The most compelling thing on TV this week has been ESPN’s OJ: Made In America. Here in Canada, the series is airing on CTV and TSN – click here for programming information. Have you been watching? If you’ve been reading my blog a while, you know how I feel about sports documentaries, often the best storytelling in the business, and ESPN’s 30 for 30 series has been the gold standard. OJ: Made In America is a “vital, living document” about celebrity, law, race, and our culture of violence that some say could win an Oscar.
One of the reasons OJ: Made In America has been acclaimed is for its focus on Nicole Brown. Too often, as we saw so recently at Stanford, it’s the star athlete who’s humanised, it was the rapist, Brock Allen Turner, who was given the benefit of kindness and compassion over his victim. As Jessica Luther notes in her piece for espnW, victims of domestic violence in cases involving athletes must overcome a “hurdle of indifference”, in part because of the relationship we, as fans, have to the abuser-athlete. In OJ: Made In America, however, we are given the opportunity to understand Nicole Brown – her friends, her family, and her own diary present to us a portrait of a woman stalked by her own husband, terrorised by him for years, but who held on to herself throughout, who found ways to connect to others, to build relationships with people outside of her marriage, who did not live solely for HIM. At one point, one of her friends says that Nicole was unattainable for OJ, that no matter how much he hurt her and tried to manipulate her, he always knew that he never had total control of her. As Jen Chaney writes in Vulture, in giving Nicole a voice, a luxury rarely afforded to the victim, OJ: Made In America directly challenges that “hurdle of indifference”, so that the victim can, at least, occupy more of the story than she is typically allowed. Which is why the Stanford victim’s statement made such an impact, and why I can’t stop thinking or talking about it and why I don’t want to stop thinking or talking about it. She refused to let the media and the judge and her rapist’s friends and family make it about him. She demanded that her experience, her trauma, and her future be considered too. When your torturer is an athlete though, or a movie star, a man relatable to other men, that’s a hard f-cking wall to break through.
Yours in gossip,