O.J.: Made in America ★★★½


Passes my stringent "Would I rather be reading a book on this subject?" test, as 7.5 hours allows for roughly equivalent thoroughness. It still omits details that a book would surely address—given Edelman's thesis, I was kind of stunned that he makes no mention, for example, of Time deliberately darkening Simpson's mug shot on its cover, which was a major media scandal back then. But said thesis is gratifyingly provocative and artfully constructed, making a persuasive case that Simpson was acquitted both because he was black and because he was (effectively, symbolically) white. Edelman heroically resists any temptation to editorialize, not even pausing to let the casual racism sink in when one interview subject—speaking today, incredibly, not in archival footage—says of Simpson, "He's African, but he's a good-lookin' man, you know? He almost has white features." If I'm not blown away, as so many others seem to be, it's because Made in America ultimately doesn't say much that I didn't already know, since I lived through the trial (vividly remember watching the verdict live in my NYU dorm room, which was actually a hotel room opposite Madison Square Garden, then wandering out onto the street and observing the starkly divided reaction) and read many thousands of words about What It Meant both during and after. As a single-source argument for why the Simpson case is one of the 20th century's defining events, however, this is totally solid. Also, imagine watching this unfold if you're like 16 years old and somehow know nothing about what happened. Can you imagine how insane it would play?