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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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10. Military Justice: Assigned Film: A Few Good Men (1992)


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Military Justice

Assigned Film: A Few Good Men (1992)1

10.01 The film and the play

A Few Good Men is based loosely on an incident that took place at Guantanamo Bay in 1986. An unhappy Marine (sometimes referred to as Willie A in accounts of the case) sought to transfer and threatened to report a colleague who had fired his weapon over the fence line. About ten Marines then conducted a Code Red “blanket party.” They woke Willie A, shoved a pillowcase down his throat, and gave him a severe haircut. Willie A lapsed into a coma but survived. Guantanamo brass allegedly refused to transfer Willie A and authorized the hazing. The character of Daniel Kaffee appears to be based on a composite of a number of different JAG lawyers who were involved in the trial of the ten Marines (many of the lawyers claimed they were the model for Kaffee).2 JAG stands for Judge Advocate General and refers both to the commanding officer of the legal branch of each of the services as well as to the lawyers who work for that officer. The JAG corps handles all manner of legal chores and includes military judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers.

Three Marines went to trial. They were found guilty of assault and sentenced to time served but allowed to remain in the Corps. The other seven alleged assailants entered pleas and received less...

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