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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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9. The Jury: Assigned Film: 12 Angry Men (1957)


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The Jury

Assigned Film: 12 Angry Men (1957)1

9.01 12 Angry Men—Prequel and sequel

The movie 12 Angry Men was based on a critically acclaimed television drama of the same name. Written by Reginald Rose (1920–2002) for CBS’s live-drama anthology series Studio One, 12 Angry Men aired on September 20, 1954 (the Studio One TV drama is available on DVD). The show garnered Emmys for Rose, director Franklin Schaffner, and lead actor Robert Cummings. Rose also wrote and produced the lawyer-centered television series The Defenders, which ran from 1961–65 (see ¶7.02.2). A strong civil libertarian, Rose expressed his political views in his work. Many interpret 12 Angry Men as an attack on conformity, the Hollywood anti-communist blacklist, and McCarthyism.

The motion-picture version of 12 Angry Men was directed by Sidney Lumet (see ¶4.01 for additional discussion of Lumet) and starred Henry Fonda. The film received three Academy Award nominations (it won none) but sputtered at the box office. The future delivered a different verdict than the viewers and critics of the 1950s. In 2012, the Internet Movie Database ranked it as the sixth best movie of all time, based on rankings provided by thousands of its registered user-jurors, far ahead of any other lawyer film (Paths of Glory came in 49th; To Kill a Mockingbird ← 181 | 182 → came in 61st). In 2007, a law review devoted an entire issue (about 350 pages...

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