I’ve been binge watching The People vs. O.J. with Maye, one of my best friends. I’m enamored by the the show—but, more importantly, the story behind the show—and find myself hanging onto every word that Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson) says, even though I know the outcome of the trial.
O.J. gets off. And that’s the power of celebrity.
The show is laced with references to celebrity—David Schwimmer plays a distraught Robert Kardashian, but there seems to almost be more of a focus on the young Kardashian clan than Robert himself, despite his relevance in the trial and in the defendant’s life. In the very first episode, when O.J. was seriously contemplating suicide in the Kardashian household, Robert of course had to scream, “Not in Kimmy’s room!” because it would make it that much more interesting if O.J. shot himself in Kim Kardashian’s room. Maye and I laughed and turned to each other, shaking our heads at the line, knowing the sheer stupidness of it all, but also recognizing the power the scene held. It made it more interesting. It drew in our demographic, attracting a whole new audience to the O.J. Simpson sensation.
And wasn’t that trial reality television? Reality television to an ultimate extreme: a pre-Keeping Up with the Kardashians entertainment, a trial that was completely unscripted but chock full of all the diversion and captivation the world could ever need.
All of this only happened because he was a celebrity. His attorneys were known as “The Dream Team” because they were greatest group of lawyers ever assembled in the defense of one client. If this client had not been O.J., these lawyers would never have worked together in this way. People united around a cause—a cause of celebrity, a need to defend the staple of American success. O.J. Simpson was the ultimate American poster child. From his Heisman trophies to his Hertz commercials, the Juice was a role model for young boys and the dream guy for young girls. Until he murdered his wife.
This is what I like to call “O.J. Syndrome”, and it is still as relevant as ever, especially when it comes to sexual assault, harassment, or rape. Bill Cosby has yet to be convicted, despite countless women accusing him of sexual assault. John Travolta. Sean Penn. Kodak Black. Britney Spears. Casey Affleck, who won the Oscar for Best Actor this year, while a heroic, stoic Brie Larson refused to applaud. Nate Parker, the writer of The Birth of a Nation, who, when in college, raped an eighteen-year-old girl and never faced punishment. (The accuser killed herself.) Or the celebrities that do get convicted, serve their time, and return as heroes, such as Mike Tyson.
Essentially, celebrities have immunity to consequences. Even if punishment is served, people will still love them. Often, they will become more famous—which, for many, is all they want. People are reluctant to see flaws in the people that they idolize, because people need something or someone to put on a pedestal. We need someone to aspire towards, to inspire us, to give us the motivation, to be the “goal”. Thoughts of “There has to be some good in the world,” “They can’t have done that; they’re ______,” or “But Manchester by the Sea was so beautiful!” are what we jump to, because nobody likes to be let down.
Nobody wants to find out that the person they look up to is a cold-blooded murderer—hell, I would bawl so damn hard if I learned that J.K. Rowling had killed somebody. But this doesn’t excuse the crime that someone has committed. We cannot give hall passes to celebrities; we cannot exempt them from justice. Being famous and rich does not equal the right to commit the most vile of acts.
There is something so very dangerous about idolizing people, yet it is ingrained in human nature. I find myself asking the question, “How do I remove people from these pedestals that I have put them on?” As Remi mentioned in her introduction to her interview with our cover star, Shannon Purser: “Remember how normal celebrities are.” They make mistakes, just like us—but, just like us, they cannot be exempt from facing the consequences.
Adolescent is psyched to be able to bring this and other articles from the pages of Crybaby Zine to our readers. This piece was originally written for their Fame Issue—if you like it, check out their store to buy this or other issues!