Sunday 3 November 2013

A long time ago we used to be friends...Veronica Mars is back!

Vigilante Detective Veronica Mars is finally making it to the big screen…… 
Thanks to the fans.

If you are a Veronica Mars fan, get ready to drink the Kool-Aid again because the (not-so-teen anymore) sleuth is finally bringing her adventures to the silver screen. With the release of the first official docu-trailer this week, the Veronica Mars (VM) team, with creator Rob Thomas at the helm, have demonstrated the enormous power of a committed fanbase. Earlier this year, after years of trying to get the movie off the ground Rob Thomas and several key cast members (including Kristen Bell herself), sent out a call on social media for fans to contribute to the ‘kickstarter project’ which would raise funds for a VM movie production. While Warner Bros were happy for the movie to be made, they had reportedly indicated that they weren’t actually willing to pay for its production. 

And so, the ‘kickstarter’ project was born. Kickstarter is a web-based vehicle for independent creative teams to seek public funding for their projects. Rob Thomas, Kristen Bell and several other cast members created a promotional video seeking funding through Kickstarter to get the project off the ground – you can see them here in a hilarious video promising ‘rewards’ to those who pledge a contribution (if only I had gotten on board earlier I could have had a personally recorded answering machine message from Kristen herself).

Amazingly, within 12 hours of launching the kickstarter campaign, the VM movie reached a massive $2 million in pledges. By the end of the funding campaign they succeeded in raising over $5 million, and broke a number of kickstarter records while doing it.

Fans clearly love this show. And thanks to the fans this movie will be coming to our screens in 2014. But what is so great about Veronica Mars? On the surface it may have seemed like just another high school teen drama, but at its core, it was a show that celebrated the empowered (yet flawed) heroine, and it took the noir detective genre to a whole new generation. As a major character, Veronica was not only intelligent , articulate and independent, but she also had a strength of character that enabled her to pursue justice with angry power and confidence. As a ‘detective’ Veronica was able to defend herself against both cops and criminals, and more crucially against the social elite. As an ‘outsider’ herself through most of the series, she regularly took a stand for the marginalized. And these personal qualities, along with her wry sense of humour and wit, endeared her to the fans.

But for me, it was her vigilante-esque quality that stood out most from this series. Veronica existed within a somewhat lawless Neptune - a world where the justice system is corrupt and the audience was encouraged to support Veronica as she resorted to a form of vigilantism to regain some power and control within her particular landscape. Interestingly, Veronica’s sense of justice was based on a subjective, emotional and personal notion of what is ‘right’ in any given situation, and most importantly, this was usually contrasted with the standard of the prevailing institutional justice system. 

see early promo video here
It looks like this theme is to be continued in the film, as Veronica (newly graduated from law and in New York to land a job) returns to Neptune to defend an old friend against the contaminated justice system. Intriguingly, it is not evident in the trailer as to whether Veronica will deploy her newly acquired legal acumen and knowledge to provide this defence (ie actually provide a legal defence in court); or if in returning to Neptune she returns to the old school methods of good old investigation (ie cameras, stake outs, computer hacking etc).  Either way, let’s hope the old charm and wit has not been lost in law school, and that her legal education only adds to her awesome skills in deduction! 

Til then, MARShmallows, I'm Team Logan!

Thursday 5 September 2013

Connecting with Law Film Competition: And the winner is.... a UOW law student!!

I am pleased to share with you the news that 3 students from my law school at the University of Wollongong (UOW) have been recognised in the Oxford University Press (OUP) Connecting with Law Film Competition 2013! 

Congratulations to Ryleigh Bowman who was awarded first prize (joint winner) for his entry: 5 Senses to Studying Law.

Ryleigh is a first year student studying Law and Engineering who has always had a passion for film making, and so when the competition came to his attention, he jumped at the chance to put his burgeoning skills to good use.

OUP were searching for short films that creatively explored the theme of 'top tips for studying law'. The criteria specified that winning films would be chosen for originality, entertainment value and the level at which they encouraged law students to positively 'connect' with the study of law. Ryleigh (and his filmmaking partner Sam who also appears in the film) explored this theme by finding a concept they believed everyone could relate to: the 5 senses of the body. You can check out his light-hearted satirical winning entry here.

I am also proud to say that 2 more students from UOW Law received accolades in the competition: 

Sigrid Helland was the Runner-Up with her original song detailing a day in the life of a law student - Song About Law (to watch click here); and

Skye Roberts and Lachlan Roberts were awarded with Highly Commended for Life and Law (to watch click here)

It is great to see law students engaging with aspects of the wider legal culture and particularly exploring the everyday legal consciousness of life as a law student. 

Congratulations to all the winners and participants of the competition. Stay tuned to the OUP website for details of what's in store next year.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Batman v Superman: Who would win?

A combined logo revealed during Comic-Con in San Diego. 
Warner Bros.

With the news at Comic Con in San Diego last month that Warner Bros was going to follow Man of Steel with a Batman/Superman sequel, speculation immediately started about what type of film this would be. 

Would it pit the two superheroes against each other? What would the plot involve? How can they both 'fight for justice' if they are at each other's throats? and probably one of the most important questions: Who would replace Christian Bale as Batman?

The new Batman! 

While Warner Bros had from the beginning hinted at the possibility that the two superheroes could be enemies at some point in the film, it was only a couple of days ago that the studio started an internet frenzy by announcing that it would be Ben Affleck who would don the batsuit this time around. 

Given that Affleck's last superheroic outing as DareDevil didn't exactly wow critics and comic fans alike, it is unsurprising that there is a public backlash against the choice. In fact, some people are so against him that they have signed a petition to 'remove Ben Affleck as Batman'. The petition at last count was up around 60,000 signatures!

But not everyone is a hater.... Joss Whedon gave his approval via twitter: 
Affleck'll crush it. He's got the chops, he's got the chin -- just needs the material. Affleck & Cavill toe to toe -- I'm in.

It might also be helpful to remember that in 2006, most people hated the idea of Heath Ledger taking on the role of the Joker (see examples here) and yet he went on to be universally celebrated for it. 

What do you think? Is Mr Argo any match for Henry Cavill's Superman? And for that matter - who do you think would win in a fight - Batman or Superman?

Although no official images have been released by Warner Bros for the upcoming film (other than the one they put together for ComicCon: see top image), some fans have put together some ideas of what the Batman/Superman concept might look like. 

I've included a couple of my faves here for your enjoyment! 

Designed by: ddsign at Deviant Art see more of this designer here

Designed by  JoshMC at Fan Art Exhibit

Click here for a few more...

Friday 16 August 2013

Terror on TV – Homeland Season 3 preview

Who do you trust?

It seems commonplace in this new political landscape following the events of September 11, 2001 for television crime dramas to draw on themes of political violence and threats to national security as mechanisms for action-driven drama. Series such as Alias, 24, Lie to Me, The Unit and NCIS all incorporate distinct ‘terror and crime’ conventions that lend themselves to thrilling television drama. From investigating acts of espionage to neutralizing threats against homeland security, the persistent narratives running across these dramas construct terrorists as the ‘other’ while all the while legitimizing violent forms of manipulation and interrogation as investigative tools, and conflating terror with domestic and international crime. 

The US series Homeland, recently completing its second season, takes the perpetuation of fear in relation to terrorism to a whole new level. By dramatizing the possibility that a US war-hero may have been ‘turned’ by the enemy and now poses a unique and ‘sleeper’ threat to national security, Homeland utilizes the same narrative conventions of ‘terror’ described above and bumps them up a notch – so that elements of political tension, violence, surveillance, racial stereotyping and torture become part of a mediated experience of fear for the viewer. 

The first two seasons, which played on the complicated lives of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), received critical acclaim and was well received by audiences. In particular, the question of Brody’s conflicted loyalties kept viewers on their toes throughout both seasons. In combination these episodes of Homeland have provoked a number of questions surrounding complex issues of crime, terrorism, power relations and identity. Is there a common enemy to be feared? What constitutes legitimate forms of coercive techniques? How do we know what a ‘hero’ is? Can we trust in the authority of the state to adequately protect us without infringing our rights?

With season 3 to premiere soon (see the preview here), it looks like these issues will continue to be at the foreground. It will be interesting to see how the storyline progresses in relation to Brody’s character.

How do you see Brody – Is he a terrorist or not?

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Meet the 12th Doctor!

Ok - so Doctor Who is not a legal tv series - BUT it does consistently play with the seemingly complicated and sometimes inconsistent 'laws of time travel' (eg can history actually be rewritten or not?) and on that tenuous connection I wanted to share the news of the 12th Doctor! 

With much speculation in recent times about who would take over from Matt Smith as the newest incarnation of the Doctor, it was revealed this week that Peter Capaldi will assume the role. 

See the official announcement and a brief interview here.

Previously guest-starring in a 2008 episode of Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi will appear in 2014 after Matt's Smith's departure in the Christmas Special. Apparently, at 55 he is the oldest actor to take on the role of the Time Lord since William Hartnell was the First Doctor in 1963.

After getting used to the bowties and the quirkiness of young Matt Smith, it will be interesting to see how fans will respond to a return to a more mature Time Lord. Let me know what you think about this choice? In the meantime....

Friday 7 June 2013

Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives

What does the film True Grit, the tv series The Wire and the books of Harry Potter have in common?

The law of course! 

I have just spent two full days at the Law and Popular Culture: International Perspectives Conference in Tilburg, Netherlands where I was surrounded by the rock stars of law and pop culture scholarship! 

In a setting where I didn't have to explain that my research is actually legitimate before presenting my ideas, inspiration for future projects abounded. 

My paper was a focus on the nature of retributive desire in both pop culture and personal ideas of justice, and I was inspired to think further about something that has popped up before in this blog - the idea of revenge. 

As part of my paper I showed a clip from Arrow - the latest superhero to grace Australian screens and I've included it here as a teaser for more posts from me about this topic.....

As one person commented in a previous post: where does justice end and revenge begin?? This has become my new project......any thoughts?

Tuesday 14 May 2013


 Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D 

ABC has just released a full trailer of Joss Whedon's new tv series that showcases the work of S.H.I.E.L.D - a secret agency with heroes of a 'super' kind. This series will begin airing in the US in September this year, and will no doubt follow in Australia sometime (probably ages....) later. 

Interestingly, the series will share continuity with the film the Avengers and revolves around the character of Phil Coulson (reprised by Gregg ) as overseer of S.H.I.E.L.D's field operations, despite his apparent 'death by Loki' in the film. 

I am excited by this series on a number of levels. First, it is developed, written and directed by Joss Whedon (think Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) and I am a huge fan! Second, it follows on from the story of The Avengers - a film that showcased Whedon's talent for weaving action, drama and comedy. And third I am anticipating it will follow the super heroic adventures of a group dedicated to enhancing (if not providing) justice!

Check out the full trailer here and let me know what you think.....

Thursday 2 May 2013

When fiction blurs with reality: Reese Witherspoon (aka Elle Woods) speaks out about her arrest

Elle: I feel comfortable using legal jargon in everyday life.
[someone whistles at her]
Elle: I object.

Elle Woods' confidence in speaking legalese in the Legally Blonde film franchise didn't quite translate into real life last week as Reese Witherspoon was arrested for disorderly conduct! 

Reese has publicly gone on record as taking responsibility for the actions that led to her arrest last week. In an interview with Good Morning America, she describes embarrassment and shame over saying 'crazy things' to Police and disobeying orders when she panicked as her husband was being arrested. 

You can see an excerpt of the interview by clicking here. But, interestingly, at one point in the interview she says: "I think I played a lawyer in a movie so many times I think I am a lawyer...And clearly I'm not a lawyer because I got arrested"

I guess America's sweetheart fell at the mercy of the law and couldn't talk her way out of it - even with fake law school training! 

Thinking of Legally Blonde again made me remember why I love this movie - its about an independent, confident woman putting her own individualised spin on a traditional profession! She stands up for herself and she has determination - she figures out that she can study (and practice) law on her own terms.

Not to mention I love the dialogue ... Here's number 1 on my list of fabulous quotes

"Sweetheart, you don't need law school. Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious. And you, button, are none of those things."

What did you think of Elle Woods? What's your favourite quote?

Tuesday 30 April 2013

The Lone Ranger – ‘Riding for Justice’

The Lone Ranger – ‘Riding for Justice’

Disney has recently released the trailer to The Lone Ranger starring Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp. Directed by Gore Verbinski, and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the film tells the story of John Reid’s transformation into the justice seeking ‘lone ranger’ as he is accompanied in his quest by a native American warrior Tonto. The film promises the usual adventure, action and comedic antics that we expect from a Disney and Johnny Depp collaboration (think Pirates of the Caribbean), as Tonto and the Lone Ranger ‘ride together for justice’.

But, what kind of justice are they seeking? It will be interesting to see if the film focuses more on the provision of justice for a community that is riddled with police corruption (as the Lone Ranger says: “If these men represent the law – I’d rather be an outlaw) OR if the ‘justice’ is more revenge oriented (to avenge the death of his brother)?  Perhaps it will be a combination of both.

Either way, we only have to wait til July 4…..

So check out the trailer here and let me know what you think? 

Sunday 14 April 2013

Modern day superheroes – agents of retribution?

What makes a superhero different from the everyday human being? Is it just that they look different – tight suits made of spandex, capes, masks, cool gadgets in utility belts! OR is that they have powers and abilities far beyond the normal human experience? Perhaps instead it is because they seem to consistently pursue justice, defending the helpless and fight to overcome evil?

A superhero definitely seems to be defined by all these qualities – but more recently, modern day superheroes (think Batman in Dark Knight and those who make up the Avengers) seem to be further defined by their fearless devotion to justice which will sometimes even override their devotion to the law. Often we see in popular culture that the central concern for superheroes has been the inadequacy of the law to provide justice and the resultant need for an exceptional figure to remedy this. The superhero thus becomes the vigilante – defined by a desire to provide adequate retribution for criminal wrong-doing.

Acting where the law does not, and speaking in the name of the community the superhero separates the guilty from the innocent and punishes where it is due, resting on the ‘just dessert’ notion where individuals should be held responsible and accountable for their acts.

What do you think? Do you think we, as human beings, naturally desire justice in a retributive, ‘eye for an eye’ way? Do you think the law is inadequate to provide justice? 

Feel free to comment below or email me your thoughts:

For a full version of my argument see: C. E. Sharp, '‘Riddle me this…?’ Would the world need superheroes if the law could actually deliver ‘justice’?' (2012) 16 (1) Law Text Culture 353-378. 

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Welcome to Pop! Goes the Legal

You may not realise it, but the impact of law is all around you. Other than in courtrooms and formal rules, the existence of law is diverse – culturally, visually, relationally. This blog is designed to get to the heart of how we view law in all its forms – that is, to explore how we use and transform ideas about law as a way of understanding our world and animating our expectations. The aim is to bring together people from all walks of life to share ideas, values and responses to the law that is experienced in culture.

In particular, this blog is seeking to explore connections between issues of law and justice and, popular culture. I am keen to discuss and share ideas about the images of law we see in films, tv shows, comic books, news media, literature and social relations; and to make sense of law by drawing upon the stories that are most popular among us. This blog will comment on and critique legal stories of all types – as told by the news media, as portrayed cinematically or on tv; as comically drawn and written; or as told between friends as they discuss current events. It is hoped that through such discussion, we can seek to understand law and justice in more depth.

Please feel free to comment on any issue that pertains to law in popular culture and to share ideas/responses to the law from your perspective – it may be your opinions on the representation of law and justice in True Blood, Dark Knight Rises or the Avengers; or it could be commenting on the injustice you experienced at the hands of your local council. Perhaps you have a criticism of a recent court decision reported in the news, or maybe you want to share your review of Legally Blonde the Musical. Any contributions are warmly welcomed at Pop! Goes the Legal.

Stay tuned for a comment on the particular brand of justice being provided by vigilante superheroes….