 murders, he is, to borrow from the documentary, "made blacker."

Clearly, the documentary has many layers and complexities in it but it's all woven together in a seamless and engaging way. I agree with the critics who say that when you watch it, you almost don't want it to end. Race and civil rights have a long history in the States, and there's a lot I need to catch up on, but watching O.J.: Made in America is one step to understanding similar issues that confront us today.

There is a simple way of viewing racism--it's wrong, it's ignorant, it's damaging. But it's also complex since there are other factors to consider when dealing with the subject-- and in this subject, you don't just deal with concepts, but with real people. O.J.: Made in America makes the issue more human again by putting a face to the abstractions. Here, you are forced not just to imagine racism, domestic abuse, egoism, and celebrity, but you get to see, hear, and almost feel pain and desire. It makes you question whether you have empathy or not, and if you do, to wonder where it lies.

We are two episodes away from finishing the mini-series but I can already recommend it with gusto. The series is perfect material for discussions on sociology, anthropology, theology, and so many other fields because of its rich narrative. I'm rating it 4/4 stars based on what I've seen so far. Yes, it's that good.

Would you be interested in watching the film? If you've seen it, what did you think?

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