In order to analyze popular culture stories related to law and criminal justice, it is also necessary to employ some categories of analysis that reflect the way in which legal and criminal justice practitioners think.

express thoughts, and act in their professional lives (Table 6.3). A specific category of analysis is a framework to evaluate those thoughts and the discourse from within the legal and criminal justice fields. As with general categories of analysis, a legal or criminal justice expert has incorporated these categories. He or she analyzes a popular culture work by unconsciously sifting through it with a colander of categories of analysis.

The following categories of analysis, formulated as questions, can help students interpret a popular culture text critically.

TABLE 6.3 Specific Categories of Analysis.

  • (1) Are the legal references, such as the notion of crime, the criminal procedure, and legal doctrine, made in the popular culture story accurate from a legal point of view? Are there any generalizations or oversimplifications? How do the depictions of lawyers and other criminal justice agents differ from reality?
  • (2) Are there any relevant legal aspects that have been omitted in the popular-culture story?
  • (3) What are the ethical considerations and implications related to the work of legal and criminal justice agents in the popular culture story? Do they show' an understanding of ethical rules? Do they ignore them? Do they abide by them?
  • (4) What is the criminal justice model that predominates in the popular culture story? Does it prejudice the outcome of the crime?
  • (5) Is the popular culture story biased?


There are many class activities that you may propose students to do for the analysis of popular culture stories dealing with legal and criminal justice themes and issues. For this purpose, when carrying out any of the activities discussed in the previous chapter, you can extend the substantive discussions of legal issues to consider the technical aspects that contribute to narrate the story. For example, when analyzing the crime of stalking through the Family's episode Someone’s Watching (1977) mentioned in Chapter 5, you can ask students to complement this analysis by focusing on the conventions of film language and popular culture narrative to deconstruct how the director tells the stoiy of a male law school student who stalks an attractive female colleague. Students can examine the film conventions (camera movements, angles, editing, and music) to convey the film's message. They can also analyze the context of the TV show, the lack of legislation about stalking, police attitude, and the public perception of this behavior when the show was made (1977). Students can examine the assumptions taken for granted in the TV show, the cormec-tions to fixture real cases, to other films on stalking, to news programs reporting about these cases, and to the vast body of criminological theory dealing with stalkers. Students can also analyze the stereotypes present in the episode: the male offender and the attractive female victim. More important, students can explore what the TV show leaves out in its stoiy, what has been repressed, and what is not told.

Another activity can deal with the analysis of a day-in-the life video. For example, you can make a day-in-the-life of video by selecting relevant scenes from the movie Speak (Sharzer, 2004) that tells the stoiy of a high-school student, Melinda Sordino, who is sexually assaulted during a paily. This video may have both legal problems and editing mistakes for students to identify. As a matter of illustration, the scenes can take place in several days. In addition, they can only show situations where Melinda is depressed. Students would have to identify that the video should contain scenes filmed over a single day and that it should paint a complete picture of Melinda’s life. It should also show her when she is not very depressed, which takes place when she connects to her Arts teacher. The technical analysis of media conventions must embrace the scrutiny of the rules and guidelines dealing with the camera movements, backgrounds, lighting, and editing for days in the life videos to be admitted in a court proceeding. You can also show students other videotaped depositions for them to analyze.

You can use real depositions, you can produce your own, or you can take them from feature films and TV shows, such as The Deposition (Mensore, 2011), The Social Network (Fincher, 2010), and The Office's episode The Deposition (Farino, Season 4 Episode 8, 2007), among many others. These depositions can also have problems for students to identify. For example, you can produce a deposition where the camera moves from the deponent to the lawyer, then to the library that is behind the deponent, and then back to the deponent. In another deposition, you can show several close-ups of the deponent, particularly when the lawyer believes that the deponent is lying. Students should be able to realize that these camera movements and the close-ups do not follow the film language conventions of depositions, and, for this reason, they may be legally challenged.

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