Docudemption: Revisioning, Remembering, and Redeeming Anita Hill and Marcia Clark in Confirmation and The People v. O.J. Simpson

Curator's Note

In the wave of 1990s nostalgia that recently flooded screens, two docudramas released in 2016 stand out for their depictions of women who challenged powerful men and received their fair share of public shaming for it. HBO’s film Confirmation dramatizes the 1991 Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas proceedings. Hill’s accusations of sexual harassment against Supreme Court nominee Thomas and the Senate hearings that followed made her vulnerable to misogynist media attacks. In Confirmation, Hill is a protagonist whose experience of this historic moment is prioritized. Similarly, the FX series, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, offers the perspective of the hard working, single mother Marcia Clark, the prosecutor who was the constant subject of sexist media commentary at the time of the trial.

These docudramas redeem the public characters of Hill and Clark, respectively, by revisioning and re-remembering the events that put them in the media spotlight more than two decades ago. The docudramas function as "sites of memory," as they depict historic events, and they can be revisited via streaming platforms (1994, 2007). In the midst of the Confederate monument debate, #MeToo, and #TimesUp, Confirmation and The People v. O.J. Simpson provide a challenge to collective memory and force audiences to face their complicity in the media’s coverage of Hill and Clark. By recontextualizing the narratives of the events from their respective points of view, these docudramas position Hill and Clark as heroes rather than villains and reimagine their reputations, thus reshaping collective memory of their narratives, and also redeeming a public complicit in the media’s misogyny toward them over two decades ago (1994).

It is fun to count all the ways we loved the nineties, but these docudramas insist that audiences also remember the ugly parts of our history in the process. Confirmation and The People v. O.J. Simpson exist in the context of a public reckoning, and their respective depictions of Hill and Clark contribute to a broader conversation in which we recast gendered heroes and villains and challenge collective memory and a collective sense of who we are.

References

Haskins, Ekaterina. "Between Archive and Participation: Public Memory in a Digital Age." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 37, no. 4 (2007): 401-422.

Katriel, Tamar. "Sites of Memory: Discourses of the Past in Israeli Pioneering Settlement Museums." Quarterly Journal of Speech 80, no. 1 (1994): 1-20.

Comments

Amanda Konkle's picture

Reshaping history

It is interesting to think about these 90s “villains.” These docudramas definitely reveal how our present moment reshapes histories, perhaps for the better.

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