There are many reasons to praise The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story — but one of the most important aspects of the series is its portrayal of the rampant sexism faced by Marcia Clark throughout the nine-month-long trial and beyond. Although the series hasn't painted her as a perfect person or lawyer, it seems like Clark has finally gotten the recognition she deserves for working tirelessly on the case while dealing with a divorce and a custody battle. The April 5 season finale of American Crime Story addresses another extremely important issue and the part of the prosecutor's past, depicting a scene in which Marcia Clark discusses being raped as a teenager and how this traumatic event shaped her ambitions and career path.
After the jury hands down a not guilty verdict, the FX series shows Clark convening with her co-prosecutor Chris Darden and their boss, Gil Garcetti, before addressing the media. All three expressed feelings of distress, shame, and sadness before facing the glare of the cameras and responding to the verdict. They praised one another and the victims' families, but the emotions were clearly raw — especially for Darden, who stepped away from the microphone mid-sentence to embrace the Goldman family. The real press conference can be viewed here:
As crowds celebrate Simpson's acquittal, American Crime Story depicts an emotional conversation between Clark and Darden — and one that sheds light on why she was willing to suffer so many indignities in the name of justice. On the show, Clark tells Darden about the crime she suffered as a teenager:
Maybe you have to have something inside you already when you get here, something that you have to make right. Something you have to avenge. When I was 17, I was raped. I was raped in Italy by a waiter and I buried it. I didn't forget it... I just sort of stuffed it. When I had my first rape case, what happened to me, of course, came flying out from whatever rock I'd jammed it under and I had to deal with it. It was hell all over again, in a way. But it made something very, very clear to me. I have something, this thing in me, that wants vengeance. Vengeance for victims. That's what justice is to me. And I've always, always had faith that when I look at a jury, we have that in common. Everyone wants justice for victims, right? I never doubted that. Until this.
When Darden asks her what happened to the waiter, she responds: "The same thing that happened today," which is perhaps an indication that she has lost faith in the justice system. (Clark went on leave her job after the Simpson trial and resigned in 1997.) Although Clark and Darden became close during the trial, it's unclear whether or not this exchange actually occurred — but, it's an important scene because it shows why Clark was so dedicated to her work.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Clark spoke candidly about being raped in Israel as a teenager. After meeting a waiter, she eventually accompanied him to his room to listen to music and talk about fun things to do in the area. When Clark told him she needed to leave, she says things turned violent:
I said, 'Well, I think I've got to go'... and I start to head for the door, and then he grabbed me and said, 'You're not going anywhere.' He sucker punched me, threw me on the bed. And I screamed and screamed, and he laughed and laughed and said, 'No one can hear you.' And they couldn't.
In the immediate aftermath of the rape, she described feelings that will sound painfully familiar to rape victims — shame and a sense of worthlessness. According to Clark, she walked into the ocean and contemplated killing herself until anger at her assailant took over. The rape changed the course of her life — Clark, who originally dreamed of being an actress, pursued a law career instead. Her suppressed emotions suddenly rushed to the surface when, as a prosecutor, she met another young woman who had been a rape victim: "She told me her story, and literally within 10 minutes of her leaving, I got violently ill. Violently. It was really weird... And I had to go home within an hour. I had a fever of 102," Clark told The Hollywood Reporter.
From the first episode of American Crime Story, it was clear that Clark's interest in the Simpson case wasn't related to his celebrity — it was about her anger that he hadn't been held accountable for an alleged history of domestic violence towards Nicole Brown Simpson. During the episode "100% Not Guilty," Clark stated her belief that female jurors would empathize with an alleged domestic abuse victim and it was shocking to her when many women in the jury pool expressed that they flat-out didn't like Brown Simpson. As a victim of violence herself, it's understandable why the Simpson case was so important to Clark — and why losing the case was devastating to her on multiple levels.
Although there are many unanswered questions about the Simpson case itself, Clark should be commended for speaking out about her own rape. Sexual assault is one of the most under-reported crimes and every time a public figure speaks out, she or he can help victims feel less alone and ashamed. Clark may not have won the trial of the century, but she stayed focused and kept her head up despite the sexism that was thrown at her from the media, the public, and the defense team. The fact that she has bravely spoken out about the violence that was inflicted upon her as a teenager is further proof that she's an incredibly strong, resilient individual who deserves some long-overdue respect.