A Cultural Analysis: HBO Documentary Tackles O.J. Simpson

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 8, 2002 | Go to article overview

A Cultural Analysis: HBO Documentary Tackles O.J. Simpson


Byline: Ted Cox

Great athletes don't just alter their teams and their sport; they alter society at large. Sometimes the changes they dictate are deliberate, as with Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali. Sometimes they simply reflect changes in the larger culture. Oftentimes, both dynamics are at play.

The HBO Sports documentary "O.J.: A Study in Black & White" subjects O.J. Simpson to that sort of cultural analysis. There is, after all, plenty of material to work with on the subject of Simpson. If the hourlong program doesn't exactly break any new ground, and in the end leaves off with the job unfinished, it is nevertheless a very good piece - a look at the United States as seen through the shifting prism of O.J. Simpson's rise and fall.

Debuting at 9 p.m. Tuesday on the premium-cable channel, "O.J." immediately reminds a viewer that great athletes don't captivate fans simply for their feats on the field, as heroic as they might be. Rather, there's an element of real-life myth that strikes a chord.

Simpson was born to parents who had fled to the San Francisco Bay area to escape Jim Crow in the South. His natural athletic ability and his friendly, confident personality gave him the tools to succeed, and his story was ready-made for the times. The documentary points out that, when Simpson was recruited by prestigious, elitist Southern Cal, he became a symbol - both to Los Angeles' black community and to the university and its alumni - of racial reconciliation following the Watts riots of 1965.

A national championship in 1967 and a Heisman Trophy the following year proved his ability on the field. Yet he also wanted success off the field. At a time when athletes from Ali to U.S. Olympic sprinters John Carlos and Tommy Smith were taking a confrontational stance, Simpson refused to rock the boat, instead using his USC contacts to enter acting and become an ad pitchman.

"I'm not black," one friend recalls him saying, "I'm O.J."

This was, in its own way, groundbreaking. Few blacks were product spokesmen in those days. And Simpson's acceptance did seem to reflect a new racial harmony. He was the first great star of the post-Robinson generation, a person who no longer had to break down walls but who found walls falling down in front of him. But his very acceptance only served to cover up how most blacks still had to struggle for equality.

"They tried to use O.J.' s image against all of us," says former NFL star and black activist Jim Brown.

While many teammates testify to how Simpson consistently worked to unify blacks and whites on the Buffalo Bills, he declined that role when it came to the society at large. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Cultural Analysis: HBO Documentary Tackles O.J. Simpson
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.