As we cruise into the final stretch of “The People V. O.J. Simpson” on FX, it’s time to reflect on the one part of the series that has really mattered: the Kardashians.
If you tuned into this series with the intention of gaining a deeper understanding of this case from a law and order perspective, you have already been significantly disappointed. Based on the promotional stills of John Travolta and those eyebrow shags he is wearing as Bob Shapiro, you should have known that the mini series about the case that the world was obsessed with is all about the people involved, and not the legal drama.
I was 10 years old when I first heard O.J. Simpson had been charged with murdering his wife and her friend and was running from police in a white Bronco. It was on every television, in every store. Having not grown up in a football household, I had no idea who O.J. Simpson was, but was already obsessed with the events unfolding on the opposite coast. This was my first memory of seeing the world infatuated with a person and every move he made.
Today, the first name that comes to mind when you think about celebrity voyeurism is most likely “Kardashian.” In creating a mini-series about one of the most notorious and media-obsessed crimes involving a celebrity, I can only imagine the glee on the creators’ faces when they realized they would be able to include the name Kardashian.
If it weren’t for this family’s current mega-celebrity status, O.J.’s friendship with the family patriarch would have been a third-tier story line, likely portraying Robert Kardashian as a one-dimensional, gullible, oafish character, unlikely to have many speaking lines past the first two episodes, and almost certainly not portrayed by a former cast member of “Friends.”
Our Obsession with Nothings
It is only coincidence that this story from the mid-nineties ties into the history of the country’s currently most famous family. In fact, Robert Kardashian had passed away from cancer years before the first paparazzi photo of daughter Kim had ever been published.
The first few episodes of this series show the prepubescent versions of the reality TV stars in an almost fan-fiction prequel universe of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The kids appear at Nicole’s funeral with Robert’s ex-wife, who has no other reason to be in the series other than that she is now a celebrity. Fictional scenes are added, including the brood learning a life lesson about fleeting fame, and the kids chanting the family name at the TV as Robert pleads on live television for O.J. to turn himself in, preceded by Robert begging O.J. not to kill himself in “Kimmie’s Room.”
The family’s response has been nothing short of whimsical, giggling at the young actors playing them, chuckling as they deny bits of the dramatized versions of their lives being shown to millions of viewers. I’m actually surprised that the creators of the show restrained themselves from including the Kardashian name its title: “The People Vs. O.J., or Kardashians: The Early Years.”
There is something almost funny about using a family who is famous for no reason to promote a series about a time we were all obsessed with a murderous former football star for no reason. As the series nears its conclusion, we have seen less of this intensely famous family, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get an early meeting of Kris and Bruce Jenner.