Did The People v. O.J. Simpson Go Too Far With That Kardashian Scene?

Photo: Courtesy of FX.
Last night's episode of FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson opened on Robert Kardashian taking his now-famous brood to a meal at the L.A. staple Chin Chin. Of course, his children aren't yet instantly identifiable, however, Kardashian is gaining enough notoriety that he is recognized in the restaurant and given a table. That prompts a lecture on fame where he tells his distracted offspring: "We are Kardashians. And in this family, being a good person and a loyal friend is more important than being famous. Fame is fleeting and it’s hollow. It means nothing at all without a virtuous heart." The kids are silent. Then, the egg rolls come.

The scene, yes, is a work of speculative fiction. But was it just a silly opportunity to reference Kim and the gang's seemingly insatiable desire for attention? Or was it savvy commentary?

Critics have loved the series, but the reaction to the scene and the show's other Kardashian callouts have been divided. In his recap for Vulture, Scott Tobias deemed the opening the "worst scene of the series so far" even in comparison to another Kardashian moment. "Robert's fame speech is too much," Tobias wrote. "Perhaps his earnestness in this moment is meant to humanize him, but the true purpose of the scene is a broadside against his now-grown kin."

In The Week, Scott Meslow declared that the show "has a Kardashian problem," explaining that the show missed an opportunity to truly explore how the case might have impacted this family in favor of cheap laughs. "The Kardashian kid scenes aren't just inaccurate; they're uncharacteristically lazy, depicting the kids as brats so mesmerized by fame that they don't grieve for the woman who was practically a cherished aunt to them," Meslow said.

Meanwhile, Kato Kaelin wrote in the New York Daily News that FX "wants to ride on [the Kardashian’s] coattails."

However, the family’s inclusion has supporters. Atlantic critic David Sims wrote on Twitter that the Chin Chin scene "is vital, especially if you view Robert [Kardashian] as the series’ 'heart.'" That is, after all, how writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski see him, they told Vanity Fair. The New Yorker's Emily Nussbaum also argued in favor. "One thing I liked in that scene: it's not like Tween Kim doesn't have a point. What, they're not supposed to talk about it?? EVERYONE is," she noted on Twitter. "Also it was legitimately endearing, that hint of hypocrisy in [Robert's] excitement over the appearance on Barbara Walters. Team Diner Scene."

In Entertainment Weekly, Joe McGovern defended the Kardashian parts as satire. "Audiences are confusing the Kardashian kids’ inclusion in the narrative with some kind of a moral endorsement," McGovern wrote. "Some have even accused Ryan Murphy of cutting to the children simply to boost the show’s ratings. That’s an absurd accusation, made mainly by people who never heard the name Kardashian before 2007 and for that reason feel like the show is twisting itself into knots in order to include the family. When, in fact, they are a peripheral — but ineradicable — crumb of the O.J. cake."

And, of course, Alexander and Karaszewski have an explanation for deciding to incorporate the Kardashians. "They were there," Karaszewski told VF. "And certainly one of the things we wanted to talk about on the show was the beginning of the 24-hour news cycle and the creation of reality TV."

It's also possible to make the case that Alexander and Karaszewski are having their Kardashian-flavored cake and eating it too. They both deftly prove how a current-day cultural phenomenon was born to some extent from legitimate tragedy, while also giving us some vaguely catty fan fiction.

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