Socio-Legal Framework

Thinking about the frameworks that you have used this semester to come to understand the role of law in society as it is represented through films?  How might you research using example (or evidence) from films to make an argument about how law reflects society?   This guide is to support your research when working to respond to your group project and final paper.

Course Description (from syllabus):

In this seminar, we will explore the interaction of law and society using the lens of film. The cinematic experience has become a key site through which the public understanding of law is produced, debated, and influenced. Driven first and foremost by market and audience considerations, law-related films often inject drama, contentious dimensions, and even misrepresentations into the portrayal of real events. Nonetheless, by raising awareness about legal themes that pervade the plot, these films offer valuable insights toward discovering social scientific perspectives on the manner in which law functions in everyday life. Hence, the seminar will not focus on legal doctrine or teach you the fundamentals of the legal profession. Rather, using films and socio-legal scholarship as frameworks for discussion, we will study law’s working in relation to the social, political, economic, and cultural environments in which it operates. Central thematic topics to be discussed include: the relationship between law, justice, and morality; how does law intervene in social relations and whether it is over-utilized as part of these relations; the dynamics between law and social change; is access to the legal process equal to everyone; and the function of law in deeply divided societies.

Final Paper

For your final individual paper you will independently select a law-related movie and write a critical review
(limited to 3500 words in font size 12), reflecting on its portrayal of sociolegal themes. 
These themes may relate to social, historical, cultural, economic and political aspects of law. 
This individual assignment will offer you an opportunity to reflect on the themes we covered during the 
semester by connecting them to a law-related film of your choice. 

You are also most welcome to use one of the following films for this final individual assignment:
 A Civil Action (1998); 
A Few Good Men (1992); 
Class Action (1991); 
Dead Man Walking (1995); 
Dark Waters (2019); 
Denial (2016); 
Erin Brockovich (2000);
 Inherit the Wind (1960);
 Judgment at Nuremberg (1961); 
Just Mercy (2019); 
Legally Blonde (2001); 
Let Him Have it (1991); 
My Cousin Vinny (1992); 
Molly’s Game (2017); 
Philadelphia (1993); 
Primal Fear (1996); 
Sleepers (1996); 
The Accused (1988); 
The Life of David Gale (2003); 
Thelma & Louise (1991); 
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962).

Group Assignment

At the start of the semester students will be divided into four groups to prepare an in-class presentation due
toward the end of the semester on one of these core sociolegal questions: 
Why do societies have laws? 
Why and when do people obey/disobey the law? 
How and why people mobilize (or not) the law? 
Is the law a mechanism to coordinate social activity or a vehicle for conflict and oppression? 

This group assignment involves researching the literature, presenting your findings/analysis in class and 
leading the class discussion about it. The presentation should include: 
 a brief theoretical orientation of the of the topic, including the relevant theoretical debates and 
the leading proponents of these theoretical perspectives. 
 PPT into which your group is most welcome to incorporate clips from relevant films/TV shows, etc., 
illuminating and supporting your theoretical survey, findings and overall argument. 
 The group’s reactions to the topic – both positive and critical impressions of the theory and the findings. 
 At least two discussion questions to pose to the class following the presentation.
Students are responsible for devising their group’s schedule toward the timely completion of this project. 
Several office hours during the semester will be dedicated to meeting and discussing your progress with me.  
However, you are strongly encouraged to come and see me anytime before or after the assigned session to 
develop your ideas. Please note that your presentation should be just that – a presentation, and thus you 
should strive to work together on finding a way to present your information to the class in the most engaging 
way possible.