American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson stirred up a lot of controversy last night for their repeated use of the N-word.
It was definitely uncomfortable to watch — almost painfully so.
But that was the point, and the show made it beautifully.
In the first scene, Simpson’s defense attorney F. Lee Bailey (Nathan Lane) said the word when having drinks with his colleagues and discussing their plans for the case.
But the most dramatic scene was when Bailey then goes on to say the word multiple times while cross-examining Mark Fuhrman, the police detective in the case who was accused of using racial epithets. Bailey repeatedly asks him if he ever used the N-word, all while the camera zooms and sweeps, making it a poignant moment that’s impossible to ignore.
The People v. O.J. Simpson hasn’t shied away from the issue of race in the Simpson trial and how it played such a monumental part in the events that led to Simpson’s verdict.
Not only do I think the show was justified using this word for the sake of making a broader point, but it was also correct because that’s pretty much how the cross examination actually went down. There weren’t any wild camera moves, but the moment is still profound.
You can watch the actual footage from the trial over on Vanity Fair‘s website.
It was also an important moment to include because it started a very relevant discussion.
Twitter didn’t know what to do with the scene, between making The Lion King jokes (Lane infamously voiced the character Timon in the film) to expressing flat-out shock.
Didn't need to hear Timon use the n-word this many times. Nathan Lane has used it more times in that minute than I have in my entire life!
— the macaroni and the cheese (@Bleakey) March 9, 2016
If you had told me 5 years ago that Nathan Lane would say N***** over and over on my tv…. #ThePeoplevOJSimpson
— Matthew Burroughs (@MJBurroughs) March 9, 2016
— 🍏bluejean24 🎥V (@bluejean24) March 9, 2016
Im guessing Nathan Lane has a pass? #PeoplevsOJSimpson
— The Notorious JDD (@NickelCitySaint) March 9, 2016
But hopefully, when the dust settles, it will be remembered as a valid moment that showed the racial divide during that time, and also applied to the racial divide we still see today.
Sometimes, pushing ourselves into moments that make us uncomfortable is a good thing, because it challenges us to broaden our horizons and expand our understanding of stepping into someone else’s shoes. American Crime Story is less about whether Simpson was actually guilty or not and more about encouraging viewers to do just that.