When Law Goes Pop: The Vanishing Line between Law and Popular Culture

Article excerpt

When Law Goes Pop: The Vanishing Line Between Law and Popular Culture. Richard K. Sherwin. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

This significant book addresses a subject that should be the concern of us all-what happens when the media and entertainment businesses begin to shape the law of the land. Sherwin, professor of Law at the New York Law School, correctly sees that the law undergoes great changes. As he says: "Popular culture, especially through its chief agency, the visual mass media, also contributes to law by helping to shape the very process of thought and perception by which jurors judge and voters vote." Studying popular culture, he continues, "helps us to better understand and legitimize-which is to say, collectively affirm-- law's constructions of truth and justice."

Sherwin then studies in considerable detail what he calls "the chief agency," visual mass media and how it absorbs popular culture, reshapes it for its own purposes then spits it out. He is frightened by the power and influence of the mass media-print, TV and movies. He is terrified by what these media do to the law and to lawyers. We all know how in our ego-- and cash-driven society entertainment people will do anything to make a subject appealing to an audience, and what lawyers will do to enhance their reputation and take-home fortunes. …