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Truth Tales and Trial Films

By Jessica M Silbey

Abstract

Investigations into law and popular culture preoccupy themselves with understanding how law and popular cultural forms work together to challenge or sustain community structures, identity and power. It is inevitable at this point in our cultural history that law and popular culture are intertwined. There are too many television shows, films, popular novels and web-based entertainment to withdraw \u22the law\u22 (whatever that is) from the domain of popular culture. This article takes as a given the intermixing of law and popular culture, embracing it as a new feature of our popular legal consciousness. I suggest that one result of this mixing -- what I call truth tales, which are fictionalized films that are nonetheless based on true stories about law -- is to enhance our critical capacity to engage the law as a hopeful and evolving web of social, civic and political codes that shape our expectations for justice in contemporary society. This article proceeds in five parts. Part I outlines a brief history of interdisciplinary legal studies, in particular law and cultural studies. Part II discusses the subfield within law and cultural studies of law and film, as a way to set the stage for a longer discussion in Parts IV and V of two truth tales, \u22Compulsion\u22 and \u22Swoon.\u22 Part III more specifically describes the parameters of the \u22truth tale\u22 as a subgenre of courtroom drama that affects a particular kind of popular legal consciousness, one that accepts as futile law\u27s presumed search for unconditional truth and embraces instead the legal system\u27s promise of due process as based on normative values of fairness. Parts IV and V are close readings of the two films by way of application of the interpretive methodology and conceptual framework outlined in Parts II and III

Topics: law and film, law and humanities, law and popular culture, interdisciplinary legal studies, law and literature, cultural analysis of law, law and culture, popular legal consciousness, cinema, trials, litigation, Arts and Literature, Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law
Publisher: NELLCO Legal Scholarship Repository
Year: 2007
OAI identifier: oai:lsr.nellco.org:suffolk_fp-1054
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