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.....


video


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

3 comments:

  1. The prominence of retributive justice in pop culture is, I believe, a reflection of the prominence of revenge pervading personal ideas of justice. I think it's important to note, however, that retributive justice is not synonymous with revenge, although the two concepts are commonly associated with each other.
    I don't necessarily think justice has to end where revenge begins. The difference between justice in a retributive sense and revenge is that retribution should function on a non-personal level, whereas revenge is personal. What is justice on a social level is revenge on a personal level for an individual member of society. It's such a confusing concept that I find extremely hard to fuse!
    I was reading a lot of the media surrounding Conrad Murray's trial, and noted an interesting tweet by Janet Jackson. She tweeted shortly after Murray was sentencd to four years in prison: "Justice has been served".
    I pondered on this for a while, because I found myself asking.. HAS justice actually been served? Does she ACTUALLY feel a sense of personal justice in that situation? The four year prison sentence won't bring her brother back, but obviously the thought of Murray in prison for four years, in some way, fulfills a sense of personal justice.
    I'm interested to see more of your research on revenge and justice in pop culture!

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  2. Thanks Laura for your comment - sorry to take so long replying - I haven't been back in the country too long.
    This questioning of a sense of personal justice and how that fits into a societal idea of justice is just the kind of ideas I am exploring....watch this space!
    A paper on revenge and justice will be coming out soon too.

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  3. It is interesting to see how the concept of personal retribution is explored in the Coen Brothers remake of the traditional Western novel ‘True Grit’. The central character Mattie Ross, is committed to the idea of legal justice, arguing for the extension of U.S. legal authority into Indian Territory (where we are told that her father’s murderer has fled with his gang), and for the punishment to match that recommended by law enforcement at that time i.e. hanging. Indeed, the only point of difference between Mattie’s plan and that of her companions is the state in which the punishment will be carried out (as the offender is wanted for an identical crime in another U.S. jurisdiction). Though Mattie shares a number of characteristics with other grief stricken protagonists such as The Mentalists Patrick Jayne, her quest for personal retribution is portrayed as stemming from a cultural system of family honour, rather than a blind need for retribution based on protective instincts and an intense feeling of guilt . This sense of retribution flowing from an objective, rather than a subjective source may simply be a product of genre and context, and I am inclined to agree with Ethan Coen’s assertion that the ‘Presbyterian-Protestant ethic’ which formed the foundation for the original novel, (and the Western Genre as a whole) required a very formal approach to problem solving and adventures in general . It is also arguable that since the era in which the novel is set (late 19th century) provided an outlet that permitted physical violence in the fulfillment of justice (i.e. capital punishment) the concerns of characters like Jayne that the offender will not suffer to the same extent remain unrealised. Unlike modern revenge-based dramas, there is no difference between the ‘justice’ meted out by our protagonist and that of the relevant legal system. The solution to the problem proposed by both Mattie and the Sheriff results in the death of the offender. This is in stark contrast to the main grievance held by other dramatic protagonists towards the official justice system; this being, ‘why should the offender live when my family does not?

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