The study upon which this article is based arose from a series of seminars on Law and Film Studies during 2002 and 2003.1 More broadly it taps in to an ongoing question that has been at the heart of debates within the nascent law and film movement.2 Historically, the published writing on film in relation to law has assumed that popular culture must have some kind of impact on the general zeitgeist and on individuals in particular. As soon as lawyers started to feature in film there were concerns that the legal profession might be shown in a bad light, and what the implications of this would be.3 The assumption was that films had ‘effects’, and that ‘bad effects’ were to be avoided or at least balanced. The Hays Code is the best known example of the industry controlling its own output to avoid censorship. The Hays Code basically sought to preserve social values within the production of films; for example, one of the principles underlying the Code was that “Law . . . should not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation”.4 With the demise of such production codes, and their replacement by much softer touch Codes of Self Regulation, there has been a major shift away from protecting the public from having to confront bad characters without ‘balance’.
- legal profession