Midway through the premiere episode of "The People v. O.J. Simpson" on Tuesday night, viewers probably found it hard not to gasp at the TV screen as two sisters shuffled their way through Nicole Brown Simpson's funeral. After all, we know who these young girls grow up to become: Kim Kardashian and sister Kourtney, among the most influential celebrities of our generation.
In 2016, the Kardashian name has thoroughly permeated the zeitgeist. It's associated, depending on who you talk to, with glamour and overexposure. Back in 1995, however, at the time O.J. Simpson's trial -- dubbed the Trial of the Century -- no one even knew what a Kardashian was. That is, until Robert Kardashian publicly read what was thought to be O.J.'s suicide letter to news cameras on June 17, 1994, ahead of the infamous white Bronco chase, thereby cementing his family's name in the public consciousness.
When we first meet the Kardashian brood in "American Crime Story," adolescent Kourtney, Kim, Khloé and young Rob (quite literally) run into Simpson's funeral. "Kourtney! Stop running. Put away that candy," Kris Jenner, convincingly played by Selma Blair, barks at her unruly children. It's a surreal moment.
Given their meteoric rise, it's easy to forget the Kardashians' relationship with their "Uncle O.J." Their late father, Robert, was best bros with The Juice far before he was ever part of Simpson's legal "dream team." But the family's close connection to the Trial of the Century, and the 24-hour news cycle it gave birth to, hinted at who the Kardashians would someday become.
In many ways, the Kardashians are every bit a part of the story as O.J., Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran. "We thought it’d be valuable to have them there for a little sprinkling," executive producer Scott Alexander said of the Kardashians. "There were a lot of themes that I wanted to hit in the scripts -- the 24-hour news cycle, the beginning of reality TV. [The Kardashians] were emblematic of the beginning of this time, when someone could become famous and no one would understand why they were famous."
So when O.J. (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is sitting there, erratic and contemplating suicide in Kim Kardashian's teenage bedroom -- she was 14 at the time of O.J.'s trial -- it perfectly juxtaposes O.J.'s unraveling with Kim's destiny in a way that really only co-creator-producer-director Ryan Murphy could pull off. Her Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Joey Lawrence posters plaster the walls, silently winking at you.
"O.J., no, please, this is the room where my daughter sleeps," Robert Kardashian (David Schwimmer) pleads. "O.J., please don’t kill yourself in Kimmy’s bedroom!"
Before he died in 2003, Kardashian recounted the harrowing conversation with Simpson, wielding a gun, in the bedroom Kim slept in when she stayed with her dad. In context, Schwimmer's Robert Kardashian instructing O.J. not to kill himself "in Kimmy's bedroom" is a smart, telling nod to her future fame. Because of course it's Kimmy's bedroom, not Kourt or Khloé's -- and Murphy wants you to know it. Fate couldn't have planned it any better.
The creative decision to not only include that distressing scene in Kimmy's bedroom but to also make it the emotional crux of the episode sends a pointed message. We're not just watching O.J. Simpson unhinge; we're witnessing the birth of a modern-day celebrity.
Kim is the catalyst, the spark that ignited it all, and in some ways, "The People v. O.J. Simpson" is her origin story.