Popular culture worldwide has a long history of imagining stories around the judicial system, legal processes, and everyday practices of law. As a result, legal professionals frequently emerge as important protagonists in film, television, and literature. Yet for a long time, these characters, such as lawyers, judges, or law enforcement officers, were overwhelmingly male. This slowly changed near the end of the 20th century when a shift became apparent, especially in law-related screen productions.
How television, cinema, and literature portray women in law
The workshop comparatively examined how female lawyers, judges, state attorneys, and law enforcement officers are represented across different genres of popular culture, i.e. television, cinema, and literature covering topics from stereotypical portrayals to plots and characters conveying messages of socio-political critique. Such a gendered lens is rare in the scholarly engagement with law and popular culture as evidenced by the very few publications on the topic. Research usually centers on women’s representation in non-fictional media genres or on the representation of gender in popular culture not concerned with themes of law and justice. Yet, given the growing scholarly engagement with women in the legal profession and the well-known influence that popular culture has on people’s everyday perceptions as well as private and professional choices, it is important to investigate how popular culture deals with and portrays female legal professionals. The workshop highlighted how popular culture and popular perceptions of women in power mutually influence one another.
Interplay of law, gender, and popular culture outside the dominant Western media productions
Until now, scholarship on women lawyers and their representation in popular culture focused almost exclusively on US-American and, to a lesser extent, British movies and television formats. This is despite various non-Western productions that feature women lawyers as the main character. The workshop aimed to close this gap in the scholarly literature by examining law and popular culture in countries and regions not commonly recognized as creators of globally consumed media productions. Following an open Call for Papers, young scholars from Qatar, Nigeria, India, Sri Lanka, UK, and USA addressed questions, such as:
- Does the cultural export of US-American legal drama or British crime fiction influence how law and gender are imagined in other parts of the world?
- Does the popular culture, both domestic and imported, alter the way society thinks about female lawyers, judges, or law enforcement officers?
- How does the actual participation and representation of women in the legal profession affect their depictions in different genres of popular culture?
The workshop contributions will be published as a special issue in the International Journal of the Legal Profession in 2023.
- Disciplines Involved
- Law, Middle Eastern Studies, English Literature, Media & Communication Studies
- Event Date
- 11 - 12 August 2022
- University of Münster, Germany
- Cooperation Partner
- University of Münster, Germany
- Project Title
- Female Legal Professionals in Popular Culture: A Transnational Comparison
- Funding Scheme
- Tandem Project
- Countries Involved
- Germany, Kuwait
- AGYA Publication
- The ideal Emirati woman lawyer: femininity and professionalism in Justice: Qalb Al Adala