Impact of Legal (TV) Dramas.

Karlysymon

Star
Joined
Mar 18, 2017
Messages
4,630
I’ll preface the OP by noting the effect that forensic science shows on tv had on legal professions and influencing people into choosing certain careers, especially women



Never one with a knack for legal dramas (okay, I’ve probably watched afew episodes of Boston Legal), I had never thought of/come across any impact of these tv shows other than the fact of influencing people to pursue a legal career and subsequently get into debt. This article is very dated (2001) and i was pleasantly surprised by the argument presented.

"What is less well understood is that what we refer to as ‘entertainment’ programming is also largely propaganda, designed to promote a Western view of the world and to create a sort of tunnel-vision that limits our ability to think critically. And why shouldn’t that be the case? Such programming is, after all, produced and broadcast by the very same select group of fascist media titans that bring you your news and information.

And, truth be told, much of the current batch of prime time programming is fairly easy to recognize as propaganda. Some of the standouts are the hopelessly romanticized and sanitized view of Washington presented by The West Wing, the openly fascistic ‘law-and-order’ agenda promoted by The District, and that vision of America as a fully devolved surveillance state that we all know and love as Survivor.

Of particular interest here though are those shows that focus on the legal profession. There are certainly no shortage of such programs gracing America’s airwaves these days, the most popular and critically acclaimed of which is probably David Kelley’s The Practice. With the recognition that this program – along with countless similar shows – is not merely broadcast for its entertainment value, but as yet another effort by the thought police to shape public opinion, it is instructive to examine what message is being sent out to the viewing public.

The predominate message of The Practice – reinforced on a weekly basis – is that the current adversarial system of jurisprudence is seriously lacking in its ability to dispense justice. The guilt or innocence of the accused is consistently shown to have little or no bearing on the disposition of criminal cases. Defense attorneys routinely win acquittals for clients portrayed as being guilty, and regularly lose cases where their clients are perceived to be innocent.

As Richard Posner – law professor, judge, and probable intelligence asset – has stated: “It has become commonplace that an innocent person has a better chance of acquittal in a European than in an American court, and a guilty person, a better chance of acquittal in an American than in a European court.”

It is certainly true that the adversarial system does lead to some egregious miscarriages of justice. These are often due to the extreme corruption of attorneys on both sides of the aisle, as well as various other players within the criminal justice system (the incompetence of various agents of the court sometimes plays a part as well). That’s not the way that things play on TV though.

On the small screen, advocates for the state and the accused act with the utmost integrity — and frequently with a healthy dose of moral outrage. Miscarriages of justice are portrayed as being a natural, and exceedingly common, consequence of the very structure of the American system of criminal justice. The system, in other words, is broken, and the integrity of the actors cannot compensate for that.

But is the system broken? There is no question that the win-at-all-costs mentality engendered by the adversarial system leads to false convictions. But that has always been the case – no more so now than at any other time in the nation’s history – and the media, entertainment or otherwise, have never much cared before. Yet if the system is indeed broken now, then it has always been broken.

So why portray it as such now? The answer is, quite simply, because now we have an alternative on the horizon. We now have the ability to scientifically determine innocence or guilt, rendered as a purely objective judgment. DNA testing is claimed to be able to positively identify a person to the exclusion of literally billions of other potential suspects."


So what other ideas do you imagine are the real reasons for these pervasive legal tv dramas. They’re obviously aired for a reason.
 






Last edited:

Sunshine

Established
Joined
Apr 11, 2017
Messages
223
I think the penchant for lawyer shows is due to many of the same factors that give us a plethora of cop shows. Drama needs conflict, and the more complex that conflict is, and the characters within the story, the more interesting/entertaining.

A courtroom could be considered a modern-day arena, in which the contestants battle not with swords and brute strength but with wit and a thorough understanding of the laws applicable to whatever scenario they find themselves (or their client) in. Those laws, those rules by which the lawyers play, can be manipulated, sure, as they can be in real life, to an extent. They aren't immutable like the laws of physics (we'll save that for a discussion on sci-fi shows. Heh heh!)

So you have the friction, the good guy/bad guy dynamic, the evolving strategies and plotlines, with the stakes as high or as low as the writers want to go, and no special effects are required. You can have the stalwart and earnest prosecutor fighting for the greater good, a' la ben Stone and Jack McCoy on "Law and Order," or you can have a flippant and flagrant Denny Crane (William Shatner on Boston Legal) who, when on trial for shooting a mugger, hopes to lose the case so it'll be kicked up to the appellate and Supreme courts for appeal.

Al Pacino once delivered a line in the movie "The Devil's Advocate" about how being a lawyer is "the ultimate back-stage pass." And it is. One doesn't need an agenda to want to take a ride on that rollercoaster. Do the networks have an agenda in presenting these shows to the general audience? I would say, that such an agenda has more to do with the shows being popular and profitable, than in brainwashing the audience to hold it's nation's legal system in higher or lower regard than they do ordinarily.

Anyone who's been in a real-life courtroom can tell you, it is nothing like you see on tv. There are no gracefully carved statues or reliefs depicting a blind-folded Lady Justice in high-ceilinged, mahogany-panelled chambers. Rather, it is utilitarian office-standard. Remember those polystyrene tiles that comprised the classroom ceilings in your elementary school? It's that. Along with the thirty-year-old cast-steel staplers, beam-bench seating, greige industrial carpeting and the mingled scent of overly-recycled air and crushed dreams.

Traffic court, criminal court, civil court, it's all the same setting, and the real lawyers aren't wearing haute couture or trading witty banter in the halls. They're juggling sheaves of paperwork, clients who may or may not be in a cooperative mood, and a docket so full that if they take longer than 5 minutes to present their case, the judges get ticked off.

It's kinda like the difference you know exists in, say, a King Arthur movie versus how medieval people actually lived. The audience would much rather hang out in the castle, feasting with the movers and shakers, than in the village trudging through the mud with the butcher, baker and candle-stick maker. The "legal eagle" shows may offer an exaggerated, romanticized, even sanitized version of what happens in real life, but no one in the audience is unaware that this is the case.
 






Maes17

Superstar
Joined
Jul 27, 2017
Messages
5,182
I think the penchant for lawyer shows is due to many of the same factors that give us a plethora of cop shows. Drama needs conflict, and the more complex that conflict is, and the characters within the story, the more interesting/entertaining.

A courtroom could be considered a modern-day arena, in which the contestants battle not with swords and brute strength but with wit and a thorough understanding of the laws applicable to whatever scenario they find themselves (or their client) in. Those laws, those rules by which the lawyers play, can be manipulated, sure, as they can be in real life, to an extent. They aren't immutable like the laws of physics (we'll save that for a discussion on sci-fi shows. Heh heh!)

So you have the friction, the good guy/bad guy dynamic, the evolving strategies and plotlines, with the stakes as high or as low as the writers want to go, and no special effects are required. You can have the stalwart and earnest prosecutor fighting for the greater good, a' la ben Stone and Jack McCoy on "Law and Order," or you can have a flippant and flagrant Denny Crane (William Shatner on Boston Legal) who, when on trial for shooting a mugger, hopes to lose the case so it'll be kicked up to the appellate and Supreme courts for appeal.

Al Pacino once delivered a line in the movie "The Devil's Advocate" about how being a lawyer is "the ultimate back-stage pass." And it is. One doesn't need an agenda to want to take a ride on that rollercoaster. Do the networks have an agenda in presenting these shows to the general audience? I would say, that such an agenda has more to do with the shows being popular and profitable, than in brainwashing the audience to hold it's nation's legal system in higher or lower regard than they do ordinarily.

Anyone who's been in a real-life courtroom can tell you, it is nothing like you see on tv. There are no gracefully carved statues or reliefs depicting a blind-folded Lady Justice in high-ceilinged, mahogany-panelled chambers. Rather, it is utilitarian office-standard. Remember those polystyrene tiles that comprised the classroom ceilings in your elementary school? It's that. Along with the thirty-year-old cast-steel staplers, beam-bench seating, greige industrial carpeting and the mingled scent of overly-recycled air and crushed dreams.

Traffic court, criminal court, civil court, it's all the same setting, and the real lawyers aren't wearing haute couture or trading witty banter in the halls. They're juggling sheaves of paperwork, clients who may or may not be in a cooperative mood, and a docket so full that if they take longer than 5 minutes to present their case, the judges get ticked off.

It's kinda like the difference you know exists in, say, a King Arthur movie versus how medieval people actually lived. The audience would much rather hang out in the castle, feasting with the movers and shakers, than in the village trudging through the mud with the butcher, baker and candle-stick maker. The "legal eagle" shows may offer an exaggerated, romanticized, even sanitized version of what happens in real life, but no one in the audience is unaware that this is the case.
I agree. Real life court rooms are boring af.
I took criminology at one point in college and we did a court house sit in in Alpharetta. Holy shiz was I bored.

Legal tv shows are just drama.
 






Top