This paper reevaluates Frankfurt School theory, and other cultural critiques, in an effort to bring a more sophisticated analysis to bear on popular culture depictions of law. It invokes the cultural critiques of the Birmingham School in order to assess the more subtle ideological content more often found in film. The focus is not only on how popular culture functions as a mechanism for communicating and reproducing ideologies, but also what this function is based on, a theoretical analysis that asks what images of law and legal justice one might expect to see in popular media. The article also assesses the efficacy of the theoretical frameworks based on an in depth analysis of the kinds of images that are actually out there and the variety of meanings they communicate. The article finds that the dominance of the particular images of law depicted on television--which we refer to as "crudely" ideology-reinforcing, which portray the law as a (if not the) primary vehicle for achieving justice--is best explained by reference to the traditional Frankfurt School culture critiques.
Mark Niles and Naomi Mezey,
Screening the Law: Ideology and Law in American Popular Culture, 28 COLUM. J.L. & ARTS 91