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Law and Popular Culture

A Course Book (2nd Edition)


Michael Asimow and Shannon Mader

Both law and popular culture pervade our lives. Popular culture constructs our perceptions of law and changes the way that players in the legal system behave. Now in its second edition, Law and Popular Culture: A Course Book explores the interface between two subjects of enormous importance to everyone – law and popular culture.
Each chapter takes a particular legally themed film or television show, such as Philadelphia, Dead Man Walking, or Law and Order, treating it as both a cultural text and a legal text.
The new edition has been updated with new photos and includes greater emphasis on television than in the first edition because there are so many DVDs of older TV shows now available.
Law and Popular Culture is written in an accessible and engaging style, without theoretical jargon, and can serve as a basic text for undergraduates or graduate courses and be taught by anyone who enjoys pop culture and is interested in law. An instructor’s manual is available on request from the publisher and author.
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3. Lawyers as Heroes: Assigned Film: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)


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Lawyers as Heroes

Assigned Film: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)1

3.01 To Kill a Mockingbird—The book and the film

Harper Lee’s only book, To Kill a Mockingbird, appeared in 1960 and has sold more than thirty million copies. Countless students in high school or college American literature classes have read it. The character of Atticus Finch was based on Lee’s father, A. C. Lee, a lawyer in Monroeville, Alabama. Harper Lee grew up in Monroeville, and the set used in the film as the Maycomb County courtroom duplicates the courthouse in Monroeville (which is now preserved as a museum). The character of Scout resembles the young Harper Lee herself; that of Dill is based on the writer Truman Capote whom Lee knew as a child. The story of Atticus and Tom Robinson is fictitious, although Mr. Lee once represented two blacks who killed a merchant and were hanged in the Monroeville jail. Harper Lee attended the University of Alabama Law School but dropped out before graduation.

The film received eight Academy Award nominations, including best picture, best director (Robert Mulligan), best musical score, and best supporting actress (Mary Badham who played Scout). It won three: best screenplay, best art direction, and best actor (Gregory Peck). By any account a classic film, it is the only legally themed movie to make the American Film Institute’s top 100 list (at 34th). Many lawyers claim that the...

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