I know I’m not the only person watching The People Vs OJ Simpson on BBC2. But just in case you’ve been out of the loop – it’s a star-studded ten part television series documenting the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson and the trial of her ex-husband OJ. The series follows both the prosecution and the defence in their battle for justice. The thing that most caught my eye, despite the gory details of Nicole’s murder and the blatantly obvious guilty suspect, is how Marcia Clark is treated throughout the series. An accurate representation, Sarah Paulson was chosen to play Marcia Clark – the fiery, go-getter lawyer who was also the leading prosecutor in the OJ Simpson trial. It was in 1995 that Clark took on her most infamous trial working to prosecute OJ Simpson for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The moment Simpson was found not-guilty; Clark left the court, her job and her reputation and never looked back.
Throughout the highly publicised double-homicide trial, Marcia Clark was forced to be subject to ridicule, torment and sexism from the American press, the public and her opposing lawyers. I have now watched the first seven episodes of The People Vs OJ Simpson and, for the most part, have watched in complete horror as developers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski portray the exploitation of Marcia Clark. While most are caught up in the regurgitated black civil rights movement and the fact that a sporting star brutally murdered his wife and an innocent man, it is scarring to witness the way that Clark is treated. She is scorned at and mocked in the first few episodes based entirely on her physical appearance. Her intelligence and aptitude to do her job is completely disregarded in favour of idle gossip about what she looks like. Referring to the mini-series and looking back on the trial, the now-author has spoken out about what a truly painful time in her life it was. While mainly grieving for the remaining members of Nicole and Ron’s families and the injustice they have been served, Clark often recalls on her mistreatment and the battle she was, at that time, required to face against her ex-husband for custody of their children. Because Ms Clark was a woman, she was doubted throughout the trial not only for her skills as a lawyer, but also as a mother.
Before the trial started, Clark was advised by a jury consultant to ‘talk softer, dress softer, wear pastels’. She was told to consider wearing skirt suits instead of the trouser alternative. Throughout the trial she was constantly criticized for her perm, something on which she’s recently commented that she “wanted wash-and-wear hair. I had two little boys in diapers, and I did not have time to mess with that stuff”. In the series, we see Clark essentially tune out every comment and sneer that was made towards her by reporters and opposing lawyers alike, until an ex-husband releases an old, topless photograph of her on the beach on holiday. Instead of focusing on her accomplishments, the media consistently and belligerently chose to only address her physical appearance. Her colleagues and opponents referred to her as a “bitch” and potential jurors commented that they would “not want to be her boyfriend”. She was told that black women didn’t like her and that she would appeal more if she changed her hair or smiled more. Marcia Clark should have been addressed as what she was – a professional. She was strong, smart and tough, and should not have been forced to worry about how she looked.
I wish I could say that there are no current cases in which a woman’s ability is overlooked as a result of her gender, but sadly, I cannot.
Read Marcia Clark’s best-selling, tell all tale available now on Amazon.
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