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Law and Popular Culture Notes.docx

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Western University
Law 2101

Law and Popular Culture 4/29/2012 2:40:00 PM The Cultural Life of Law - Law and Popular Culture studies the law as a cultural phenomenon  - The study requires interdisciplinary approach - When we broaden our perspective to include various disciplines, we come to understand the cultural life of the law Law and Popular Culture Law in Popular Culture Popular Culture in the Law Law in Popular Culture - Representations of the legal profession in popular culture  Legal stories capture the public imagination  The law is inherently dramatic o Opposing parties o Controversial subject matter o Popular themes o Competing versions of truth o Viewing audience becomes the jury Pop Culture in the law - Impressions that TV and movie viewers get about how the legal system works - The intermingling of law and fiction is nothing new  What is new is the extent to which law and popular culture intermingle  The extent to which law and popular culture mingle has an impact on law Law in Popular Culture – Negative Representations of Lawyers in Popular Culture Lawyer Jokes - Galanter analyzes over 300 lawyer jokes - Lawyer jokes can tell us what it is about lawyers that inspires so much ill will - Most lawyer jokes focus on the negative thigns lawyers do According to Jokes, Lawers are… - Corruptors of discourse  They lie and promote needless complexity - Economic predators  They are greedy money hunger opportunists - Promoters of conflict  They are hired guns & discourage problem-solving - Betrayers of trust  They take advantage of everyone - Enemies of justice  They lend their talents to frustrate justice - Allies of the devil  They are associated with devil, sin and hell - Morally deficient  They completely lack morals and decency - Objects of public scorn  They are universally despised - Candidates for elimination  Lawyers are a plague (see slides for jokes) Lawyer Jokes Over Time - Galanter found that the poularity of lawyers and the legal procession - 1960s were a high point for public opinion of lawyers and legal profession  A favourable period for lawyers in society  A facourable period for lawyers in the media - By the 1970s, societyu started to suffer from “legal pollution”  Increased litigation, increased legal costs, increased number of lawyers - By the end of the 1980s several factors caused the image of the legal profession to fall into steep decline  Changes in society  Changes in the profession Changes in Society - Rise in rates of divorce, crime and bankruptcy - Increased distrust in institutions and power centers - Increase in government regulation - Changes in mass communication - Exponential increase in lawyer advertising - Bad public relations - Negative sterotypes of lawyers as human beings Changes in the Profession - Lawyers’ rising incomes  A “noble profession” becomes profit-making business like any other - Increase in number of lawyers  Number of lawyers, particularly women lawyers, grew rapidly - Increased litigation  Increase in lawyers together with increased litigiousness on the part of the public Pop Culture as Follower of Opinion - Decline in public opinion laid the foundation for lawyer jokes - Decline in public opinion laid foundation for negative representations in popular culture - Negative beliefs may be exaggerated or distorted, by they have origin in commonly held views - Michael Asimow believes that popular culture can create and perpetuate negative opinions about the legal profession The Simpsons – A Case Study - The Simposons as Satire o Satire is a technique used to attack or criticize human vices through the use of humour o Satire often is used with the intent of correcting the subject of the satiric attack o In today’s society, satire is prolific in popular culture - Lionel Hutz as satire  What criticisms of the legal profession are brought to light through Hutx’ character? 1. Over the last 20 years, The Simpsons has become an immensely popular and influential TV show 2. Hutz reinforces and promotes one of the most pervasive and negative stereotypes of lawyers in the media today 3. As satire, The Simpsons seeks to illuminate flaws in society (i.e. legal profession) - Tentative conclusion  The Simpsons has the ability to change the legal profession for the better - Alternative conlusion  Immense popularity of The Simpsons more likely to perpetuate widespread acceptance of the negative stereotype o Tentative conclusion underestimates power of popular culture o Tentative conclusion overestimates viewing public The Cultivation Effect - Television consumption  Americans watch an average of 28 hrs of TV a week  95% of the public’s information about the legal system and the legal profession comes from popular media o What if that information/ representation is wrong, inaccurate, distorted? - The media can shape our view of the world  This is known as the cultivation effect o Essentially the more television and media exposure the subject has, the more likely they are to have the ideals and opinions of those that are represented on television Psychological Factors - Heuristic Processing - Mental shortcuts we use to make judgments quickly - Efficiency instead of accuracy  sometimes make us have inaccurate and distorted judgments - Automatic & Controlled Processing - How we gather information to form these mental shortcuts - Stereotypic Factor - The assumption that certain characteristics apply uniformly to all members of a group The Common Thread - Because we have limited cognitive capacity, we need to rely on heuristics, automatic processing and stereotypes - Unless we have enough time and motivation to critically analyze the world around us we will continue to use mental shortcuts The Big Picture - Viewer accepts representation as truthful - Viewer will generalize characteristics as applicable to all lawyers - Viewer will call upon these negative impressions in the future - Passive viewer will make a judgment through stereotypic and representativeness as presented by pop culture - If viewer is ever called upon to give an opinion on lawyers, where it does not affect them personally, they will engage in heuristic processing Resistance to Change - Individuals will pay more attention to information that confirms an heuristic or stereotype - Individuals will ignore or discount information that challenges an heuristic or stereotype - This is known as confirmation bias - Our opinions and beliefs are very resistant to change - Where the need for accuracy outweighs the need for efficiency Possible Solution
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