Television Shows: Pop Culture Lawyers Essay

2315 words - 9 pages

Love them or hate them, heroes or villains; there is no doubt that lawyers make good entertainment. The offerings of current television shows such as The Good Wife, Suits and Law and Order are evidence that legal dramas continue to be a favorite subject for pop culture media. While one can easily find hundreds of titles when searching for entertainment in the legal genre, the characterization of fictional lawyers varies widely from average decent citizens to crusading heroes on the positive side, and from mediocre drudges to corrupt, amoral villains on the negative side. The popularity of the legal drama and the potential impact has led to concern and scrutiny by the legal profession over the last few decades. One study conducted among first year law students found the prevalence of lawyers in pop culture to be so pervasive it had a significant influence on the student’s opinions of the law and lawyers (Asimow et al. 427-428). Although the study shows that for the most part this has been a positive influence, Law Professor Michael Asimow expresses concern that along with a host of other issues, a trend toward negative portrayals of lawyers could be drawing a different type of student into law careers than the positive role models that Hollywood used to promote in the “golden” days (16). Asimow also notes that most people do not have personal experience with lawyers and the legal system so their knowledge is gleaned from popular culture (7). When pop culture promotes lawyers as heroes there can be positive impact just as making them villains can have negative impact. Furthermore, unrealistic scenarios such as dramatic courtroom confessions and emphasis on forensic science can create unrealistic expectations of the viewing public. Asimow argues that while pop culture is a reflection of the prevailing popular opinion, it also helps shape it, therefore a balanced view is necessary (6). Either way, the entertainment industry should be mindful of the impact it can have to the public opinion of lawyers, ethics and the legal system in general, the public should be conscious of the distinctions between pop culture fiction and reality, and the legal profession should continue to study pop culture depictions as they may be a reflection of attitudes towards lawyers and the legal system that require remedies.
When the lawyer in pop culture is depicted favorably, this can have a positive impact to the public. Over the years many legal characters in pop culture have been portrayed as “legal heroes”; examples of strong moral fiber in stories that showed the positive aspects that can be found in the law. Legal heroes are characters who fight for justice, human rights, or other causes. Often these characters are based on true stories, although many are overly dramatized for the sake of entertainment. Some are heroes because they have inherently strong moral convictions and are exemplary role models. Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird...

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