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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 09/18/2007

Highbrow: O.J. Revisited Edition

By Liz Kelly

O.J. Simpson in 2001. (AFP/Getty Images)

Inspired by columnist Gene Robinson's thoughtful op-ed column, today's Highbrow focuses on O.J. Simpson -- one-time football star and Americana hero who in the '90s transformed into acquitted murderer and cultural lightning rod.

For anyone out there who might have spent the last week somewhere this sort of news doesn't permeate immediately, like for instance Ua Pu, a brief recap: Simpson was arrested on Sunday in Las Vegas on suspicion of armed robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, conspiracy and burglary after an incident in which the former NFL-er says he was merely trying to take back some memorabilia that rightfully belonged to him. The tale of the tape (the alleged victim recorded the entire incident), though, reveals a tense situation in which guns and plenty of profanity figured.

And, suddenly, we are re-glued to the news, trading "remember whens" about white Broncos, the poetic Johnny Cochran and houseguest/hanger-on Kato Kaelin. In fact, Robinson reflects almost fondly on that old, familiar O.J.-hype feeling in his piece, writing "Every once in a while, we -- or at least I -- welcome a good, old-fashioned, personality-driven narrative to wallow in. So thanks, Juice."

But not everyone agrees. Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd is already over the O.J. saturation, though she grudgingly acknowledges exactly why it is that we can't seem to look away:

"Mr. Simpson's strange history simultaneously embraces so many hard truths and ironic contradictions that he's already about five kinds of American icon: street thug, athlete, movie star, country-club aristocrat, psychotic monster. He's about one incarnation away from giving us all sensory overload."

The Post's Howard Kurtz, too, today reflects on the American love affair with Simpson, who almost single-handedly ushered in the era of 24/7 celebrity trial coverage. But, is it us or that darned media fanning the flames? Case in point: Like a bad penny, legal expert Greta Van Susteren -- who parlayed her Simpson murder case punditry into a cable news career -- turns up in Kurtz's story to share her "considered" opinion. (Susteren stands in sharp contrast to the AP's Linda Deutsch, the only journalist to interview Simpson since news of the robbery broke last Friday. Deutsch says she won't be taking CNN and the "Today Show" up on interview offers: "I can't do it," she said. "I am not the star.")

And of course the jokes have already started. This isn't 1996 after all. We don't have to wait until Saturday late-night TV to get a good laugh. In this age of The Onion, Stephen Colbert and a bumper crop of sarcastic bloggers, folks like humorist Andy Borowitz are already making hay while the O.J. shines. Borowitz's contribution is a faux-news story about a new Simpson book: "If I Robbed Them."

And, of course, a mere 48 hours after the arrest we're already engaging in national navel-gazing. Wondering do the police have it in for Simpson, can he get a fair trail and is this really about the robbery or Nicole's murder? (Fifty-three percent of the few respondents in this poll say it's a "valid story about an attempted armed robbery," by the way.)

Maybe we haven't had enough O.J. This latest wrinkle is almost perfectly timed to ignite sales of "If I Did It" -- O.J.'s supposedly hypothetical account of how Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman died. Except that it is the family of murder victim Goldman, not Simpson, who stands to profit from increased book sales. In fact, the book is now No. 2 in Amazon.com sales rankings.

Have you read a good take on the renewed O.J. hype? Share it, and your thoughts, below.

By Liz Kelly  | September 18, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Highbrow  
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